John the Revelator (3:16)

Cover of Sweeter as the Years Go By

From Sweeter as the Years Go By and 42 other releases

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“John the Revelator” has been called “one of the most powerful songs in all of pre-war acoustic music … has been hugely influential to blues performers”.
Blind Willie Johnson recorded “John the Revelator” during his fifth and final recording session for Columbia Records in Atlanta, Georgia on April 20, 1930.

Accompanying Johnson on vocal and guitar is Willie B. Harris (sometimes identified as his first wife), who sings the response parts of the song. Their vocals add a “sense of dread and foreboding” to the song, along with the chorus line “Who’s that a writin’, John the Revelator” “repeated like a mantra”.
Subsequently a variety of artists have recorded their renditions of the song, often with variations in the verses and music.
The song’s title refers to the early Christian, John, the author of the Book of Revelation, and quotes several passages from the Bible in the tradition of African-American spirituals. Traditionally, this author has been considered the same person as John the Apostle and John the Evangelist, although some modern scholars attribute the book to another person, referred to as John of Patmos.


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