I Bid You Goodnight
Artist & Tune
About the Song
This song appears to have its origins in a poem entitled "The Christian's Good Night" by Sarah Doudney, published in Psalms of Life in 1871. Doudney wrote the lyrics on the occasion of a friend’s death. The American gospel writer Ira David Sankey saw them while in Bristol, England (where he was involved in a gospel campaign in the 1870s), and wrote music for them shortly thereafter.
The Bahamian singer & guitarist Joseph Spence sang a newer version of the song with the Pinder Family entitled "I Bid You Goodnight" in 1965 with the Pinder Family which was recorded by Jody Stecher on her Nonesuch anthology "The Real Bahamas in Music & Songs".
This version was recorded by the Incredible String Band as a part of the longer piece called "A Very Cellular Song" on their 1968 album The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. This version of the song was picked up by The Grateful Dead who frequently used it as an encore at their concerts.
This song has entered the repertoire of a number of African a cappella gospel choirs such as the Sowesto Gospel Choir and Ithemba.
Waterson-Carthy recorded "Sleep On, Beloved", which is presumably an earlier version of the song than the version sung by Spence.
"In the 1960s, the Incredible String Band renamed a song called I Bid You Goodnight which they learned from Jody Stecher’s recordings of the great Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and his family, the Pinder family, and the song became, for some folkies, one of those great standards. A year or two ago John Howson visited Staithes to record the Fisherman’s Choir, and was accompanied by Maggie Hunt who, at the same time, was interviewing the individuals involved. During conversations, a Mr Willie Wright sang a snatch of the Sankey hymn Sleep On Beloved which he described as a lowering down song at funerals, and which was clearly the same song as I Bid You Goodnight but in an earlier form, and when Norma heard it, she went to see Willie, who kindly proved her with the other verses. When we sang the song to Jody Stecher, he was enormously pleased, not least because its function as a funeral song in the Bahamian fishing community was identical to that in its North Yorkshire counterpart."