The Tabernacle Choir Blog

A Brief History of “Down by the Riverside”

“Down By the Riverside” is a spiritual that was sung by slaves in the South as a work song. It dates back to before the American Civil War but remained unpublished until 1918, when it was included in Plantation Melodies: A Collection of Modern, Popular and Old-time Negro-Songs of the Southland.

The song refers to biblical imagery such as baptism (white robe), the River Jordan, Jesus (Prince of Peace) and heaven (road to heaven). “Down By the Riverside” also has been known by the alternative titles of “Ain’ Go’n to Study War No Mo,” “Going to Pull My War-Clothes,” and “Ain't Gwine to Study War No More.”

In addition to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition from the album Songs from America’s Heartland, “Down By the Riverside” has been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Van Morrison, and the Million Dollar Quartet, featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins.

Below is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s performance of “Down By the Riverside,” which aired on episode 4,192 of Music & the Spoken Word.

Down By the Riverside (Lyrics)

I'm gonna lay down heavy load, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down heavy load, down by the riverside and I ain't a gonna study war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside
And I ain't gonna study war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more

I'm gonna put on my traveling shoes, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I'm gonna put on my traveling shoes, down by the riverside
And I ain't gonna study war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more

I'm gonna put on my long white robe, down by the riverside 
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I'm gonna put on my long white robe, down by the riverside
And I ain't gonna study war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more

I’m gonna put on my starry crown, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna put on my starry crown, down by the riverside
And I ain’t gonna study war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more, I ain't gonna study war no more