The song is believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the nineteenth century. Some references suggest that it was copyrighted by Jay Roberts in 1865.
The lyrics allude to the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, in which Joshua led the Israelites against Canaan (Joshua 6:15-21). However, like those of many other spirituals, the words may have had a hidden meaning alluding to eventual escape from slavery - in the case of this song,
The first recorded version was in July 1922 by Harrod's Jubilee Singers, on Black Swan 2057-B.
Harrod's Jubilee Singers were an internationally acclaimed gospel quartet patterned after the famous ensemble formed during the 19th century at Fisk University. The group was led by tenor Archie Harrod, who also recorded as a solo comedian.
Harrod's Jubilee Singers consisted of:
Ruth Mays, soprano
Mathilde Walton, contralto
Archie Harrod, tenor
John Woodward, bass
In July 1922 the group recorded six religious titles in New York for Harry Pace's Black Swan label.
The Black Swan-label went into swift decline through the end of 1922 and into 1923. It would declare bankruptcy before 1923 ended and in May, 1924 the recordings would be leased to Paramount.
The ORIGINAL version of "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho" was also re-released in 1924 on Paramount 12116. Apparantly Jay Roberts was the name of the composer credits on this Paramount re-release.
(c) Paul Robeson recorded "Joshua Fit De Battle Ob Jericho" on July 16, 1925 in Camden New Jersey. With Lawrence Brown on the piano and vocals.
It was released on Victor 19743.
(c) Nazarene Congregational Church Choir, "Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho"
Recorded November 20, 1926
Released on the B-side Herschel Gold Seal 2016
And on the B-side of Black Patti 8018
and also on Herwin 92002 and on Gennett 6004 and on Champion 15380
(c) Dixie Jubilee Singers, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"
Recorded in May 31, 1928.
Released on Columbia 14329-D
Listen to a sample here;
(c) W.C. Elkins and His Dextra Singers recorded in December 1928
Released on QRS R7068.
Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz
(c) Clarence Williams Rhythm Kings 1935
(c) The Delta Rhythm Boys recorded a version on December 16, 1940.
It was released on Decca 8522 and Decca 25019.
And here are the Delta Rhythm Boys in 1959:
(c) Josh White "Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho" recorded in 1944
Released on the Asch-label (Asch 358)
Read the linernotes (scroll down on the next link)
Here's Josh White filmed for British television in 1965, including narrative fragments which seem to have been adapted from the autobiographical sections of The Josh White Song Book. This was near the end of Josh’s career, and, while he is playing well, he is obviously tired. Still, the selection of songs gives a good picture of his prime repertoire:
“Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” seems to have been a favorite song since childhood, based as it was on his namesake, and it remained a highlight of Josh’s concerts throughout his career. It was also one of his most characteristic guitar arrangements, with a fast, swinging rhythmic attack that was quite different from the playing of anyone else on the scene.
(c) Cozy Cole All Stars 1944 (as "Jericho")
Lammar Wright (trumpet)
Ray Conniff (trombone)
Ben Webster (tenor saxophone)
Johnny Guarnieri (piano)
Teddy Walters (guitar)
Billy Taylor (bass)
Cozy Cole (drums)
Recorded NYC, March 13, 1944
Released on Savoy 502.
(c) The Golden Gate Quartet recorded a version in June 1946.
It was released on Columbia 37833 (USA) as part of the album "Golden Gate Spirituals"
And on Columbia D.C. 505 (UK)
And here is the Golden Gate Quartett live in France, 1958
(c) Kid Ory recorded a version on October 16, 1946.
It was released on Columbia 37275
(c) Sidney Bechet and His Blue Note Jazzmen
Wild Bill Davison (cnt), Ray Diehl (tbn), Sidney Bechet (sop), Art Hodes (pno), Walter Page (bs), Wilmore "Slick" Jones (dms).
Recorded New York March 23 1949
Matrix BN358-0 Joshua Fit De Battle Ob Jericho
Released on the Blue Note album: "Sidney Bechet and Wild Bill Davison Vol 2"
(c) Ralph Flanagan adapted it under the title "Joshua".
Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra recorded the spiritual in New York City on March 1, 1950.
It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-3724
(c) Mahalia Jackson recorded "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho" in New York City on Thursday November 3, 1955 With the Falls-Jones Ensemble: Mildred Falls, piano; Ralph Jones, organ; Clifton "Skeeter" Best, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Gordon "Specs" Powell, drums;
Released on Columbia EP "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Columbia B 2072)
Here's Gospel Queen Mahalia Jackson as she appeared in 1957 singing on the Nat King Cole show.
(c) Laurie London tried her luck at another traditional after her Millionselling #1 US Hit "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands".
Her follow-up "Joshua" was a cover of "Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho".
(c) Odetta recorded a version on July 11, 1959 at the Newport Folk Festival
In 1960 Odetta recorded a version at Carnegie Hall:
(c) Pete Seeger 1960
(c) Jimmie Rodgers 1960
(c) Jordanaires 1951
Recorded July 4, 1950 Castle Studio, The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville, TN– Jordanaires (Bill Matthews,Warren M. Matthews,Robert T. Hubbard,Culley Holt)
Matrix 76628/NA 2185 JOSHUA FIT THE BOTTLE OF JERICHO
Released on Decca 9-14589
(c) Elvis Presley (" Joshua Fit The Battle")
Recorded by Elvis on Monday, 31 October 1960
Released on the album "His Hand In Mine"
(c) Grant Green (1963) (as"Joshua Fit De Battle Ob Jericho")
Herbie Hancock (piano) Grant Green (guitar) Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) Garvin Masseaux (tambourine)
Recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 21, 1962
Released on "Feelin' the Spirit" (Blue Note Records BLP 4132).
Released on "Feelin' the Spirit" (Blue Note Records BLP 4132).
(c) Lonnie Donegan (1962) on the album "Sing Hallelujah"
(c) Jackie Wilson and Linda Hopkins 1963
(c) Clara Ward Singers 1959
Here are the Clara Ward Singers in Antibes, France during the 1962 Antibes Jazz Festival.
Geraldine Jones, lead. Mildred Means, soprano.
(c) Weavers (1967)
(c) Prince Buster (1967) [as Dance Cleopatra hit in the Netherlands in '72]
(c) Big Maybelle 1968
(c) Les Humphries Singers 1970 on album "Rock My Soul" (Decca label)
(c) Swingle Singers 1991 ("Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho") on album "Around The World - Folk Music" (Virgin label)
(c) Cassandra Wilson (and Ron Carter) 1995 (as "Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho") on album "Bob Belden's Shades of Blue"
(c) Tom Verlaine 2011 from compilation: Pioneers For A Cure - American Songs To Fight Cancer
Songs | Pioneers for a Cure
(c) Hugh Laurie 2011 (as "Battle Of Jericho") on album "Let Them Talk"
(c) And finally here's a very beautiful version from a group called "Amicitiae Vocis" from "Chile"