New England Song Series No. 2:
The True Story of "GOIN' HOME"
From Bohemia To Boston
Goin' home, goin' home, I'm a goin' home;
Quiet-like, some still day, I'm jes' goin' home.
It's not far, jes' close by,
Through an open door;
Work all done, care laid by,
Goin' to fear no more.
Mother's there 'spectin' me,
Father's waitin' too;
Lots o' folks
All the friends I knew,
All the friends I knew.
Home, I'm goin' home!
These opening lines are from "Goin' Home,"based on the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak's famous "Largo" theme from his Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Op. 95. His symphony was composed while he was in America and was first performed by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893.
It has been said that Dvorak's themes in his symphony were inspired by American folk melodies, especially Afro-American or American Indian. But his themes are just as similar to Bohemian folk music.
Did Dvorak have anything to do with writing the words to"Goin' Home"?
"Goin' Home"was actually written by one of Dvorak's pupils, William Arms Fisher (1861-1948), who adapted and arranged the Largo theme and added his own words. This is part of what Fisher wrote in the published sheet music of his song, "Goin' Home" (Oliver Ditson Company):
The Largo, with its haunting English horn solo, is the outpouring of Dvorak's own home-longing, with something of the loneliness of far-off prairie horizons, the faint memory of the red-man's bygone days, and a sense of the tragedy of the black-man as it sings in his "spirituals." Deeper still it is a moving expression of that nostalgia of the soul all human beings feel. That the lyric opening theme of the Largo should spontaneously suggest the words 'Goin' home, goin' home' is natural enough, and that the lines that follow the melody should take the form of a negro spiritual accords with the genesis of the symphony.
-- William Arms Fisher, Boston, July 21, 1922.
There's no break, there's no end,
Jes'a livin' on;
Wide awake, with a smile
Goin' on and on.
Some have written that "Goin Home" was based on a spiritual written by Harry Burleigh, as claimed here. But there is no hard evidence to support that claim, even though Burleigh worked for Dvorak.
Instead, it is William Arms Fisher who should be credited with adapting and arranging this song in "the form of a negro spiritual."
It especially became known as a spiritual after the death of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s. Fisher described his song as: "a moving expression of that nostalgia of the soul all human beings feel." Thus, it might be suitable for a funeral or any other occasion "of the soul."
But, like the words of the song, the false claims for this beautiful and poignant song just keeping
"Goin' on and on."
-- Roger Lee Hall
There are several recommended recordings of this song:
1. The English boy group, Libera, sing an arrangement
by Robert Prizeman on this CD,
2. Paul Robeson (1898-1976) in a Carnegie Hall Concert...
"Goin' Home" was recorded at a famous Carnegie Hall concert in New York by Paul Robeson, one of the greatest concert singers of the 20th century. Originally released on
2-LP albums, this highly recommended concert is now available on a CD at this link:
Paul Robeson - Live at Carnegie Hall
The Historic May 9, 1958 Concert
See the complete words to William Arms Fisher's "Goin' Home" at
For more about William Arms Fisher, go to
Fisher's "Goin' Home"
was poignantly sung by singer, Jan Clayton,
and a chorus in the 1948 20th Century-Fox movie,
THE SNAKE PIT
New England Music Recordings