Shaker music history
Books and articles



Song Comparison:

Issachar Bates
"Come Life, Shaker Life"


Richie Havens
"Run, Shaker Life"



 "Come Life, Shaker Life"

The above illustration shows the Shaker song written in a music notation using letters of the alphabet,
which the Shakers called "the letteral system."

This was classified as a "Quick Dance" song and was composed by one of the most active Shaker tunesmiths, Elder Issachar Bates (1758-1837), who was born in Hingham (later part of Cohasset) in Massachusetts.

He served as a young fifer in the American Revolution before he joined the Shakers in 1801.

One of his best known early hymns was "Rights of Conscience," based on a patriotic tune written for George Washington titled, "The President's March."

Elder Issachar wrote "Come Life, Shaker Life" while at the Shaker community in New Lebanon, New York around 1835. Since Shaker music is from folk music it is not always possible to date Shaker songs with exactness. What is more important than date of origin is the song itself and its message of communal faith through individual sacrifice expressed in such lines as: "Shake, shake out of me, All that is carnal."

"Come Life, Shaker Life" is one of the most-often recorded Shaker tunes.




This book is now available in a new multimedia edition
on a CD-ROM with sheet music and music examples:


To order this CD-ROM -- click here



 "Run, Shaker Life"


This song was adapted in 1967 and released the following year on the LP album, Something Else Again (Verve/ Forecast FTS-3034), in a highly rhythmic arrangement by popular folksinger and songwriter, Richie Havens. However, no mention was made of the original Shaker dance song by Issachar Bates.

It has been an unfortunate assumption among many folk musicians that Shaker songs and hymns are often thought to be by unknown composers and therefore are classified as "Traditional." But that was not the case with "Come Life, Shaker Life" and many other Shaker songs, such as "Simple Gifts."

"Run, Shaker Life had these musicians listed on the LP:

Richie Havens, Guitar and Electric Sitar
Paul Williams, Guitar and Chant
Daniel Ben Zebulon, Congo Drums and Chant
Denny Gerrrard, Electric Bass
Skip Prokop, Drums

"Run, Shaker Life" was re-issued on the Polydor CD:
 The Best of Richie Havens - The Millennium Collection (2000).


There were also several other recordings of "Run, Shaker Life" including the best-selling LP album, Soul to Soul (recorded in Ghana, West Africa in 1971), sung by an energetic young group of singers known as: The Voices of East Harlem.

In none of these recordings is there any mention of Issachar Bates as the composer of the original Shaker dance song.

"Come Life, Shaker Life" has lyrics nearly identicial to "Run, Shaker Life" by Richie Havens.

Just look at the lyrics for both songs...


Richie Havens version (1967)

Issachar Bates version (1835) 

Run, Shaker life,

Shake life eternal;

Shake it out of me,

All that is carnal.

I'll be your Moses,

I'll be your David,

I'll show Michael twice,    

How he behaved.

Come life, Shaker life,

Come life Eternal,

Shake, shake out of me,

All that is carnal.

I'll play a nimble step,

I'll be a David,

I'll show Michael twice,

How he behaved.


The references to " David" and " Michael" [Michal] are from the Old Testament (II. SAMUEL. 6:16):

And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

This Old Testament passage was used as a defense for dancing in Shaker worship.



This book is now available in a new edition
on a CD-ROM with sheet music and music examples:



Click the "Add to Cart" button to pay for this multi-media computer disc. It is payable to PineTree Productions by credit card through safe and secure PayPal. The price of $14.95 includes shipping (USA orders only).

To order your copy, click the button below:




After you have sent in your payment,
please send an e-mail and mention the title
and include your mailing address.

Send to:

"Come Life, Shaker Life" CD-ROM

For Overseas Air Mail orders, write to

Issachar Bates CD-ROM






Read a review of a book about the life of Issachar Bates at

Issachar Bates: A Shaker's Journey




Related Links



Shaker and Non-Shaker Tunes -- comparison of folk tunes.

Shaker Books and Articles -- books and articles about Shaker music.

Shaker CD and DVD Releases -- original versions and arrangements.

Shaker Music Arrangements -- music for soloists and chorus.

Shaker Music History -- highlights from 18th, 19th, 20th centuries.

Shaker Music Lectures and Workshops -- programs available for any audience.




Help support the preservation mission of this site.

Order your music from the

AMP Store



Return to top of the page


Shaker Music (Home page)





© 2013-2017 PineTree Productions. All Rights Reserved for material on this page.