In nearly every U.S. jukebox is a pre-Civil War Negro spiritual called Michael, which probably originated among slaves who traveled by boat each day between the Georgia mainland and their quarters on the offshore isles.
Michael, row the boat ashore . . .
Sister, help to trim the sails . . .
The River Jordan is chilly and cold,
Chills the body but not the soul.
Released by United Artists last January, the song was recorded by five folk singers called the Highwaymen. It began to catch on wildly toward the end of the summer,...