Banjo Women header
Photograph of Sylvia O'Brien Sylvia Cottrell O'Brien in the living room of her Deadfall Mountain home, September 1997.  


“JOHN BROWN’S body” by Sylvia O’Brien: Asked for the lyrics to this instrumental banjo tune, Sylvia remembers only one line: “John Brown lies in old Virginia but his spirit goes marching on.” Her own commentary on the true history of the martyr of Harper’s Ferry goes like this: “John Brown was fightin’ for freedom of the United States and these others was wantin’ to keep these slave men and beat ‘em and work ‘em to death. And they got him over here in Virginia (now West Virginia) some way and they killed that man! And this song was made and it stays in the hearts and minds of the northern people.” Sylvia is playing this song on a banjo made by her brother Jenes Cottrell. The banjo rim was made from part of a 1956 Buick Dynaflo transmission. Recorded in September 1997 at Sylvia’s home on Deadfall Mountain in Clay County, West Virginia.

PERFORMANCE:   “John Brown's Body”

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