The song, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," sung by Mahalia Jackson was my mother's favorite Christmas tune. "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," always sounded like an old slave spiritual, but after some research I found that the song was written during the Great Depression and Prohibition Era in the USA. According to William Simon, editor of the Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook, Robert MacGimsey wrote “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” after walking past crowded speakeasies in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1932. Intended as an art song, it became one of many quasi-spirituals. Most recordings take liberties with the lyrics, some adding entire verses. The initial 1934 copyright was allowed to lapse.
Sweet Little Jesus Boy
Sweet little Jesus Boy —
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child —
Didn't know who you was.
Didn't know you'd come to save us, Lord;
To take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see,
We didn't know who you was.
Long time ago, you was born,
Born in a manger low,
Sweet little Jesus Boy.
The world treat you mean, Lord,
Treat me mean too,
But that's how things is down here —
We don't know who you is.
You done told us how, we is a tryin'!
Master, you done show'd us how,
even when you was dyin'.
Just seem like we can't do right,
Look how we treated you.
But please, sir, forgive us, Lord —
We didn't know 'twas you.
Sweet little Jesus Boy, born long time ago.
Sweet little Holy Child,
And we didn't know who you was.
Mahalia Jackson Sweet Little Jesus Boy