The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Words and Music: Robert MacGimsey (18981979), 1932

Sweet little Jesus Boy
They made You be born in a manguh1
Sweet little Holy chil'2
Didn't know who You wus.3

Didn't know You'd come to save us Lawd4
To take our sins away.
Our eyes wus bline;5
We couldn't see
We didn't know who You wus.

Long time ago You wus bawn6
Bawn in a manguh low,
Sweet little Jesus Boy.
De worl' treat You mean Lawd,
Treat me mean too.
But please, Suh,7 fuhgive8 us Lawd;
We didn't know 'twas You.

Sweet little Jesus Boy
Bawn long time ago,
Sweet little Holy chil'
An' we didn't know who You wus.


1. manger. Return

2. child. Return

3. was. Return

4. Lord. Return

5. blind. Return

6. Born. Return

7. Sir. Return

8. forgive. Return


According to William Simon, editor of the Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook, Robert MacGimsey wrote this carol 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 allow to lapse.

Among several excellent recordings, my favorite is that of Mahalia Jackson.

This song should not be confused with "Sweet Little Jesus Child" written by Percy Bady (copyright 1996) and performed by Kim Rutherford (found on the 1996 CD "The Real Meaning of Christmas").

See William L. Simon, ed., The Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook. Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Association, revised 2003.

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