Dem Bones

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"Dem Bones" (also called "Dry Bones" and "Dem Dry Bones") is a spiritual. The melody was composed by author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938). Some sources also credit his brother, J Rosomond Johnson.[1] First recorded by The Famous Myers Jubilee Singers in 1928. Both a long and a shortened version of the song are widely known. The lyrics are inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14, where the prophet Ezekiel visits the "Valley of Dry Bones"[2] and prophesies that they will one day be resurrected at God's command, picturing the national resurrection of Israel.

The song[edit]

The chorus and verses are noted for many variations among performers, but fall into the following style. The second verse reverses the first in a pattern similar to:

The neck bone (dis)connected from the head bone
… etc…


Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians recorded the song on 30 April 1947 and released it on the 78 rpm record Decca 23948.[3]. It is used in the 1986 BBC television serial The Singing Detective.

The song is also performed at several points in the final episode of The Prisoner (1968).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Locust St". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  2. ^ "Dry Bones, Valley of," in Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, David L. Jeffery, editor. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, November 1, 1992, pages 216-217, ISBN 0-8028-3634-8
  3. ^ Entry for Decca 23948 on (including image of disc label). Accessed 13 March 2012.