J. Rosamond Johnson: American History

J. Rosamond Johnson was one of many black American composers who were inspired by the music of Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. “Nobody Knows” appeared as part of “The Books of American Negro Spirituals,” by Johnson and his brother, James Weldon Johnson. J. Rosamond Johnson writes in the score of Nobody Knows, “This is a rare version,” and dedicates his arrangement to Henry Krehbiel. It is the alternate tune to the familiar, standard version of this spiritual.

Rodrick Dixon’s moving performance of “Nobody Knows De Trouble I See” was filmed in Portland, Maine, in October 2012 as part of production for the documentary film “Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900-1912.” Photo of J. Rosamond Johnson used with permission of Melanie Edwards, JRJ’s granddaughter. For more information visit:

Composer, actor, and pioneer in his field, John Rosamond Johnson was one of the most successful of the early African American composers. Born on August 11, 1873 in Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson was the younger brother of prominent composer and civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson. Starting in 1890, John Johnson attended Boston’s New England Conservatory, and for a brief time studied in Europe as well. He began his career as a music teacher in Jacksonville public schools but in 1899 moved to New York with his brother, James Weldon, to pursue a career in show business. One year later the Johnson brothers established a song writing partnership with Robert “Bob” Cole, a lyricist and vaudeville entertainer. Their working relationship lasted until Cole’s death in 1911 and would prove to be quite profitable, producing two popular all-black operettas on Broadway, The Shoo-Fly Regiment (1906) and The Red Moon (1908). With Cole, Johnson also wrote Congo Love Songs, My Castle on the Nile, and the enormously successful Under the Bamboo Tree in 1902. – See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/johnson-j-rosamond-1873-1954#sthash.6teF1m7S.dpuf



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