O, Do Not Forsake Me

From This Might Be A Wiki
The song's original sheet music, transcribed by Wilbur Pauley of Hudson Shad
Hudson Shad recording the song at Skyline Studios, 1994

song name O, Do Not Forsake Me
artist They Might Be Giants
releases John Henry, John Henry + Factory Showroom
year 1994
first played April 21, 1993 (36 known performances)
run time 2:30
sung by Hudson Shad


  • Though John Flansburgh sang the original demo, vocal group Hudson Shad sang on the album. According to Wilbur Pauley of Hudson Shad, their a capella arrangement was transcribed to sheet music by Pauley following a phone call where John Linnell sang the melody for him. In 2020, Pauley described the process to a fan:[1]
I got a call from John Linnell on my answering machine; he'd heard us and wanted us to record a song he'd written for his group They Might Be Giants. I had no idea who they were, but I'm loathe to turn down offers of gainful employment. I called him back and, as I recall, he sang the song over the phone, just the melody. He said he wanted the solo alone, with a 'churchy' sound for the chorus and a descending 'countermelody' during the second verse. I arranged it pretty quickly, and I think we sent a demo. I believe we recorded [for the album] in early 1994. Sometime after the album came out, they were playing Irving Plaza in NYC [in October 1994] and asked if we wanted to do a set ending with O Do Not Forsake Me, that would lead into their coming onstage. OK, five guys in tails with a harpsichordist playing an electric piano, sure, why not? ... As soon as we began O Do Not Forsake Me, the entire audience sang with us...they of course had bought the CD and knew every word! It was our debut with a 'rock' band.
For the record, I sung the demo. I can sing all those notes, too, but I thought it'd be more interesting to hear somebody with like a really profound, bassy voice sing this song with all these theatrical qualities. If we were only making one record, it's probably be more like, "What are our personal expression? What about us?" But we've made a lot of records and I think we feel like it's okay to share the limelight.
As a little kid, I grew up around a lot of kind of traditional folk music which was about as ubiquitous in the 60s Harvard Square in Cambridge Massachusetts as hip hop is in the streets of NYC today. There was a certain kind of very dramatic yet very austere way of presenting these tradition songs/murder ballads/etc that you can hear in recordings by Ed McCurdy of the Weavers on his own, John Jacob Miles, Oscar Brand and many other men and women who loomed large in that Cambridge Ma folk scene (which I guess was essentially a satellite of the West Village). Often with spare instrumentation or simply sung. I found that style very arresting and was really drawn to how direct and irreducible the presentation made the songs and the stories in them sound. Nothing to mishear! It also seemed extremmmmely old fashioned and kinda out of time. So O Do Not Forsake Me the song is really reflecting on that form. Hudson Shad brought a lot of extra color too it and I really appreciate the “otherness” of it. I suppose may folks would find it unpersuasive or not fun enough for a band they expect to be poppy, but I am proud of it.

Song Themes

Age, A Capella, Forgetting And Remembering, Friendship, Numbers, Non-John Vocals, Questions, Super-Human Qualities, Time, Trees And Other Plants


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O, Do Not Forsake Me is currently ranked #607 out of 1009. (133 wikians have given it an average rating of 7.99)