One of my earliest memories was listening to my grandfather singing Were you there? He sang it quietly as he worked, maybe even absent-mindedly. He wasn’t a talkative man, but he was perpetually singing, usually a gospel song, usually quietly. Where you there when they nailed him to a tree? he would sing, while polishing his shoes, or while using the drill press in his workshop. He knew all the verses. Thanks to him, this song will forever be in my head. It surfaces when I’m working on something quietly, as if genetically programmed. It surfaces particularly during Holy Week. I sing it while washing dishes, or sweeping the floor, and my children are fascinated and listen carefully to the story unfolding. I may have heard a few of them singing it absent-mindedly, too.

I thought I would share the full lyrics, so you can let your inner gospel singer loose, as well as version by Marion Williams, for inspiration.


Were you there, Marion Williams

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

… when they nailed him to the tree?
… when they pierced him in the side?
… when the sun refused to shine?
… when they laid him in the tomb?
… when they rolled the stone away?

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