Our friends over at BlogXilla asked a perfectly reasonable question recently: Why have no modern day musical celebrities covered Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing, the song written in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson that’s often known as the Negro National Anthem?


We doubt James Weldon Johnson would mind a Lift Ev’ry Voice cover by Rihanna.

Big name covers from way back include Ray Charles, Leontyne Price, Kim Weston (my favorite), and Melba Moore … but that’s about it. How come Donny Hathaway or Luther Vandross never did one?

Xilla mentions Erykah Badu, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige. But I also wonder, what about Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Ciara, or Rihanna?

What about John Legend, Kanye West, or Akon choppin’ it up with Timbaland? To a hip-hop beat?

If you were an exec producer, who would you bring together for a project like this?

Meanwhile, Johnson was kinda like the Dr. Dre of his time.

He was a regular patron at the Manhattan Casino, where many of the basketball teams of the Black Fives Era played, along with his friend Madam C. J. Walker and other big names of the period.

One of Johnson’s books, Black Manhattan, is a really dope glimpse into that world.

Did you know that the James Weldon Johnson Papers are stored at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut? I was browsing his collection and found this beautiful photo, which proves to me that he really wouldn’t mind a sultry, soulful cover of his most famous composition. At all.

James Weldon Johnson Collection photo

Mr. Johnson! This definitely lifts every voice! Knowhatimean?