Album: Freedom Highway (2017)

Songfacts®:

  • This is a track from Rhiannon Giddens' second solo studio album Freedom Highway. The record has a loose theme running through it showing different aspects of the African-American experience.
  • Set during the Civil War this song imagines a conversation between the woman of the house and a slave called Julie as union troops approach a plantation. The mistress begs Julie to protect their families riches, but the slave answers, mistress "That trunk of gold is what you got when my children you sold."

    Giddens told Uncut: "'Julie' was the focus for me in a lot of ways, just in terms of who these women are in history who don't have voices, who don't have books written about them or movies made about them."

    "Particularly in the slave experience, it's so often men who are talked about and their women are the reasons to do things, like the Nate Parker movie (The Birth of a Nation). They don't have their own agency in the stories, and that's something that has been bothering me, so all the protagonists slave narrative songs on the record are women. That was important to me."
  • Giddens told Uncut about the background to "Julie."

    "I started writing that song some years ago," she recalled. "I read this book by Andrew Ward called The Slaves War: The Civil War In The Words Of Former Slaves, and I was moved to start writing songs. I wasn't much of a songwriter at that point. I had written a couple of exercise songs, a blues so whatever, but these songs started to come out of me. Julie was the first one. I wrote it on my banjo. It had been sitting there for a while until it just seems like the right time to do something with it."

Comments: 2

  • Ken from E2e 1p9The tune is similar to lay me down in the river by The Fortunate Ones from Newfoundland. But hey that's folk music eh?
  • Michelle from NevadaBeautiful and haunting song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike Scott of The WaterboysSongwriter Interviews

The stories behind "Whole Of The Moon" and "Red Army Blues," and why rock music has "outlived its era of innovation."

Elton JohnFact or Fiction

Does he have beef with Gaga? Is he Sean Lennon's godfather? See if you can tell fact from fiction in the Elton John edition.

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

History Of RockSong Writing

An interview with Dr. John Covach, music professor at the University of Rochester whose free online courses have become wildly popular.

Allen Toussaint - "Southern Nights"They're Playing My Song

A song he wrote and recorded from "sheer spiritual inspiration," Allen's didn't think "Southern Nights" had hit potential until Glen Campbell took it to #1 two years later.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: Tarantino EditionMusic Quiz

Whether he's splitting ears or burning Nazis, Quentin Tarantino uses memorable music in his films. See if you can match the song to the scene.