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Song/hymn: The Family of Man ( I belong to a family, the biggest on earth)

(24 Posts)
roisin Sun 04-Jan-09 12:26:11

This morning in church I was thinking of this song, which I used to love singing as a child and whose message was very meaningful to me.

The lyrics of the song are sexist (exclusive language) racist and very dated too shock

Does anyone know of any contemporary religious songs with a similar or related message?

OP’s posts: |
goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 12:28:50

you mean this one

How is it racist <<<<<<<<blonde emoticon>>>>

and surely "man" is referring to "mankind"??

roisin Sun 04-Jan-09 12:35:19

Thanks FAQ.

That is a slightly updated version. Mine has "the coolie in Peking" and other such gems, that I wouldn't transcribe here!

But I still find the continual use of 'man' just jars in this day and age.

We wouldn't really use this sort of music (rumpty tumpty melody and corny harmonisation) in our church these days anyway. We use lots of traditional hymns, but also more modern songs. But the 'songs' we use are more contemporary, more subtle and less cliched in their musicality.

So even if I, or you, or someone, could update the lyrics to my satisfaction that wouldn't serve. I'm looking for an alternative.

OP’s posts: |
goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 12:39:10

"more subtle and less cliched in their musicality."

wow which ones are them then grin (we also use lots of contemporary ones, but very few that aren't cliched and rather predictable with tunes and harmonies) - kind of rules out ermm - quite a lot of the well known composers/writers wink

Shall have a think later about other ones that may suit........supposed to be ironing now

goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 12:43:10

only thing that springs to mind straight away is "I have a dream" (and yes it's based on Martin Luther King's famous speech) set to the tune of Woodlands (Tell out my Soul).

Not sure that's quite the same message though.

roisin Sun 04-Jan-09 13:45:54

Well, yes, of course I agree with you to an extent about predictability of tunes and harmonies.

But there are plenty of songs and so on from 60s and 70s that would just make half the congregation burst out laughing if I played them even just as an introit or something. I know you know the ones I mean ... the ones that change key half way through, or the harmonies modulate up in semitones.

I don't know the one you mention - will Google. (Or can you name a hymn book it's in?)


OP’s posts: |
scienceteacher Sun 04-Jan-09 13:49:11

Gosh, I remember that one from when I was at school.

goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 14:02:26

It's in the Complete Anglican Hymnbook Old and New (the orange one) [fsnile]

goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 14:09:06

blush - sorry it's we have a dream - not I (should know I['ve played it, and the one on the adjacent page "WE have a gospel" enough times LOL.

roisin Sun 04-Jan-09 16:59:55

Thanks for the info, but I don't have a copy of that hymnbook among the dozens I do have! (I used to have one in my old office at work!) And I've not been able to find the lyrics by googling!

Could you type out the first two lines for me to try and google.

OP’s posts: |
goldFAQinsenceandmyrrh Sun 04-Jan-09 17:02:07

I'll type it out for this eveing if you like - expecting the DS's back any minute.

I tried googling and can't find it either, it's probably there somehwere but as it's based very closesly on the MLK speech I thihnk all those references come at the top

roisin Sun 04-Jan-09 17:06:21

thank you so much.

OP’s posts: |
kirkc Mon 07-Sep-09 02:23:06

Could someone email me the lyrics and melody of the song, Family of Man, please? It's not known to me, but I have someone in the congregation looking for it, and this is the only place I have seen a reference to it.
I appreciate some of the comments I've read about being a church organist/musician!!!!

MaryBS Mon 07-Sep-09 08:21:04

Think i've found the hymn FAQ was referring to:

We have a dream the Church of God will rise
through living closely to his Holy Word;
and never let the 'clever and the wise'
stop children's thoughts and views from being heard.

We have a dream young people shall be free
to journey on in faith at their own pace;
free to become whatever they may be
of their own choosing in the light of grace.

We have a dream that one day we shall find
a Church of equal opportunity
where everyone can leave demands behind
and share Christ's banquet in community.

We have a dream that love will overcome
the fear of living in the here and now,
that Christians old and young will spur us on,
and hand in hand we'll show the world, "Here's how!"

alwayslookingforanswers Mon 07-Sep-09 12:26:25

no that's not the one

alwayslookingforanswers Mon 07-Sep-09 12:33:37

We have a dream: this nation will arise,
and truly live according to its creed,
that all are equal in their makers eyes,
and none shall suffer through another's greed

We have a dream that one day we shall see
a world of justice, truth and equity,
where sons of slaves and daughters of the free
will share the banquet of community.

We have a dream of deserts brought to flow'r,
once made infertile by oppression's heat,
when love and truth shall end oppressive pow'r,
and streams of righteousness and justice meet.

We have a dream; our children shall be free
from judgements based on colour or on race;
free to become whatever they may be,
of their own choosing in the light of grace.

We have a dream that truth will overcome
the fear and anger of our present day;
that black and white will share a common home,
and hand in hand will walk the pilgrim way.

We have a dream; each valley will be raised,
and ev'ry mountain, ev'ry hill brought down;
then shall creation echo perfect praise,
and share God's glory under freedom's crown!

(apologies for any typo's couldn't find it online so type it out the hymn book(

tvaerialmagpiebin Wed 16-Sep-09 16:50:38

We belong to a family, it's the biggest on earth;
Thousands every day are coming to birth.
Our name isn't Johnny or Jimmy or Joan,
It's a name everyone can be glad we own.

It's the Family of man, keeps growing,
The family of man, keep sowing
The seeds of a new life every day.

I've got a sister in Sydney, a brother in Paree,
The whole wide world is dad and mother to me.
Wherever you go you will find my kin,
Whatever the creed of the colour of the skin, they're the

Family of man, etc.

From Afghanistan to the streets of New York,
Don't matter how we worship or we talk.
We've all got a life and others to share it,
Let's bridge the oceans and declare it the

Family of man, etc.

From the North Pole to the steamy Equator
We've all got to live together sooner or later
And I've not much time, I've had my fill
Of the men of war who try to kill the

Family of man, etc.

Now some people say the world is a terrible place
But it's just as good or bad as the human race:
Dirt and misery or health and joy.
We can build or can destroy the

Family of man, etc.

There's another verse - something like "From the miner in the Rhondda to the coolie in Peking" but I can't remember that. This version seems a bit more PC to me.....
The Spinners did it on an album in the seventies:does this work?

skibelle Wed 16-Sep-09 17:08:45

It's in 'Come and Praise' that we use at school.

'That' verse is verse 3:

I belong to a fam'ly, the biggest on earth,
Ten thousand every day are coming to birth.
Our name isn't Davies or Groves or Jones,
It's the name every man should be proud he owns.

^It's the fam'ly of man, keeps growing,
The fam'ly of man, keeps sowing,
The seeds of a new life ev'ry day^

I've got a sister in Melbourne, and brother in Delhi,
The whole wide world is dad and mother to me.
Whatever you turn you will find my kin,
Whatever the creed or colour of skin


The miner in the Rhondda, the coolie in Peking,
Men across the world who reap and plough and spin,
They've got a life and others to share it,
Let's bridge the oceans and declare it:


Some people say the world is a horrible place,
But it's just as good or bad as the human race;
Dirt and misery or health and joy,
Man can build or can destroy.


tvaerialmagpiebin Wed 16-Sep-09 17:51:00

Oh I LOVE Come and Praise. It had all those classy ones like "Autumn Days" with the nonsense about jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled....... I was singing that to myself the other day. And "If I was a wiggly worm".......

<wanders off to look for C&P on Amazon>

tvaerialmagpiebin Wed 16-Sep-09 17:54:34

here it is

karldallas Sat 11-Feb-12 18:11:58

A friend pointed me at this thread, since I am the composer of this song. I agree with people who don't/didn't like it. "Coolie" is a term of abuse like nigger, but I didn't know that; I changed it when this was pointed iut to me by a Chinese friend. When it was composed in 1953, "man" was a perfectly acceptable synonym for humanity, but is so no longer. I have tried for years to find a suitable alternative, eg "the human family" but none of them sing well. When I became a Christian, I wrote new words as "the family of God", but that went right against the inclusiveness of the original message, which I think is relevant today.
In the end, I was announcing the song with a preamble about how long I'd been trying to fit in with my (male) feminist views, and a woman in the audience shouted out, "Who cares? It's a bloody good song. Just sing it, Karl."
The song was inspired by a photographic exhibition of that name which I viewed at the Royal Festival Hall in London and was so inspired by it I walked across Hungerford Bridge, sat in the park, and scribbled down the first version of the words. Incidentally, if you ever travel to Liuxembourg, it's on permanent exhibition in the town of Clervaux.
I agree with Roisin about the song's "rumpty tumpty melody and corny harmonisation" but that's exactly the point. I've composed plenty of more complex melodies (I began as a modern jazz singer, so I kn ow all about flatted fifths) but I deliberately made it easy to pick up and learn.
When I submitted it for publication in the songwriting magazine, Sing!, the editorial committee agreed with Roisin, and almost refused to publish it. They did so as a favour to me.
Its success indicates that I was right. But I think I've written a lot better.
When I sang the song in the presence of the 20th Century's greatest traditional singer, Harry Cox of Catfield, in Norfolk, after I sat down he nudged me and said: "That were a bit strong, Karl. It be all about f---ing." And of course it is: "sowing the seeds of a new life every day".
The words contributed by Lankyalto are more or less the way I sing it today, though like all my songs, I recreate them every time I sing them. If you sing it, feel free to do likewise.

roisin Sat 11-Feb-12 18:34:34

Gosh the power of the internet!

Thank you for your post Karl. I feel a leetle self-conscious about my comments, which were obviously not intended to be read by the composer.

So - for some balance - I do have very vivid memories of how powerfully this song spoke to me when I was a child; and I'm sure it had similar positive effects on many, many people.

OP’s posts: |
KatyCustard Tue 21-Feb-12 08:30:12

It had a positive effect on me! I'm a Christian but I agree that it is a song about togetherness, and actually could be sung by people of all faiths and none. Thanks Karl. (Also remember singgering as a teenager at the bit about seeds being sown! wink )

When I was teaching I used to love doing the old classics from my own childhood for things like class assemblies because the parents got all nostalgic!

One of my faves: "When a night won his spurrs" !

KatyCustard Tue 21-Feb-12 08:30:49

sorry - "Knight".

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