This Little Light of Mine

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"This Little Light of Mine" is a gospel children's song with lyrics by Avis Burgeson Christiansen and a tune written by composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes (1895–1965) c. 1920.[citation needed]


Loes, who studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the American Conservatory of Music, was a musical composer and teacher, who wrote or co-wrote several other gospel songs. The song has since entered the folk tradition, first being collected by John Lomax in 1939. Often thought of as a Negro spiritual, it does not, however, appear in any collection of jubilee or plantation songs from the nineteenth century.

Depending on the source, the song may take its theme from Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven." Alternatively, it may refer to the words of Jesus in Luke 11:33, where he said, "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." Or, it may be based on Matthew 5:14–15, where Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."[1]


The song has also been secularised into "This Little Girl of Mine" as recorded by Ray Charles[2] in 1956 and later The Everly Brothers. It has often been published with a set of hand movements to be used for the instruction of children.

Under the influence of Zilphia Horton, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others, it eventually became a Civil Rights anthem in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the version by Betty Fikes[3] The Seekers recorded it for their second UK album, Hide & Seekers (also known as The Four & Only Seekers) in 1964. Over time it also became a very popular children's song, recorded and performed by the likes of Raffi in the 1980s.

Odetta and the Boys' Choir of Harlem performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman on September 17, 2001, on the first show after Letterman resumed broadcasting, after having been off the air for several nights following the events of 9/11.[4]

The Cedarmont Kids covered the song on their 2000 album "Action Bible Songs" and "Gospel Bible Songs" and two years later in Spanish on "Cantos Biblicos Con Accion" and "Cantos Biblicos Gospel."

Bruce Springsteen released it in his live album Live in Dublin, released in 2006.

Part of this song was performed by Christina Ricci in the film Black Snake Moan in 2006.

A rendition of the song is performed by a gospel choir with a piano accompaniment in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult" when Adrian Monk is being inducted into the Siblings of the Sun cult.

Brenda Lee recorded the song with Charlie Daniels on her 2007 Gospel Album, Gospel Duets with Treasured Friends.

In 2008, the song is heard in the episode "Wednesday's Women" on the CBS television series Cold Case, performed by Tracie Thoms.

LZ7 took their version of the song named "This Little Light" to number 26 in the UK Singles Chart.

(Hed) PE use part of the words in their 2010 song "This Fire".

On the February 15, 2011 episode of Glee, Will Schuester performed the song acoustically for a children's hospital.[5]

In 2011, in the sixth season episode of Criminal Minds, "Henley Waters", the criminal sings part of the song.

The song is featured prominently in a 2003 episode of Little Bill.

The first verse of the song is featured in Garbage's song "Beloved Freak" from the 2012 album Not Your Kind of People.

The song is sung in a videogame by "Chepito" during Grim Fandango's Year 3 Episode, the song being an analogy to a pearl he uses to traverse the abyssal waters.

The song is remixed in Disney Channel's original movie: Let It Shine 2012.

The song "Hey Mama" from Kanye West's 2005 album Late Registration features the lyric, "this little light of mine, I'm finna let it shine."

The song is featured by Mike Farris in his 2014 album Shine For All The People.

A dark, ominous version of the song was used for the first teaser trailer of the film Snowden.[6]


  1. "The New Sounds for Christ in Zimbabwe – This Little Light Of Mine." The Daily Kos, October 6, 2008. Accessed June 7, 2009.
  2. Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom". Smithsonian Folkways. Retrieved 2015-06-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Boys Choir Of Harlem News". Retrieved February 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Comeback". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved February 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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