I was thinking about which music to post for Music Monday to mark the beginning of Holy Week. Churches throughout New York City are offering a glorious selection of masses, choral works, and hymns. I’ve decided to go with some good old American gospel.
One can’t help but wonder where American music would be without its gospel roots. A huge number of R & B singers and pop performers began their musical journeys singing in church, from Marvin Gaye to Whitney Houston, to Tina Turner, Patsy Cline, Katy Perry, and so many others. One of my all time favorites, Sam Cooke, started out a church singer and eventually became an member of the highly respected Soul Stirrers. Sam Cooke was an exceptional gospel vocalist and had one of the most recognizable voices in the history of music. He was so masterful at gospel that many of his fans were dismayed when he decided to cross over into pop. Mahalia Jackson, on the other hand, turned down every opportunity to go “mainstream”. She sang gospel – and only gospel – throughout her decades-long career. So in many respects, American music owes a great debt to the churches of Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Harlem, and those atop country hills in small towns stretching from Appalachia to the Louisiana bayou. They nurtured and unleashed some of the most gifted talents of our time.
Our music today is the incomparable Aretha Franklin, who got her start singing in her father’s church, and the great Mavis Staples, gospel singer and national treasure. Here they are performing – I should say “testifying” – “Oh Happy Day”. The song was originally an 18th century hymn which was freshly adapted and arranged by Edwin Hawkins in 1967 and has become a popular gospel classic. I could listen to this over and over, as it is infused with spiritual uplift and foot-tapping, hand-clapping joy. You couldn’t ask for two better ladies to turn it out.
A most blessed Holy Week my friends. A Happy Passover. A happy LIFE to all. Rejoice in the glory that surrounds us every day . . . every happy day.