I don’t know what caused it – rock and roll / gospel musicals on Broadway, or the blending of R&B and gospel on the radio – but for a decent period of time, we had plenty of rock and roll / R&B gospel songs preaching the word of the Lord on our Top 40 radio stations. And it was a decent, decent mix.
Let’s open the gospel now and take a listen, shall we?
THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS
(EDWIN HAWKINS AND THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA STATE YOUTH CHOIR)
Oh Happy Day
This was actually produced as a church fundraiser, but some radio stations added it to their playlist – and eventually the song marched its way into the R&B and pop charts. Happy day indeed.
My Sweet Lord
Yes, I know it sounds like George Harrison soldered religious lyrics on the melody and rhythm of an old Chiffons song from 1963 – but honestly, he really turned the track into a religious classic in and of itself.
Day By Day
Ironically, although this song came from a modern-day retelling of the Gospels, the lyrics themselves come from Saint Richard of Chichester – going back to the 13th century A.D.
Of course this would be recorded by several artists, but I certainly dig this version from Australian chanteuse Colleen Hewitt, which mixes two Godspell tracks, “Day By Day” and “Prepare Ye The Name of the Lord.”
Again, another track that may sound as if it came from Scripture, but this only goes as far back as the 1920’s, and has its links to the writings of a poet from Indiana. That being said, again the track – recorded by Los Angeles disc jockey Les Crane – calls back to those concepts of the Golden Rule and the simple teachings and wisdom of the Lord.
SISTER JANET MEAD
The Lord’s Prayer
Okay, let’s at least pull some tracks from actual Biblical language, shall we? For example, here’s a Top 10 re-interpretation of Matthew 6: 9-13 (King James). Complete with wah-wah pedals and decent orchestration.
To Everything There Is A Season
Hard to believe that this song – which borrowed its lyrics from the first eight verses in the third book of Ecclesiastes – was not originally a Byrds hit, but was instead an early recording by Glenn Yarborough and the Limeliters. Not much I can say about this track – other than my mother was a big fan of Glenn Yarborough and the Limeliters, for some unknown reason.
Oh yeah, and if you need to get recalibrated, here’s the Byrds’ recording of that song.
Rivers of Babylon
This cool reggae track takes its lyrics from two essential verses in the Book of Psalms, and was later used in the 1972 film The Harder They Come. And yes, just like the “Turn Turn Turn” track from earlier, this song is better known in a performance from another group … the disco-based studio group Boney M.
And there’s your Sunday School lessons for today … courtesy of K-Chuck Radio!