n grade school, my music teacher was the first gospel singer I'd ever heard live. She frequently sang for us as she taught our music lessons. God had favored her with an amazing voice, incredible piano playing skills, and both generous bosom and hip.
I remember vividly the first time she ever sang for us. She decided we would be learning a song called 'Angels Watching Over Me,' and sat at the piano ( which faced away from the class but was very close to my desk ) to begin. She played an amazing intro, riffing up and down the keys until she began to sing the opening line: 'All night, all day.' Her voice reached out and wrapped me up in the lush sounds of gospel. Tears started rolling down my cheeks.
When she finished the song, I think the entire class was staring at me as I whimpered softly. She walked over to my desk, put her hand on my shoulder and whispered quietly, 'That's the power of gospel music. Go ahead child. Feel it.' I was ten years old at the time. From then on, gospel music was a part of my life.
Someone randomly asked me who I thought was 'the best singer ever' a few weeks back. Without even thinking, I said, 'Dorothy Love Coates.' Somehow I think they were expecting someone along the Judy / Barbra / Callas lines or something. But truly, Love Coates takes the prize, hands down.
In the 1950s she recorded with a group called 'The Original Harmonettes' and created what many consider the best gospel recordings of that era. I read a quote a few years back that said something along the lines of, 'If gospel were more accepted in mainstream music, Dorothy Love Coates would be as popular as Billie Holiday or Judy Garland.'
The recording to pick up is one called 'The Best of Dorothy Love Coates and The Original Gospel Harmonettes.' There are so many incredible tracks on the disc that it's the best way to get a feel for their music.
One of my favorites on the album is an upbeat track called 'I Wouldn't Mind Dying,' sung with a piano, some basic drums, and the whole chorus behind Dorothy. It's the kind of song you'd expect the whole church to jump to their feet and dance to. The harmony is hot, the beat is fast, and the words are pure gospel. It'll make you want to shake your tambourine. You DO have a tambourine, don't you?
Just a quick note to the millions of people who didn't understand what track I played at the end of the night at Spin the other day. It's from The Color Purple soundtrack ( the original film, not the musical ) and it's called 'Maybe God Is Tryin' To Tell You Somethin'' with lead vocals by Tata Vega, and backing by Jacqueline Farris and The Christ Memorial Church of God In Christ Choir ( yes that really is their name ) . Tell all your friends.
With you in 4/4,