Somebody Bigger Than You And I
June 3, 2011 8:09 AM   Subscribe

American gospel singer Marion Williams (wiki) performs for a Dutch television special, recorded in Utrecht, November 1962:
"Somebody Bigger Than You And I"
"Mean Old World"
"Take Me To The Water"
"It Is Well With My Soul"
"I Believe"

The special also includes performances by:

Alex Bradford (wiki)
"Glory Hallelujah"
"Close To Thee"
"Lord, You've Been So Good To Me"
"It's A Highway To Heaven"

Madeline Bell (wiki)
"Just To Know I've Made It In"

Princess Stewart
"I'm Tired, Lord"

Kitty Parham
"Looking To Jesus"
posted by hermitosis (15 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent. In the "Mean Old World" song there's the line, "I've been buked and I've been scorned."

I see that the line "We've been buked and we've been scorned," shows up in James Brown's I'm Black and I'm Proud.

To rebuke means to scorn and admonish, but also secondarily, I see, to repress.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2011

The way Williams could move from a crystal-clear-as-a-bell voice straight into the gravelliest gravel voice and then straight into the most powerful falsetto EVER and then lay a fine carpet of gravel over the falsetto is nothing short of stunning. Wow wow wow.

And my god, her backing vocalists, they sung as one, with impeccable timing and phrasing. What a treat.

Thanks for the great post, hermitosis.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

This was amazing!
posted by PinkMoose at 8:42 AM on June 3, 2011

I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Dutch audiences, having THIS be their first real exposure to gospel music. What must they have thought?
posted by hermitosis at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2011

What must they have thought?

From what I could tell (from the cameras occasionally panning out over the audience) they were enjoying it thoroughly and seemed extremely appreciative. It was a mostly middle-aged (and older?) crowd, it appears.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2011

I have a feeling The Dutch had plenty of experience with hearing black music prior to this. They had quite a racket going for a while there

posted by humboldt32 at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2011

From the YT comments:

Actually, the first black Gospel group to sing in the Netherlands was the Fisk Jubilee Singers, in the 1870's. Of course the Fisk singers were not singing in this modern style, but I think that, in view of all they went through and of their enormous contributions to African American music, we should give credit where it's due.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2011

Those harmonies are astounding.

posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:25 AM on June 3, 2011

For anyone who is planning on checking out the "it is Well With My Soul" link, perhaps knowing the story behind the song will inform your listening experience. From the Wikipedia entry on the hymn:

"It Is Well with My Soul" is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss.

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
posted by orange swan at 10:00 AM on June 3, 2011

The first time I ever heard "It Is Well With My Soul" was at a prayer service for the victims of the Nickel Mines Shooting (some 5 minutes from my home).

I cried. A lot.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:06 AM on June 3, 2011

According to a local newspaper of 26-11-1962 they were in the NL to perform the Broadway musical Black Nativity. I guess the christian broadcasting society NCRV got them to perform in the Geertekerk for a tv special as well.
posted by joost de vries at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2011

btw according to that same newspaper archive she performed earlier in the NL; on december 1950 in Tivoli
posted by joost de vries at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2011

Brian Eno on gospel:
I belong to a gospel choir. They know I am an atheist but they are very tolerant. Ultimately, the message of gospel music is that everything's going to be all right. If you listen to millions of gospel records – and I have – and try to distil what they all have in common it's a sense that somehow we can triumph. There could be many thousands of things. But the message… well , there are two messages… one is a kind of optimism for the future rather than a pessimism. Gospel music is never pessimistic, it's never 'oh my god, its all going down the tubes', like the blues often is. Gospel music is always about the possibility of transcendence, of things getting better. It's also about the loss of ego, that you will win through or get over things by losing yourself, becoming part of something better. Both those messages are completely universal and are nothing to do with religion or a particular religion. They're to do with basic human attitudes and you can have that attitude and therefore sing gospel even if you are not religious.
posted by joost de vries at 4:45 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the info, orange swan. Do you think Spafford had restored his finances by 1873, if he was able to travel to Europe with his family?
posted by paduasoy at 5:06 AM on June 4, 2011

I don't know anything about the Spaffords' finances post-fire, paduasoy, but you're right that the fact that they were able to travel to Europe only two years later suggests that they were at least modestly well off. They also had three more children after the sinking of the Ville du Havre — but even then one of those three died in infancy. That's six children lost out of eight.
posted by orange swan at 8:58 AM on June 7, 2011

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