Somethin's Brewin' in Gainesville...
February 2, 2010 4:22 PM   Subscribe

The Cotton Patch Gospel is a bluegrass adaptation of the life of Jesus, set in Georgia.

Written by Harry Chapin just before he died in 1981, and based on the books by Dr. Clarence Jordan (the founder of Koinonia Farm, a communal Christian farm in Americas, Georgia where Habitat for Humanity got its start), The Cotton Patch Gospel was filmed for posterity in 1988 (SLYT), starring Tom Key. While embraced by many believers, recent stagings of the play have come with a disclaimer, because some people find that the story takes "too many liberties" with scripture (Streaming NPR clip from the Internet Archive).

I grew up watching this play, and even though I'm a non-believer now, I still love many of the songs. Here are a few, performed by college students around the South (because there aren't any more clips of the 1988 performance online):

Somethin's Brewing' in Gainesville
I Did It
Love the Lord Your God/Jubilation
Sho 'nuff
posted by whimsicalnymph (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
And ye they brought unto him three chitlins and a single corn bread but verily he divided those chitlins and corn bread and fed the whole mess of 'em. And the crowd spake and said unto themselves, "Well, I'll be!"
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 4:27 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It is even more awesome when it's General Sherman ordering that dude nailed up.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2010

This looks interesting, and the songs are great. Thanks for posting it.

Forgive my ignorance, but is this a passion play? (I'm non-Christian.) Just curious.
posted by zarq at 4:44 PM on February 2, 2010

It's not really a passion play, per se, because it covers the life of Jesus and not just his trial, death, and suffering.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 4:56 PM on February 2, 2010

Ah, okay. Thanks! :)
posted by zarq at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2010

Holy cow, thanks for posting this. I was once in a (very poor) college production of this show, and had mostly blocked out the memory of it. I still have very mixed feelings about whole thing, but it's nice to know I didn't hallucinate all that fiddle and banjo and theology.

What is it with the '70's/early '80's and biblical-themed musicals anyhow? This one, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell...
posted by Knicke at 5:40 PM on February 2, 2010

Cue the banjo...
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:03 PM on February 2, 2010

My Dad was in several different runs of this play, and I have seen it more times than I care to recount. Ahh, Methodism.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:27 PM on February 2, 2010

I played bass in a touring college production of this. My two best friends were Judas and Jesus. I found it kitschy but some people were really moved. Different strokes I guess.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 7:52 PM on February 2, 2010

Great show with great music, regardless of your theology. Harry was a great man, and has been one of my heroes for pretty much my whole life.

It is worth noting that although most people only know him for Cat's in the Cradle and maybe Taxi, he was in fact a tireless worker battling poverty and hunger. He founded World Hunger Year, a non-profit organization that continues to do great work to this day.

He personally lobbied congress for the formation of a Presidential Commission on World Hunger in the late 70's and early 80's, and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for his work - the highest honor the United States government can confer upon a civilian.

One could argue that his death was a direct result of his efforts: He gave away almost everything that he made to donate to what he considered just causes. He used to proudly say, "I play one night for me, and one night for the other guy." In the last few years of his life he gave away literally millions of dollars, income from his concerts and record sales, to the causes he believed in. He died because he was still driving a beat up old car instead of spending money on a nice new car (he would rather donate the money to the needy than buy new wheels), and when that car crapped out on the Long Island Expressway it resulted in his fatal accident.

He continually nagged other musicians to band together and perform a benefit concert to help feed the hungry, and in fact many of the artists who participated in USA for Africa credit Harry's efforts for why they took part in that recording, to honor his memory.

He was a man who had the guts to set to music a poem that his wife wrote for him early on in his musical career, when he was spending too much time on the road and not enough time with his young children. From that point forward, no matter where he was performing in the country he always took a red-eye flight home after the show so that he would be there at the breakfast table in the morning with his wife and kids.

The man was a true inspiration for what a life filled with compassion and commitment can be. If more people were like Harry, the world would be a much better place.
posted by Lokheed at 8:33 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was in a college production of this in 1988 - learned the banjo in five weeks specifically for it. Our bass player had never tried fretless bass, and our fiddler had only classical violin training.

After opening night, the director was asked where our little college had managed to get a professional bluegrass band....

I loved that show.
posted by Michael Roberts at 11:40 PM on February 2, 2010

True fact: Everybody in the South really speaks like that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:15 AM on February 3, 2010

Tangentially related, did anyone else see "The Gospel at Colonus," way back in the mid-80s? It's "Oedipus at Colonus" performed as a gospel musical. Clarence Fountain & the Blind Boys of Alabama were Oedipus, Morgan Freeman was The Messenger, there was a huge choir, The Soul Stirrers, two of the Steele sisters -- man it was awesome.

I saw it at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, possibly in the company of our (bewildered) italian exchange student. :7) And I still listen to the soundtrack. (I think you can get the DVD now, too.)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:04 AM on February 3, 2010

a communal Christian farm in Americas, Georgia

the people who live there spell it "Americus"
posted by leonard horner at 9:58 AM on February 3, 2010

the people who live there spell it "Americus"

GAH! Me fail. And my husband used to live there. I am shamed on the meta.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:51 PM on February 3, 2010

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