Tuesday, September 28, 2004:

Stirring and soulful

Sorry for the delay. I had been posting every day, including weekends, then Saturday I couldn't decide on what song to post and on Sunday Jeanne came by and cut the power. Nothing damaged here, though others weren't so fortunate.

Thanks to Moebius Rex for the kind words; I've been visiting and checking out what he's offered for a couple of months now, and you should too. ^_^ It's generally fun and eclectic. And, speaking of fun, Naugahyde Life and Benn loxo du tàccu are both off to a running start. That Cannonball track is a winner, and no one can argue with King Sunny Ade; and I'm stoked to see mp3 blogs taking off in new, previously untapped directions.

Soul Stirrers -- Does Jesus Care (1948)
Soul Stirrers -- Life's Journey (1948)
Soul Stirrers -- He'll Make a Way (with Sam Cooke) (1954)
The Soul Stirrers were a gospel band that formed in Texas in the 1920s under the name The New Pleasant Green Gospel Singers, and quickly began combining the spiritual with secular music. The first incarnation broke up after just a few years; then Roy Crain joined and they changed the name to The Soul Stirrers. In 1936 they performed for Alan Lomax (The Library of Congress was on top of things back then; Lomax made one hell of a contribution to musical posterity.)

From 1926 to 1937 The Soul Stirrers were a quartet; then in 1937 R. H. Harris got the idea of having two lead singers, allowing the singer to carry the main melody with a four-part harmony behind him. Not a bad idea at all, and you can hear why on "Does My Jesus Care?" and "Life's Journey." Of course, it didn't hurt that Harris had a strong tenor.

In 1950 Harris left the group and Sam Cooke came to take his place. In his early recordings with the group, he seems to be following in Harris' footsteps: competent but polite, tentative. Then as time went on you can start hearing part of that unbridled soul that Cooke later became famous for. The group kept their interlocked harmonies, but Cooke would sometimes buttress them and sometimes soar above them. The group quickly started attracting larger crowds, mostly of young women.

Cooke worked with them until the mid-50s, when he was released from his contract because his label's owner disliked the pop direction Cooke was taking with the tracks he'd cut on the side. The Soul Stirrers carried on without him, under various lineups, until the 1990s; Cooke was shot to death at a motel in 1964, the owner claiming he'd raped a woman and was threatening her. The verdict was "justifiable homicide," the case controversial.
The Soul Stirrers in the Vocal Hall of Fame
[He's My Rock: Their Early Sides]
[Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers] More great stuff.


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