This beautiful gospel and delta blues classic was originally composed, it is believed, by a slave named Wallace Wallis in the 19th century. Big Bill Broonzy’s version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot goes deep into the mud and is a fine example of how Soul, blues, and Gospel perfectly complement each other.
You may call him the new voice of Soul. His voice digs deep through your veins and his live performance is a show to remember. Do You get the feeling I’m describing: Reverend Sekou and the Holy Ghost brings beautiful soul filled rhythm and blues, added with funk and gospel to your house, bar or festival.
His grandfather played piano in juke joints for the legends including B.B. King, Albert King, and Louis Jordan. Rev Sekou, together with his band is continuing the legacy or -family-tradition- of his grandfather.
The Band Rev. Sekou and the Holy Ghost
Writer, producer and lead vocalist Rev. Sekou is a third-generation Pentecostal preacher and long-time organizer, author, and activist, grounded in the traditions of liberation theology. Beside him stands the Arkansas Delta Blues Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jay-Marie Hill (she/they) is a Black y Boricua genderQueer activist, teacher, and renegade born and raised in the Oakland Bay Area.
Next, you have Jay-Marie who works to deconstruct, liberate and recreate possibility through work at the intersections of youth, Black art, and radical activism. This band brings much more than jest very good songs. They all have a mission and extend it among other things through their music.
Debut Album release in 2016: “The Revolution Has Come”
Well, now we got to the point of their music; their debut album “The Revolution has Come” was released in January 2016. They describe their sound as: “The sound of Rev. Sekou & the Holy Ghost is a symphony of gospel, blues, soul, funk and freedom songs laced with sanctified blues and lyrics that range from religious to risqué”, and that pretty much includes their sound well.
Rev. Sekou – Resist – 5/5/2017 – Paste Studios, New York, NY
Classic Blues and Gospel Songs: Reverend Gary Davis
There is something special about the guitar tune of “I’m The Light Of The World”, it represents the guitar skills of Reverend Gary Davis brilliantly . This classic song is one of my favorite Ragtime gospel blues songs. For an eighty plus year old song it somehow surprises me that every aspect of songwriting is perfect.
Origins Rev. Gary Davis
The Rev. was born on April 30, 1896, in Laurens County, south of Spartanburg, in the Piedmont section of upstate South Carolina. At a young age Davis started playing harmonica and guitar. He teamed up with some ragtime musicans around 1910 or 1911 and since that day Reverend Blind Gary Davis performed a lot in the streets.
Blues Street performer
Gary Davis was a street performer, according to his official biography. His repertoire consisted Blues, Gospel and Ragtime, and he switched often between those styles “to make it harder for the police to interrupt him”. (Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide)
He began taking the gospel material more seriously, and in 1937 he became an ordained minister. After that, he usually refused to perform any blues.
Harlem, New York Days – Reverend Gary Davis
During World War II Davis moved to New York , and began preaching and playing on streetcorners in Harlem. About his Harlem Days Trevor Laurence & Simeon Hutner made a fantastic film-documentary called “Harlem Street Singer” The film traces Davis’s journey out of poverty in the Deep South to his iconic status in the folk and rock scene in 1960s New York. Watch the trailer below.
Harlem Street Singer trailer
Rediscovery by the Folk Revival Movement
During the fifties and sixties in New York folk and blues had a huge revival movement. Son House, Big Bill Broonzy and many others experienced the impact. Also Reverend Gary Davis was “rediscovered” by the folk revival movement, and after some initial reticence, he agreed to perform as part of the budding folk music revival.
Jorma Kaukonen, the guitarist of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, recorded a beautiful version of “I’m The Light of This World” on his 1974 Quah album. He took lessons from Gary Davis an Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #54 on its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists.
Jorma Kaukonen – I’m The Light Of This World – 5/20/1978
Photo: Jefferson Airplane on who Rev gary Davis had a big influence Credit By KRLA/Beat Publications-page 1 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Who Rolled The Stone Away?
In the 1940s Marie Knight worked and toured alongside the great Sister Rosetta Tharpe. And like Sister Rosetta this Gospel and Rhythm and Blues singer had a long career in music. The two singers had a lot in common. Marie Knight’s ‘Who Rolled the Stone Away’, for example has similar vocals and grooves as good as “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho’ from Sister Rosetta.
The Original Soul sister of Blues: Sister Rosetta Tharpe
It was on YouTube where I spotted a picture of a beautiful woman in front of a group of Gospel singers with a Gibson SG in front of her. I instantly clicked on the video, and heard the woman play a Rock ‘n Roll guitar riff. She started singing ‘Above My Head, I hear music in the air’. Slowly the Gospel singers started singing along. It was the coolest mix of Gospel and Rock ‘n Roll I ever heard. Soon I started looking for more songs of this great Musician. I discovered the magical repertoire of Sister Rossetta Tharpe.
Inspiration for Rock ‘n Roll Musicians
She was a great musician, a Gospel singer, a Blues shouter and a Rock ‘n Roll guitarist. With her songs Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an early influence on figures such as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash covered her hit “There are Strange Things Happeninh Every Day” on his 1979 Gospel Album A Believer Sings the Truth.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Rosetta’s greatest hit Jericho
My favorite Sister Rosetta song is the traditional Jericho a well-known African American spiritual. According to Wikipedia The song is believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the 19th century. Some references suggest that it was copyrighted by Jay Roberts in 1865. Musicians like Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley also recorded a cool version of Jericho. Sister Rosetta Tharpe however took it to a new level. With rhythmic interruptions in the vocals she created a true Rhythm and Blues song. French DJ-Duo C2C inspired by Sister Rosetta remixed her version. C2C showed us that Sister Rosetta would have been a hit-making musician today.
C2C Remix – Jericho
Upbringing and entering music
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born on March 20th 1915 in Cotton Plant Arkansas, started to sing at her mother’s church concertes at the age of four. During those days Rosetta was called “Little Rosetta Nubin”, ‘the singing and guitar playing miracle’. Despite her religious upbringing she was dedicated to the Blues and jazz. Alongside Lucky Millinders’s jazz band she recorde her first album in New York. The album created quite a stir. The mix of sacred words and secular sounds entered the world like a blast. (ABC of the Blues, ultimate collection, artist: Rosetta Tharpe).
Showmanship and the Folk Blues Caravan
Rosetta Tharpe was a brilliant guitarist playing flashy as a rock star, it was all part of het showmanship. When her career took a dent in the fifties and sixties she was part of the Folk blues revival caravan that toured around Europe. Alongside Muddy Waters, Otis Spann and Cousin Joe. During the early Seventies Sister Rosetta Tharpe had several strokes, after another stroke in 1973 she died in Philadelphia.
“All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now… Ninety percent of rock-and-roll artists came out of the church, their foundation is the church.”
Photo credit: The Gospel of the Blues – Sister Rosetta Tharpe via photopin (license)
Video credit: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship,and research.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Down by the Riverside
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: That’s All
Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Marie Knight with The Sam Price Trio – Precious Memories
More songs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe on Spotify
Boyd Rivers: the Mississippi Gospel Blues singer
Some artist use a big stage, a fire show, a wall of Marshall amps or a Group of dancers to add something to their performance. But not Boyd Rivers. Give him a Guitar in his living room, let him sing and let his wife Ruth Mae Rivers sing too. I guarantee, and Alan Lomax proved it, it maybe the best live performance you will ever see. Boyd Rivers the Gospel Blues singer who enjoys to hang around with his friends at JoJo’s Gas Station on Highway 51 was a simple man, with a golden voice. Continue reading Boyd Rivers: the Mississippi Gospel Blues singer