Friday, July 6, 2007

Name this singer, win a prize.

It’s contest time again, my friends. Simply click here and listen to the mystery song. The first person to put this singer’s name in the comments section will win a prize.

That prize is a copy of a new book, “Black Women and Music: More Than the Blues,” published by the University of Illinois Press. It’s a scholarly anthology, coming out of a feminist-black studies-ethnomusicology bag, and its articles deal with gospel, concert music, avant-garde jazz, hip-hop and electric blues.

“Black Women and Music” is edited by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams. I look forward to sending a copy to somebody.

UPDATE (07-07-07): No winner yet. And I guess I should’ve specified... please post your answers on the comments thread here, not on Vox. Anyway, Leon Perry and Ria, it’s not Sister Rosetta. (I assume you guys were responding to the contest, not just to the question marks on the Vox post.)

UPDATE (07-08-07): We have a winner. Queenjustine identified this singer (after a hint) as Dorothy Love Coates. Don’t feel bad; I never heard of her till a few weeks ago myself, despite the fact that she was a big gospel star in the ’50s and ’60s. It is said that her vocal style influenced Little Richard.

Rock critic Dave Marsh calls Mrs. Coates “perhaps the most underrated gospel vocalist and songwriter of black gospel’s golden age.”

This track – “The Railroad” – is available on the CD “Get On Board,” a hits collection by Coates and the Original Gospel Harmonettes.


Lynda said...

That is Mahalia Jackson.

Undercover Black Man said...

No, Lynda. I'm afraid it's not.

S.O.L. said...

I know the song. It's "Life's Railway to Heaven" which is a classic Appalachin gospel song. I have a version of it by Johnny Cash. As to who is singing, I'll get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Yolanda Adams is my choice.

Dougfp said...

Shirley Caesar?

S.O.L. said...

Albertina Walker?

bumpster said...

UBM you might have a winner if you check the comments in Vox.

Undercover Black Man said...

Vox don't count, dude. But let me go check...

Undercover Black Man said...

Well, it's not Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

And I better take this stick out of my ass and count Vox comments as well as comments here, since I didn't specify in the original post.

Queenjustine said...

Praise Jesus,

Is it Madame Marie Knight?


queenjustine said...


Can I change my answer to Bessie Griffin?


Anonymous said...

Even I'm stumped, UBM. Clara Ward??? I really want that book. How about a hint?


Undercover Black Man said...

UBMFAN1: Now I know I'm on my game if I stumped you! Okay, a hint:

She was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

queenjustine said...

How 'bout Dorothy Love Coates?

Undercover Black Man said...

Winner! Well done, queenjustine. Hit me with an email at the address on my profile page, and tell me where I should have the book sent.

Thanks for playing, y'all.

queenjustine said...

Thank you, kind sir! That was fun!

S.O.L. said...

Hey David,

The song is not called "Railroad" by the way. It's called "Life's Railway to Heaven," and was adapted from a Baptist Hymm. The music has been around since Civil War days. I recognized it immediately.

It has been recorded under a number of different titles "Life's Railroad to Heaven", "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad," for example. There are many different lyrics -- here's a taste of some:

Life is like a mountain railway
With an engineer that's brave;
We must make the run successful,
From the cradle to the grave;
Heed the curves, the hills, the tunnels;
Never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle,
And your eye upon the rail.

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Til we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In God’s praise for evermore.

As we roll along the mainline
There'll will be storms and there'll be nights
There’ll be sidetracks unexpected on the left and on the right
But with a straight always before us
And our hearts upon the prize
There’ll be no disembarkation
Until we reach paradise.

Pretty great lyrics, aren't they?

The song has been extensively covered by bluegrass and country folk as well as gospel artists, both black and white. Among the performers who have covered it include Bill Anderson, Patsy Cline, Albertina Walker and as I mentioned previously, Johnny Cash.

The Cash version was part of a seminal trilogy of recordings by the Nitty Gritty Dirt band called "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," which brought together a variety of roots, country, bluegrass, Americana and rock and pop musicians to record mostly traditional country music from spirituals to honky tonks, cowboy ballads and foot stompers.

Just for comparison, I've uploaded the Cash version to my vox stash at the link below. Thought you'd get a kick out of it.

Undercover Black Man said...

Very cool, S.O.L. Thanks for posting that track.