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Setting the Intention, Part Three
Thoughts on the life-changing power of music and three artists that make the music that does just that!
Thirteen days ago, I contracted COVID. As of last night, I am still testing positive, so I’ve had almost two weeks of isolation and recovery time. The fogginess, fatigue, congestion, and coughing kept me from working for the first week, but towards the end of last week, I was finally coherent enough to be able to get back to the book and other impending assignments.
Being sick was, in some ways, good for me.
I had just come off of the high of working on the 30th Anniversary celebration of Bring It to Jesus, which presented and reunited Beverly Crawford, Nuana Dunlap, Francine Smith, Angela Primm and Gale Mayes, known in the 90s as the New Life Singers, the group that was the reason I started coming to Nashville as a teenager. It was a full circle moment that reminded me of the reasons I wanted to be involved in music in whatever way I could from as far back as I can remember. That particular group of women demonstrated, both thirty years ago and two weeks ago, what can be accomplished through music---the ways that it creates a passageway through which people can be touched, and, yes, changed.
The value of music is currently in a culturally tenuous place.
The streaming model has changed the ways artists are asked to make music, demanding continual “content,” which doesn’t necessarily mean great music. Social media has given everyone a platform, so we’re all constantly being asked to listen to way too much music. We’re also being asked to read articles (as I’m doing now), watch reels, and tell our friends about it (when in reality, the algorithm will most likely hide the post anyways). Having too many options is a real thing.
Thirty years ago, my relationships with the albums and artists I loved developed because, realistically, at $9.98 each, I could only afford so many. So, I listened, re-listened, read every lyric inside, the credits, and special thanks, and, in many instances, those songs became a part of me. I didn’t have as many options and I didn’t want more than that. I knew that these songs were going to be with me for a long time…and I was right.
I was also blessed to have the experience of growing up with people who made music, folks who, as Zora Neal Hurston wrote, were “bent on expression of feelings and not on sound effects.” While precision was important, it wasn’t necessarily what mattered. Over the last two weeks, I’ve rewatched concert videos and listened to albums from that era and remembered how imperfect things were, and how much better it felt before auto-tune and singers who desire to sound auto-tuned zapped the emotion out of everything.
In this post today, as I continue to recover, I wanted to share music by a few artists I’ve featured here in the past with the intention of pointing you back to a few artists you may have missed. I hope the music touches you as much as it has touched me over the course of my life.
Dorothy Norwood & Albertina Walker with the Georgia Mass Choir—Hold On To His Hand
If you missed our feature on Dorothy Norwood from April of this year, here you go. I take a look at the sixty year career of one of gospel music’s most enduring icons. You can also listen to audio from my 2007 interview with her!
Improvisation—with Rhiannon, Abraham Laboriel, Alex Acuña and Jetro Da Silva
If you’ve never taken the time to experience the magic of Rhiannon, a master of improvisation and free-flying vocal art, then this is your moment. Catch her here with some of the greatest musicians on the planet. Back in 2020, Rhiannon was one of the first artists to talk with me for the Have You Ever Heard….? series and our talk was deeply soulful and boundary breaking. You can learn more about Rhiannon and watch below.
Tàta Vega—Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something
And speaking of vocal artists, here’s another one of the greatest. Whether it was as the voice of Shug Avery in The Color Purple or on one of her stunning solo albums on Motown or as part of the Andraé Crouch Singers, it’s impossible to have listened to popular music in the last fifty years and not heard her voice. She celebrated her birthday this month and I’d be remiss to not share her work! To learn more, just click my birthday post for her from 2022!
This article is the third installment of the Setting The Intention series, which reflects on the reasons for writing and meditating on music. Part One is below!