It’s 1974 or 1975 I’m still a kid and there’s a student comes to our church, name of John Fitzpatrick. He loves music. He’s at the university and he tells me about the gigs he’s been to. At the time he liked it better – and if I’m honest, so did I – if the music had a Christian edge. It meant we could enjoy it more and not feel as guilty as we did when we dug the Stones. Do you know where I’m coming from?
Parallel to this I’d heard about this group of people in Nashville called The Outlaws. Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard were in that elite group and then there was Willie.
So John get excited one day at the Youth Fellowship and tells me that Willie Nelson has brought out an album called ‘The Troublemaker.’ It’s all Gospel songs. What excited me more was that Willie was covering half the hymns in a Hymn Book we used to have in the Gospel Hall: Redemption Songs. But Willie was singin them like we’d never heard them sung……. Suddenly I was finding myself saying “Forget ‘Youth Praise,’let’s keep the old fogeys’ hymn book and sing it the Willie way. “Sweet Bye and Bye,” There is a Fountain Filled With Blood,” “Shall We Gather At The River” (my Dad’s favourite) and “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Man, these songs were no longer torturing me, they were released into glorious, abundant life by Willie Nelson. Thank you John, thank you Willie Nelson and thank you Sankey and Moody.
I met up with the great man on his tour bus in Edinburgh a few months back and you can hear that as well as the music of Willie in Another Country. All on Friday from 8. The night before I’d been to see him do this. I wept.
Every Prime Minister , it was said, needs a Willie. Not much that Margaret Thatcher said I believed – but she got it right there.
Sorry, it was John Kilpatrick…just in case he ever reads this!
Willie Nelson is one of those artists who I of course know but – shockingly – for whom I own very little of their music. That will no doubt be addressed at the start of this weekend! Looking forward to the show, also to hear more collective thoughts on “Coal Miner’s Daughter”…
You’re not alone. Traditional English folk music is (I guess) probably not your scene, but people like Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson found that the Baptist Hymnal did for them what Moody and Sankey did for Willie Nelson. There’s life in the old hymns yet!