Video clip: Michael English
I hadn’t heard “I Bowed On My Knees” in a while, so this clip (via sgblognews) of English with the GVB back in the day was pretty amazing to revisit. The singing is simply in a class by itself, though perhaps at this point that goes without saying. In his prime (now long passed, alas), English was able to thread his lead lines through the ever so fine space between the straightahead melody and overmuch embellishment – without oversinging. Mainly, of course, he could do this because his voice was so supple and well-supported at every register and level (Larnelle Harris is the gold standard here, from whom I’m sure English learned more than a little). I suppose it’s unfair to blame English for inflicting upon the rest of us an entire generation of singers who mistake their ability to ornamentalize their solo lines for star quality lead singing. Still, you can mark the rise of IAG singing almost to the hour of English’s rise in Christian music.
Other random comments: Talk about a fashion time machine. Check out Lowry’s pinstripes and English’s hair. Wowsers.
What’s up with gospel singers chewing gum during a set? I noticed Ray Reese doing this during the Kingsmen’s 30 minutes the other night in Ft. Myers. Is this just another way in which southern gospel lacks the music-school formality of more mainstream music? Some folk-myth about keeping the mouth moistened? Just something I haven’t noticed before that everyone does in any number of genres?
The video captures the GVB and the Homecoming Tour at a curious time, approaching the apex of its popularity when Gaither’s shows required arenas in the round but before Gaither fully inhabited the role of singing impresario that is firmly part of the tour these days. Notice how Gaither spends the entire song at the piano (Terry Franklin is singing tenor and/but Anthony Burger was not yet on board, if I’ve got my personnel history lined up right). He’s not really playing, except to fill in here or there around the track. But he doesn’t try to fill the role of singer, standing alongside the other three guys holding a mic and purportedly singing bass.
People, roles, personalities, and styles evolve situationally – a truism that we’re wont to forget until some archival clip like this reminds of just how much things that seem to stay the same actually change, imperceptively, right before our eyes. I’m just glad prison-pinstripes have gone out of style, assuming they were ever in.Email this Post