“I’m Rich”

A while back there was a brief sidebar discussion on a thread somewhere here about Gold City’s decision to single “I’m Rich.” I don’t know what made me think of it today, but I did. Specifically, I was thinking two things. One, this is a good example of how sg’s concert-driven fan culture results in radio singles that at least as much to do with how well a song plays live as how fit it is in its own right to be on the radio. The other (which is really just another way to restate the first thing), is that “I’m Rich” as a single is a strategically savvy decision but a musically one-dimensional song that really rises and falls on the group’s ability to sell it live. And of course that often involves some sort of hijinks, shenanigans, or other tomfoolery from Jonathan Wilburn, vocally and physically.

Fine. Whatever. For its own reasons, Gold City has decided that Wilburn’s excitability works with their revamped look and sound. I’ve never been very sure of that calculus. Wilburn’s antics made more sense 1)when he was 10 years younger and 2)when he was pretending to misbehave in the presence of the older Tim Riley. But now that a younger Riley is running the show, now that the group has traded its older vocalists in for newer, younger, hipper models, and now that Wilburn is the oldest guy on stage by some years, his cut-up routine doesn’t feel like it’s aging that well (compared, to say, the grumpy old man thing that Glen Payne perfected and complemented with his little hops and jumps and other physical affectations). Instead, the sort of stuff he’s got to do to sell a song like “I’m Rich” on stage just feel a little down in the teeth, drawing attention to his aging and very limited repertoire as a vocalist and showman as much as it gets an audience on its feet.

Of course, the majority of Gold City’s fans love (love!) Wilburn and the Rileys would be foolish to trade him in even if his odometer is starting to lap and his paint is thinning. In addition to his vocal role, Wilburn serves a sentimental function on stage, linking the old and new Gold Citys (or is it Cities?) to one another in fans’ eyes and minds. That sort of linkage is an invaluable asset for a group of relatively young artists still establishing their reputations and proving themselves - famous name notwithstanding. In that context, though it’s a weak radio single – tunes of such lyrical shallowness really require the kind of improvisational expertise that’s most commonly found and cultivated in the black gospel tradition – it’s smart bidness to single “I’m Rich” (it’s nearing the top ten on the SN chart). The more Wilburn can be Wilburn, the more chances he has to create a sense of his own legendary status as the perpetual class clown of gospel music.

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  1. Kyle wrote:

    Personally, I’d like to see “Not Anymore” released as a single.

  2. J-Mo wrote:

    Personally, I’d like to see Wilburn traded in for a newer model. The longtime hardcore Gold City fans might not love it at first, but they’d adjust pretty quickly. If they stuck through the departure of Tim Riley they’ll most certainly stay around post Wilburn.

    For what it’s worth, Loren Harris gets my vote as replacement.

  3. GoldCityGirl wrote:


  4. cdguy wrote:

    Most likely, Gold City probably had little to say about which songs are singled. That’s generally part of the function of the label. Group management may have some input, but it’s ultimately the decision of the radio marketing staff. Some of the thought process may have had to do with the concert success of the song.

    And, whether we like it or not, the fact that it’s moving up the charts may indicated more folks like it than don’t. Hmmm. Recon what that means?

  5. wackythinker wrote:

    Hey, “GoldCityGirl”. Take you caplock off. You don’t have to yell. And besides, J-Mo has just as much right to share his/her opinion as you & I. Let’s play nice.

  6. Chuck Peters wrote:

    I’M RICH is a great radio single.. it was years ago.. and it is now for Gold City.

    I hate to second guess Douglas’ years and years of radio programming experience,.. but I do disagree with his assessment.

  7. Grigs wrote:

    First off, Jonathan Wilburn is one of the greatest SG lead singers EVER. Glen Payne, Gerald Wolfe, Mike English, Jim Hammill, Guy Penrod, Jack Toney, Ivan Parker….that’s the level Jonathan is on.

    I loved “I’m Rich” when Teddy Huffam & The Gems did it and I love Gold City’s version even more. It’s a great radio song!

    I’m sure Doug and the rest of the “Grass Is Greener On The Other Side Of The Septic Tank” crowd will start whining about how much more meaningful country music is any second now. To those folks, let me say two things:

    1. Listen to “I Want To Check You For Ticks” and get back with me.

    2. If you guys like country so much, why don’t you……get ready, this a deeeeeeep thought…..why don’t you listen to country radio?

  8. anonymous too wrote:

    I remember someone else with capslocks on a few topics ago who also got a little testy. Hmmmm.

  9. Phil wrote:

    I’m with Chuck on this one, “I’m Rich” is a great radio song, I would venture to say that it, along with the Kingdom Heirs “The Rocks between the hard place and you” are probably the two best uptempo songs of the year so far.

  10. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Y’all can fight about it all you want, but Stephen Hill still sings the best version of “I’m Rich.”

  11. Trent wrote:

    I recently purchased the old Gaither video “Singin’ With The Saints”. I was surprised to see Charles Johnson & Stephen Hill singing “I’m Rich” along with the choir. Wow. It was awesome! I’m not all that thrilled with Gold City’s cut of it, but the song had a great groove and sound with Johnson & Hill singing it.

    By the way, Gold City was at that taping (they sang “I’m Not Giving Up”), and their enthusiasm about “I’m Rich” may have come from what they heard of it that day.

  12. Brett wrote:

    Not to mention that the Nelons do the best version of Im Rich

  13. SM wrote:

    Personally, I agree with Doug. For any other group on any other album, it would be a great choice as a radio song. But for that particular album, its one of the weakest tracks the promoters could have chosen.

    And, agreed again, that promoters too often confuse a concert song with “radio-ability” (or whatever word you wish to invent). What else explains some promoters’ decisions to release painfully quiet, slow developing songs? Not only do you need a great instrumental hook and catchy lyrics, but in the age of modern gadetry you also need great, full-sounding production. The majority of SG still falls short.

  14. tim wrote:

    I agree, “I’m Rich” is a good radio single and stands alone regardless of how it goes over in concert. I’d have to venture to say that a vast majority of our listeners have not seen Gold City in concert and still enjoy the song. It sells itself.

    What this song will show is that music moves sloooowwwwww in SG. This simple, but good song, should shoot up and down the chart within 4 months but probably linger for 6 - 8 months. It’s not the kind of song that needs to be around that long in the top 40. Get’r up and get’r out.

  15. Derek wrote:

    I’m a huge GC fan, but, I was also surprised when “I’m Rich” was released as the next single. I was familiar with the Charles Johnson version, and when I bought GC’s CD, it was a little too “white” for lack of a better way to explain it. It’s almost like someone who plays by music and can’t play by ear…they can’t variate from the way it was written. It’s just too choppy for me. When I first heard it on the CD I kinda thought it was a “we need one more song to fill the album” choice. It’s OK, but it doesn’t get me pumped up like Charles or Teddy does. Overall, though, I love the CD.

  16. tim wrote:

    Speaking of Charles Johnson - his latest CD “Will You Be Among The Missing” shows this man has not lost a thing - good stuff.

  17. MattPaasch wrote:

    I agree with Kyle, I’d like to see “Not Anymore” released as a single. “I’m Rich” is a great crowd pleaser, but I think that “Not Anymore” would go farther. Either way, Gold City is good. No matter what they sing, they have a way of giving it that Gold City sound.

  18. Rita Stacy wrote:

    Gold City doesn’t need any changes!!!!!

    Jonathan Doesn’t need anything changed!!!!

    His preformances are top of the line, the
    whole group gives 110%
    What a bunch of whiners!! Go blow smoke
    up someones elses tailpipe!!!!

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