Lyrics Bleg

So at this point in my Gospel Music and American Lit course, we’re reading James Baldwin’s Just Above My Head, about a black gospel singer coming of age in the Civil Rights era, and I’m struggling to find a recording – indeed any evidence at all – of a song whose lyrics Baldwin refers to in the text. Here are the song lyrics, as given in the novel:

Faith I am maintaining
I go on, uncomplaining,
But, before this time, another year.
My life may all forsake me,
And death may overtake me,
If I’m with Thee,
I’ve no need to fear.

Make my pathway brighter,
Make my burden lighter,
Help me to do good whenever I can.
Let Thy presence thrill me,
Thy Holy Spirit fill me
And hold me in the hollow
Of Thy hand.

Part of me thinks I’ve heard the song before, but then again that could just because it relies on a fairly common set of stock images from gospel songs (or maybe I just really really like that first couplet so much I WISH I had encountered it before). I don’t know that it’s exclusively a black gospel tune but certainly the fact of its being in a novel about a black gospel singer would suggest it mostly likely comes from this tradition. Of course, this all assumes Baldwin didn’t just make the song up for the purposes of his novel. It’s possible, naturally, but I don’t think this is likely, since I’ve been able to identify and find recordings for pretty much every other song he references in the text.

At any rate, and assuming the song is real, I’ve searched high and low on the internet, or at least as high and as low as I can go, with no luck. I also find no references to the song in the secondary scholarship on the book and Baldwin that I’ve looked at so far. Obviously I’m a little far afield from my expertise with white gospel here. So I’m turning to your collective knowledge. Any chance any of you know of the song and/or where I can find a recording?

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  1. woodstock wrote:

    I’m guessing Baldwin wrote it - easier and cheaper than getting permission to quote an actual song. Copyright permissions are the bane of a writer’s existence…especially a writer with a deadline.

  2. Irishlad wrote:

    Slightly OT,did any one catch the reference John Grisham made in his novel “The Appeal”about a well known white quartet charging 10 grand for a weekend,whereas their black brothers only charged 2?.Why the anomaly?

  3. Dixie Dawg wrote:

    Black Gospel Restoration project at Baylor University.

    Black gospel has a friend, in my friend Bob Darden who has developed a project to identify, acquire, digitally record and catalog the most at-risk music from the black gospel music tradition from the 1940s to the 1980s —

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