Safe from the storm that rages
As you probably already know by now, Harold Lane died yesterday.
Lane was of course both a songwriter and performer. Here he is, featured on “Palms of Victory” with the Speers in what looks like the late 60s:
Lane also composed several now-standard songs in the sg canon - most notably, “Touring that City” (which really would reward more attention from contemporary arrangers and performers than it gets), “Well Done My Child” (to which, oddly enough, I just linked to the day before Lane’s death), and “Standing on the Solid Rock,” from whose lyrics this post’s title is taken.
But more than as either a songwriter or singer, Lane made perhaps his most meaningful contribution as a major innovating force of the Speer family sound in the 70s and 80s, innovations that in turn naturalized a new set of sounds and suggested a range of stylistic possibilities in southern gospel more broadly that had largely gone unexplored in a systematic way up until that time. Here’s part of a reader comment elevated to a main-page discussion we had on this site years ago regarding the Speers during the Lane years:
Actually I’d venture the thought that the Speers always had a sense of (what would become known as) the “inspo” sound even back in the 70’s. Between Ben and Harold Lane, they anticipated and pursued musical trends that were outside the traditional southern gospel style yet gave those songs a distinctly ‘Speer Family’ finish that enabled them to work in the broader context of the songs they were doing at the time.
It might have been in part because of the period of time when the children Steve, Marc and [Hottie Alert!] Susan were with the group, although that was relatively short-lived. It may have been the vocal ability of Dianne Mays, whose voice had a wonderful character that lent itself to other genres of song. It wasn’t just doing Gaither songs - they were singing songs by writers not associated with Southern Gospel, like Phil Johnson’s “I Wish You All Could Know Him” and Carolyn Gillman’s “And He’s Ever Interceding”. Whether this mix of inspo and southern gospel worked or not (sales, concert revenue, etc.) in the long run I don’t know, but they were one of the few groups of that era that seemed to reach outside the traditional boundaries of southern gospel to bring something fresh and different to the scene.
Listen to some of the songs from the Heartwarming albums like ‘A Family Affair’, ‘Between The Cross and Heaven’, ‘Cornerstone’, ‘Interceding’ and ‘Something Good Is About To Happen’ and you’ll find a rich variety of styles that were a precursor for what was to follow in the years to follow.
One of my favorite illustrations of Lane’s legacy converges nicely in this Mercy’s Mark cover of “Standing On the Solid Rock,” which owes an obvious debt to Lane’s songwriting skills but also reflects Lane’s more subtle influence on the southern gospel style. Here, the arrangement is inflected with a mix of stylistic features that the Lane/Ben Speer sound in the Speer years was pivotal in naturalizing in sg, particularly the unself-conscious blending of tradition and innovation:
By way of closing, it makes sense to let Lane’s music have more or less the final say, since that is what will live on after him. This is “The Next Time He Comes,” performed at the Stamps Baxter school of music several years ago (it’s worth watching through to the end):
Harold Lane was 82. May he rest in peace.
Update: Harold Lane’s obituary, which includes information on visitation and funeral arrangements (h/t, SS).Email this Post