Singer/Songwriters in Southern Gospel, chapter 2

I had intended yesterday’s post as a standalone post. But something came up in the comments which comes up frequently enough that it deserves its own discussion.

Nobody really disputes that a singer/songwriter can bring a passion to their song that’s hard to match, since they’ve lived the lyrics.

But can it be done? Can an artist who has been down a similar path, with similar life experiences, bring the same pathos and enthusiasm as the original songwriter?

My personal opinion: It’s rare but possible. I think of someone like George Younce singing “Thanks to Calvary” (which, admittedly, the Gaithers wrote from his life experiences) or “Sinner Saved by Grace,” or Libbi Perry Stuffle singing “I Will Find You Again,” or Bryan Hutson singing “When God Ran.” So I think it can be done.

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9 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Daniel, this is a really good topic. Speaking as a songwriter, I would have to say that while I think I can deliver my songs with passion, conviction, and enthusiasm because I’ve lived those songs, it certainly isn’t going to sound as pretty as it would if Susan Whisnant or Ivan Parker were doing it! LOL!

    Most writers I know who do not professionally sing would tell you that we’d much rather hear the pros sing our songs. On the flip side, I’ve had many artists say that they would rather hear us writers on the demos we send to them, for the very fact that we’re talking about. Songwriters do tend to sing their songs with passion and that’s what a lot of artists want to hear and what they’re looking for when they listen to a demo. They want to hear our emotion in the song, as a writer.

    So, to keep on topic, I certainly think the artists do a great job of putting their interpretation on a song, because most artists don’t pick songs to sing that they aren’t personally connected to in some way. That makes a difference. I think most singers try their best to only pick those songs that really speak to their heart in the first place. From personal experience, when you get an artist who is a great performer and awesome vocalist to begin with, and then they lock into your song because they really feel it and it speaks to them, the result is incredibly overwhelming as a writer.

  2. Ivan Parker did a super job on “It’s True” on what I thought was the actual passing of his father…but in reality it wasn’t.

  3. I would “nominate” Kirk Talley singing “The Word Is Mercy” as an example of a singer really “delivering” a song someone else wrote. Also “I’ve Been There,” recorded by Kirk and written by Rodney Griffin would qualify big-time, IMO. I think he gets that one across to me better than Rodney would have.

    Barbara’s comment reminds me of hearing the Kingdom Heirs describe how Rodney pitches his songs to them. Numerous times, I heard them on the Gospel Greats telling how Rodney “sang it as if a whole crowd were listening,” or something like that. You can tell it really makes them want to sing it! Perhaps the exception would be “I Know I’m Going There,” which he recorded as a demo tape with Gerald playing piano and singing the bass solos. 😆

    #2 – I know that wasn’t the actual story/events of his father’s passing, but I believe I did hear him say he wanted for a long time to record a song like this one as a tribute to his father, and I guess he felt that it “poetically conveyed” … the truth about his passing.

    • Yes, that’s is probably true…though I hadn’t heard that. What a tremendous tribute! I am sure that made his father feel proud!

      • I believe (if I remember right) that his father had indeed passed away, just that the song was written by somebody else and not specifically about his father.

        But of course, I’m just trying to recall what I heard him say on the Gospel Greats several years ago. I’m not proclaiming it as “gospel truth.”

      • You could be right!

      • After checking Ivan’s site, I think you are absolutely correct.

  4. I have to say that after hearing the song “Who Am I” for years and years, I kind of got tired of it, and quit listening to the message. Recently when I was at Steve Hurst School of Music, Tribute Quartet had their tenor, Brian Alvey, perform this song. When the introduced it, I kind of rolled my eyes. But when he started singing, it was like he was telling me his testimony. I was on the edge of my seat, and he left me in tears because of the way he interpreted this song. It was like I’d never heard it before! I definitely think it’s possible for an artist to sing someone else’s song with the same passion – maybe sometimes more?

  5. I am currently giving this thread posted by Daniel Mount more attention than it previously received.