zondag 21 juli 2013

Amen (1942 / 1950 / 1963)

The roots of "Amen" lie in a Negro spiritual, but the song first gained notice when a Jester Hairston-arranged version was lipsynched by Sidney Poitier in the motion picture drama Lilies of the Field, which opened in the fall of 1963.
But there were several versions that preceded the arranged version of "Amen" from that movie.

(o) Rev J.B. Crocker (1950) (as "Sermon, Hallelelujah Amen")
Composer/arranger: Rev. J.B. Crocker.
Recorded January 6, 1950 in the Baptist Church, Chicago
Released on King 4372


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(c) Edna Gallmon Cooke with the Radio Four (1953)
Recorded November 1952.
Composer/arranger Ted Jarrett

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(c) Wings over Jordan Choir (1953)
Recorded in 1953 for the King-label.
Released on an EP (King EP-232) and on the album "Amen" (King-LP 519)

45cat - Wings Over Jordan Choir - Vol. 1 - King - USA

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The 1953 "Amen" version by the Wings Over Jordan Choir is almost the same version as Harry Belafonte's version from 1963 !!
So Jester Hairston most likely did NOT write "Amen", he adapted it at the most.
On the next EP scan of the 1953 Wings Over Jordan version of "Amen", I also don't see the composer's name Jester Hairston. I do see the names of Hogan and Davis.

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Some sources say Wings Over Jordan Choir already recorded "Amen" for the Victor-label, but I couldn't find any proof of that.


EDIT: here's the PROOF: (thanks to Roel Vos)
Wings Over Jordan Choir: "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" / "Amen" (RCA 20-3242)

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Excerpt from Billboard Magazine, edition December 4, 1948

(c) Della Reese 1958

Della Reese Presents Her The Meditation Singers - Amen! (Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo) | Discogs

Interestingly, in Della Reese's version, the chosen pronunciation is "ah-men" -- retaining the vowel's longer sound -- as opposed to the more common "ey-men"

(c) Donald Byrd (1959)

Final track from Donald Byrd's "Fuego" album.
Recorded at Van Gelder Studios on October 4, 1959.
Donald Byrd, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto sax; Duke Pearson, piano;
Doug Watkins, bass; Lex Humphries, drums.

Listen here to Donald Byrd's instrumental version:

(c) Marv Meredith (1960) (as "Salvation Rock")

Marv Meredith's instrumental "Salvation Rock" (essentially a version of "Amen") reached the Music Vendor national Top 100 in 1960.

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In 1963 "Amen" was used in the film "Lilies of the Field" with Sidney Poitier.

Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) is an itinerant handyman/jack-of-all-trades who stops at a farm in the Arizona desert to obtain some water for his car. There he sees several women working on a fence, very ineptly. The women, who speak very little English, introduce themselves as German, Austrian and Hungarian nuns. The mother superior, the leader of the nuns, persuades him to do a small roofing repair. He stays overnight, assuming that he will be paid in the morning.


To pass the evenings, Smith (whom the nuns call "Schmidt") helps the sisters improve their rudimentary English (only Mother Maria speaks the language well enough to converse with him) and joins them in singing. They share their different musical traditions with one another: their Catholic chants and his Baptist hymns. He teaches them to join him in the call-and-response song "Amen" by Jester Hairston. Jester Hairston, who wrote the gospel arrangement of Amen used in the film, and who arranged the vocal parts, also dubbed the vocals for Poitier, who was famously tone-deaf.

(c) Harry Belafonte 1963.

On the label of his album "Streets I Have Walked" Jester Hairston gets the credit.
But on the cover of Belafonte's album it rather says "Amen: Negro Spiritual"

Harry Belafonte - Streets I Have Walked (Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo) | Discogs

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(c) Impressions 1964


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(c) Johnny Cash 1964


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(c) Rotary Connection (1967) (Composers (??): Charles Stepney & Marshall Paul)

Rotary Connection - The Rotary Connection (Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo) | Discogs

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(c) Otis Redding (1968)

Otis Redding had a posthumous hit with his version of the song, reaching #15 on the R&B chart.
On the version of Otis it says: "Amen: trad. arr. by Otis Redding"

Otis Redding - Hard To Handle / Amen (Vinyl, 7", Single, 45 RPM) | Discogs

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(c) Winstons (1969) (as "Amen, Brother")

The Amen break is a 6 second (4 bar) drum solo performed in 1969 by Gregory Cylvester "G. C." Coleman in the song "Amen, Brother" performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons.
The Winstons' version was released as a B-side of the 45 RPM 7-inch vinyl single "Color Him Father" in 1969 on Metromedia (MMS-117).

It gained fame from the 1980s onwards when four bars (6 seconds) sampled from the drum-solo (or imitations thereof) became very widely used as sampled drum loops in breakbeat, hip hop, breakbeat hardcore, hardcore techno and breakcore, jungle and drum and bass (including oldschool jungle and ragga jungle), and digital hardcore music. The Amen Break was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music—"a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures." It is the most sampled drum beat of all time



Listen here: the heavy sampled break is at 1 minute and 27 seconds in the next YT.

(c) Ace Cannon (1969)  (writing credits Curtis Mayfield and Johnny Pate)

Ace Cannon - Amen / Down By The Riverside (Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM, Single) | Discogs

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(c) Impressions (1970) (new version)  (writing credits Curtis Mayfield and Johnny Pate)

The Impressions - Amen (1970) (Vinyl, 7", Single) | Discogs

(c) Elvis Presley 1972 (medley: "I Got A Woman / Amen") (from "Elvis on Tour")

Elvis on Tour is a Golden Globe Award-winning American musical documentary motion picture released by MGM in 1972.
This film followed Presley as he embarked on a 15-city tour of the United States in April 1972.

(c) Elton John & Sounds of Blackness (1994)


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But already in 1942 Woody Herman sang a version of "Amen", that was clearly derived from the spiritual "Amen"

The now-obscure Universal musical "What's Cookin'" was a showcase for the Woody Herman band, and also featured the Andrews Sisters, Jane Frazee, Donald O'Connor, and Gloria Jean. The semi-spiritual  "Amen" from the film turned out to be a hot record seller for both the Herman and Abe Lyman bands.

Woody Herman's version was originally issued on 78rpm: Decca 18346
"Amen" (Roger Segure-Bill Hardy-Vic Schoen)
Woody Herman & his Orchestra, vocal by Woody Herman and Ensemble,
Recorded April 2, 1942

Abe Lyman'version was released on 78rpm: Bluebird B-11542
"Amen" (Roger Segure-Bill Hardy-Vic Schoen)
Abe Lyman and his Californians, vocal by Rose Blane and Chorus.
Recorded May 19, 1942

In the above 2 versions by Woody Herman and Abe Lyman the word "Amen" is rather pronounced as "Hey Man".
And maybe that's the reason why in 1942 Curt Teich made a postcard joking with those 2 "white" versions.

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Or did the postcard made a joke of the 1942 version by the Four Vagabonds ???

The Four Vagabonds - Complete Recorded Works (1941-1951) Vol. 2 1942/43 (CD, Compilation, Remastered) | Discogs

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