Thursday, March 17, 2005

Learning the History of the Song

When I was young I had a lot of opportunity to share music in Churches, coffeehouses, clubs, even on the street.

When I was even younger than that I got to study some essentials about music. One course I took was music appreciation. It was geared to learning about baroque, classical and romantic music and composers, but it gave me a wonderful way to look at all manner of musical compositions. To really learn about a song, you needed to learn about it's author and what made him or her tick. You needed to learn why the author chose a particular musician to be a vehicle for the tune. What inspired them to write a song. Even learn about the singers vision for the song.

The song below was recorded by B.J. Thomas back in 1971. It was his second hit. The first was his version of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. Mighty Clouds of Joy was written by Buddy Buie and Robert Nix. Buddy Buie is a songwriting legend and a good ol' boy from Dothan Georgia. His boyhood friend was Bobby Goldsboro. Goldsboro was breaking into his recording career and brought along his childhood chum. It was Goldsboro that introduced Buddy Buie to Roy Orbison. Buie went on to write songs for Orbison and his band. He also wrote songs for up and coming musician, Billy Joe Royal. A band emerged in the late 1960's called The Classics lV and Buie wrote and produced all of their hits. Traces, Spooky, Stormy were all crafted, arranged and put on tape by Buie's talent.

That group eventually disbanded, Buie and J.R. Cobb recruited friends and formed The Atlanta Rhythm Section. One of the members of ARS was Robert Nix. Buie, Nix and Cobb cranked out many of that bands hits throughout the 1970's. It was during this period that Buie and Nix wrote Mighty Clouds of Joy. The Atlanta Rhythm Section never recorded this song. It would have been a perfect fit for Ronnie Hammonds voice. Instead B.J. Thomas or his A&R team (most likely) picked it. Thomas had a wonderful arrangement. I never knew that Buie and Nix wrote this song until years later when I could do research. I always had a fondness for the Atlanta Rhythm Section and their works. Now I know why.

Mighty Clouds of Joy. It's verse, chorus, verse, chorus, simplicity at it's best. No complicated bridge or key changes. No tricks, just a plain simple, pure song. The phrase in the chorus, "Sing Hallelujah" and then the response "Hallelujah" just hints enough at the call and response of old Black Gospel. That knocks me out. The guitar's repetitive riff and smooth Major Seventh chords sweeten and play against the melody.

The key of E major used to be a breeze when I was a young guy, but at 53 it's pushin' my vocal limit. This song is a joy to sing and play. Especially when I see how happy it makes people.
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