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Washington Phillips (1880 - 1954)

I recently came across the music of Washington Phillips. He was a travelling preacher and gospel singer in the 1920s and one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. Although his entire recorded catalog consists of only 18 songs, he was instrumental in laying the foundation for future gospel music artists. Some of his songs amount to highly specific and detailed gospel sermons, featuring Phillips' voice self-accompanied by an instrument that sounds like a fretless zither. This instrument, which has been variously identified as a Dolceola, a Celestaphone, two Celestaphones tuned in octaves attached side-by-side, or a Phonoharp creates a unique sound on these recordings that makes them immediately recognizable.

Here is one of my favourite - Mother's Last Word to Her Son, which was heavily featured in the British American film We Need to Talk About Kevin (review coming). 



Lyrics to the song below :

I never can forget the day 
When my dear mother did sweetly say 

"You are leaving, my darling boy, 
You always have been your mother's joy." 

Now as you leave this world to roam 
You may not be able to get back home 
But remember Jesus who lives on high 
Is watching over you with a mighty eye. 

The world is so full of old sin and woe 
And many sorrows everywhere you go 
But remember Jesus who's everywhere 
If you get in trouble now, He'll meet you there 

If you'll bow down before His face 
And trust in Him for His saving grace 
You have a burden He'll make then light 
And He sure will guide you in the right 

Now when I think of my mother dear 
How often she did felt her cheer 
My wondering mind was going astray 
Was saying son, "Accept the way".

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