Acts of Faith: Electric Evangelists 1

Behind The Scenes With Kathryn Kuhlman cover image

Exactly a year ago my discussion with a comrade about music-compelled-by-struggle led to my first original post here, Attica: Coming Together. Last Friday, talking with this same friend caused me to create a list of musics that employ the spoken word—faith-based speech specifically. After jotting down a few titles I came across an extensive list posted for Easter 2013 by one Mr. Fab, a Los Angeles-based deejay and musician. He helpfully includes the name of each orator, which indicates the popularity of two in particular, R. W. Schambach and Gene Scott. My list nearly ended with Praga Khan’s setting of the former in 1991, but Fab provides twenty more years of titles.

My Friday conversation involved Brian Eno and David Byrne’s album My Life In the Bush of Ghosts for which they used the voice of Kathryn “I Believe In Miracles” Kuhlman. While her estate wouldn’t approve licensing, a 1980 UK bootleg of the intended track and others circulated apparently before the official album was released in early 1981.1 Bush of Ghosts was completed in October of 1980 and Eno and Byrne must have scrambled to replace Kuhlman’s vocal: the substitute was an “unidentified exorcist” recorded the previous month in New York. Both these speakers are acts in their own right, with the exorcist commanding (below), healer Kuhlman exploring (at least initially).
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Attica: Coming Together

Coming Together cover image

What follows is the recollection and reflection of a remarkable musical work, and my work experience around it.

Prison Strike 2018 poster imageThe prison strike of late summer 2018 was in part a commemoration of the killing of prison organizer and author George Jackson on August 21, 1971 as well as the uprising his death sparked (in part) at Attica nineteen days later on September 9. Having just turned 16 at the time, although I was involved in antiwar activity in Boulder, Jackson and Attica were two coastlines away and easy enough for me to ignore. Two years later I was reacquainted with those struggles—through music. Continue reading “Attica: Coming Together”