As most New Jerseyans have heard, the state is celebrating its 350th birthday this year. And on njarts.net, we will mark the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, for almost a year — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both.
In recognition of the state’s rich gospel history, the first song is “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody,” by the Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir, under the direction of Alex Bradford.
This unbelievably intense track is from a live album recorded by the great talent scout John Hammond (who played a role in the early careers of everyone from Count Basie, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin to Bruce Springsteen and Steve Ray Vaughan). In 1960, Hammond traveled to a Newark church to record the choir in action, and the result, Shakin’ the Rafters, is one of the all-time great gospel albums.
“The Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Church, in the heart of Newark’s Central Ward, was jammed that warm spring day in April 1960,” Dunstan Prial wrote in his 2007 book, “The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music.” “In order to replicate the sound and feel of an actual Sunday morning service, Hammond and Abyssinian’s musical director, Professor Alex Bradford, had decided to record the church’s choir with as much of the congregation present as they could pack into the building on a weekday morning.
“It proved an inspired session. Spurred on by the presence of a live audience, the 120 members of the church’s choir sang with such spontaneity, power, and pure joy that Hammond and Bradford couldn’t resist calling the final collection of recordings Shakin’ the Rafters.”
Listen to the song below and experience Newark gospel at its best.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.