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I was born in the mountain, schooled in a lion's den. My daily occupation's taking women from monkey men - Wilson Thunder Smith - Santa Fe

Author Topic: Sources behind Reverend Gary Davis' "Crucifixion"?  (Read 1263 times)

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Offline Doug

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Sources behind Reverend Gary Davis' "Crucifixion"?
« on: February 04, 2007, 03:43:00 PM »
Last year I did a paper for a course on "Jesus in Literature", and since my professor had a fairly wide definition of "literature", I convinced her to allow me to look at the lyrics of Reverend Gary Davis songs.  ;D The paper rapidly spun out of my control, and I ended up transcribing sixteen songs and trying to analyze the portrayal of Jesus in them all (and since my prof had never heard of RGD, it became a ten page paper with a 35 page appendix of song transcriptions).   ::)

One of the problems I had with the paper was defining what a RGD song was... I wanted to concentrate on songs that he had either written or substantially changed, but because RGD used so many different sources (hymns, blues, pop music, etc.), as well as adapting what he used (and combining different sources), it's sometimes difficult to tell what parts were original to him.

I'm thinking of reworking the paper and narrowing down my focus, and one of the songs that I found fascinating was "Crucifixion" (RGD recorded versions of the song on "A Little More Faith", "Demons and Angels, v. 1", "Pure Religion", and "Sun of our Life").  I was wondering if anyone knew any sources behind Crucifixion ?  I couldn't find any other songs that Davis was basing his lyrics on... but I figured if it wasn't an "original", someone here would know.

Thanks!

Offline outfidel

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Re: Sources behind Reverend Gary Davis' "Crucifixion"?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2007, 05:23:30 AM »
I thought "Crucifixion" was basically a sermon set to music, and as such RGD's source would have been the Gospels.

Another interesting aspect of this song is the way RGD delivers the sermon -- for example, his use of vibrato and syllable extension is consistent with other African American preachers such as Martin Luther King Jr.

btw my favorite version is the one on "A Little More Faith".
« Last Edit: February 05, 2007, 05:29:42 AM by outfidel »
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Offline Doug

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  • Posts: 72
Re: Sources behind Reverend Gary Davis' "Crucifixion"?
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2007, 07:46:30 AM »
Thanks for your reply, outfidel...  A major source of "Crucifixion" is definitely the gospels, but Davis also blends other elements in with it... including (I presume) his own imagination, a medieval mystic (or a contemporary Catholic prayer book), and possibly some phrasing from a sermon by F. W. McGee. 

I guess my question wasn't very clear...  I'm not so much looking for sources of the ideas in "Crucifixion", I was wanting to make sure this wasn't someone else's musical sermon that Davis made his own, or that it wasn't an old spiritual that he elaborated... 

I was especially interested in the main refrain "Done died one time and I ain't gonna die no more"... which isn't directly from the gospels, and doesn't seem to be essential to the song, and wondering whether that chorus was from somewhere else.

Your point is a good one that RGD delivers the sermon/song using several rhetorical features prominent in traditional African American preaching.

{It's hard to pick a favorite version of the song, but I probably lean to "Pure Religion", partly because it's the one I've heard least often, and partly because it brings the story through to the Resurrection...}

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