January 30th, 2010

I once played guitar on a live Gospel record for Atlantic Records at the 1st AME church in Los Angeles. Believe me when I tell you that being on stage with an 80 voice black choir is an experience you won’t soon forget. I get goosebumps whenever I think about it!

That experience made me want to write at least a couple of songs for choirs, so when my friend — and Stanley Clarke’s keyboardist — Steve Bach, suggested we write a couple of pieces for Alfred Music (a well known publisher of choral music), I jumped on it.

We wrote two songs for that project; a unapologetic patriotic song called “The Heart of America”, and a up tempo gospel number called “Rock Me Lord” (which became “In The Arms of Freedom”). I’ve included our simple piano/vocal demos of both songs here, but “In The Arms of Freedom” was the only one that got picked up by Alfred.

Also, you’ll only hear my solo voice in these demos , but both songs were intended and written for large mixed choirs with solo male and solo female voices trading verses. Try to imagine that 80 voice AME choir while you’re listening! I always do.

Here’s our demo of “In The Arms of Freedom”…

And here’s “The Heart of America”…

It was a gratifying experience to see our demo turned into professional looking sheet music. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before, and I was kind of proud of it. All in all we sold over 100,000 copies, and school choirs all over the country performed our song for many years to come.

In fact, it’s still being performed. Just out of curiosity the other day I Googled the song, and low and behold I found two separate videos of school choirs performing it!

Here’s a very young (and very white) middle school choir giving it a go…

And here’s a high school choir with a bit more polish (the video is messed up on this one for some reason, but you can hear the song clearly)…

Honors are few and far between for most of us songwriter types, and while most wouldn’t consider choral music to be the pinnacle of our career, I do consider this song and what became of it a definite feather in my cap.

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4 Responses to “chp 25: Rock Me Lord (In The Arms Of Freedom)”

  1. Yolanda Lilies says:

    OMG! I am so glad that you posted this! I sang this song with my 7th grade choir class, in Saginaw, MI. It has always stuck with me and became one of my favorite songs of all time! Thank you so much!!!!

  2. James Adams says:

    I must say, I really love the simple beauty of both songs. It must be amazing to know that your song was performed by hundreds (thousands?) of choirs, and that the best performance may not have even been caught on tape at all.

    Dad, I think your vocal performance on “The heart of America” may be my favorite!