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Willie Mae Ford Smith

Considered the greatest of the "anointed singers" -- artists who live according to the spirit, and who perform with the ultimate aim of saving souls -- Willie Mae Ford Smith was among the most legendary gospel vocalists of her era; rarely recorded, her enormous reputation instead rested almost entirely on her incendiary live performances, where her dramatic, physical style inspired many of the finest soloists to follow in her wake. She was also the first to introduce the "song and sermonette," the act of delivering a lengthy sermon before, during, or after a performance. Smith was born in 1906 in Rolling Fork, MS and raised in Memphis; one of 14 children, she was the daughter of a railroad brakeman who relocated the family to St. Louis in 1918. There her mother opened a restaurant, where Smith soon began working full-time, leaving school during the eighth grade; though raised as a devout Baptist, she sang everything from blues to reels as a child, but upon forming her family quartet the Ford Sisters, she turned solely to gospel.

Debuting at the National Baptist Convention in 1922, the Fords created a sensation with their performances of "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" and "I'm in His Care." After her sisters married and quit the group, Smith mounted a solo career; a high soprano, she briefly flirted with pursuing classical music, but was so profoundly moved by Detroit's Madame Artelia Hutchins' performance at the 1926 Baptist Convention that she returned to gospel once and for all. Upon marrying a man who operated a general hauling business, Smith began touring to supplement their household income; with the exception of the legendary Sallie Martin, she was arguably the first gospel performer to tour relentlessly, conducting musical revivals in many of the cities she visited. In her travels Smith crossed paths with Thomas A. Dorsey, who in 1932 invited her to Chicago to help organize the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. She later formed a St. Louis chapter, and was the longtime head of the soloists' bureau.

Smith's rendition of her own composition "If You Just Keep Still," delivered at the 1937 National Baptist Convention, set a new standard for solo singing; just as influential was her skill as an arranger, with her radical reinterpretations of chestnuts like "Jesus Loves Me," "Throw Out the Lifeline," and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" galvanizing a new generation of singers to include the songs in their repertoires. As a teacher, Smith also mentored Brother Joe May, Myrtle Scott, Edna Gallmon Cooke, and Martha Bass. She joined the Church of God Apostolic in 1939, and immediately her music reflected the rhythm and energy of the sanctified church; still, she did not finally begin recording until the end of the following decade -- with her protégé May enjoying massive success with her style, she saw no point in entering the studio. Only a handful of Smith recordings were issued in her own lifetime, and by the early '50s, she had turned to evangelical work; still, she continued to remain a great inspiration, dying on February 2, 1994. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Nuggets Of The Golden Age Of Gospel 1945-1958

Disc 1

2. I'm Tramping

5. He Knows My Heart

8. Each Day

9. Lead Me To That Rock

11. Mother's Song

12. Jesus Is The Name

13. Same Train

14. Lord's Prayer

16. One Day

17. I'd Rather Serve Jesus

18. At The Cross

19. Lord's Gospel Train

20. Bedside Of A Neighbor

21. There Is Rest For The Weary

23. On The Highway

25. Jesus Be My Keeper

26. Walking In Jesus Name

Disc 2

1. Let Us Run

2. Come Over Here

5. No Matter How You Pray

7. Ship Of Zion

8. Jesus Bears The Cross

9. My God Is Real

11. Another Soldier Gone

12. Trouble In Mind

13. Toll The Bells

14. I Need Thee

15. There'll Be No More Sorrow

16. One Day When I Was Walking (I'm In His Care)

18. Angel

19. Lord Have Mercy

22. Cry Sometime

26. Old Time Religion

Disc 3

2. Our Prayer

5. Prayer For Tomorrow

6. Yes It's Me Lord, That Came To Thee

7. Who So Ever Will

8. Pilgrim Of Sorrow (Take 1)

10. He's Alright With Me

11. I Was So Happy

13. Lord, Will I Meet Them Again

14. I Want To Go To Heaven

15. Burying Ground

24. Come Home

Disc 4

1. I Can See So Much

2. Sit Down And Rest Awhile

3. Didn't It Rain

6. Glad To Be In The Number

7. Walk With Me

14. Roll, Jordan, Roll

15. Didn't It Rain

16. Rock My Soul

19. Hard To Get Along

20. Mother Bowed

23. When I Lay This Body Down

25. I Never Knew

Comments

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I thank God for such a servant as this, she was a great inspiration in the kingdom
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dcarter5828
BENNY Carter great song love it.
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My name is Sandy and I love this song it tells about my Savior and what he did. I first heard Mahalia Jackson sing it in the '90's.
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I love this or time soul stirring music that's the coming of the holy spirit and stays with you and makes you want to do right in life good enough for the elders its good enough for me Hallejuah!!! !
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ksanders564
When I was young I met Willie Mae Ford Smith her singing still makes my soul happy. Thank you for the precious memories.
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i love the singers ''willie mae ford smith''and the barret sister.pleas e play more of them. thank you.
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awesome love to hear the old gospel love to hear more
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A truly review of the scripture.
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i will really appreciate it if you would play this artist"willi e mae ford smith, and delois barret campbell and barret sisters, continuously throughout raidio station selection, thank you, and god bless you well!!!

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