Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Fred Thread

There are few musical artists my boyfriend loves more than Fred Hammond. For the uninitiated, Fred is a titan in the contemporary gospel field. Back in the day (80's?) he was a member of Commissioned, one of the leading groups in contemporary gospel. It was my boyfriend's favorite group (before I knew him). When Commissioned played Portland, boyfriend was one of the musicians who opened for them.

When we met, boyfriend introduced me to Fred's music and Fred quickly became one of my all-time favorite singers. We have several of his CD's. He's a monster singer, songwriter, bass player and arranger (he always has a killer choir). He's also a minister and is based in Detroit. Now I'm not a religious person, but I do have my own quirky form of spirituality that works for me. Regardless, I think almost anyone would be hard-pressed to listen to Fred Hammond's music and not be moved and uplifted by it. Substitute whatever words you need to for his lyrics if they don't work for you--or just tune out the words altogether and focus on the music. He's a great singer regardless of the genre.

If you're curious and want to check out some Real Audio samples, here's Fred's site. Go to his Discography and you can use the arrows to go back and forth between his albums. "Pages of Life, Chapters I and II" is one of my favorites. (It's a brown cover with a tight close-up of Fred's face.) It's a double album with Chapter I recorded in the studio and Chapter II performed live in a Detroit church. It was released in 1998, so we've had it in rotation for six years now.

Once in awhile, I joke with the boyfriend that what he really needs to do is go get himself the Fred Hammond gig. (And if you knew how my boyfriend is capable of playing, you'd know that's not an unthinkable option. I believe he could get any gig he wanted to. You may not have heard of Fred, but in the gospel field he's as big as it gets.) My boy LOVES his Fred Hammond, okay?!

About a week or so ago, there was a message left on our answering machine. I didn't listen to it--just fast-forwarded through it--because it was someone I didn't know calling boyfriend for a gig. It was a minister asking him to play a wedding this afternoon. He took the gig and yesterday he went by the church to pick up a CD of four gospel songs they wanted him to listen to. They also wanted him to attend a rehearsal this morning at 9 am, which he did. So he went off to rehearsal (after he'd spent his waking-up time listening to the CD in the bedroom), came back for a short while, changed clothes and went to play the wedding. When he returned this afternoon I asked how it went and he said it went fine, but that it was certainly a different kind of wedding than what he's used to--LOTS of music. Then he told me that the keyboard player (who's the one who called him for the gig) toured with Fred Hammond for four years. My jaw dropped. I was shocked but also laughing because it seemed so unbelievable that he would run into such a person HERE--on this tiny island. The guy's name is Jason Jordan and he's been the Minister of Music at a church here for three years. He and the boyfriend had never crossed paths until now. I asked how Fred's name came up in conversation and he said they were talking about the music each of them likes and the guy asked him if he's ever heard of Fred Hammond. Boyfriend just laughed and said, "Heard of him?! Man, ......" and proceeded to regale him about his huge love for Fred. Turns out we've been listening to this guy play organ and keyboards on Fred's tunes all these years. (Which means I probably saw him play live when I went to one of Fred's concerts in Portland. Boyfriend missed the show--he was on the road.)

I asked how the minister came to live here. After touring with Fred for several years, he went to Bible College, became a minister and was assigned to a church here (it's an offshoot of a large church in Detroit). He has a studio downtown and he and the boyfriend think maybe they'll make some music together. I'm just sorry they didn't meet sooner but everything happens when it's meant to, I guess. It's just too good for words. It may not sound big, but for the boyfriend who hasn't found any musical peers here who he really clicks with? It's HUGE.


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