Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Songwriter Dottie Rambo Died.

If you grew up in rural America going to a Baptist church, you grew up listening to a song called "He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need." It was sung in every church as a "special" by whoever could handle the wide, beautiful melody. That song was written by one of the few top female songwriters to ever write for the church.

Those of us who grew up in church and had little exposure to outside music eventually were startled to discover that that song was also known to some people as "Danny Boy." (Go ahead and read the title again to the last phrase of "Danny Boy").

Her name was Dottie Rambo and she died this past Sunday at the age of 74 after a liftime of singing and touring and writing when her tour bus ran off a highway. No church was complete without the "Dottie Rambo Songbook." The NY Times obit also notes:

With songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and Whitney Houston, and a busy recording and touring career of her own, Ms. Rambo has been ubiquitous in gospel since the early 1960s. Many of her songs have become hymnal standards, including “I Go to the Rock,” “We Shall Behold Him,” “I Will Glory in the Cross” and “He Looked Beyond My Fault (and Saw My Need),” which uses the tune of “Danny Boy.”

The audience for Ms. Rambo’s style of Southern gospel is chiefly white. But she broke through the genre’s racial boundaries as one of the first white artists to use black backup singers. Her 1968 album of spirituals, “It’s the Soul of Me,” became one of her most successful solo projects, but it caused a stir in the gospel world when it won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance, a category whose winners were usually black.

Born Joyce Reba Luttrell in Anton, Ky., she left home at 12 and married Buck Rambo at 16. While still a teenager she made a publishing deal with Jimmie Davis, a two-time governor of Louisiana who was both composer and singer of “You Are My Sunshine” and other hits.

In her group with her husband, the Singing Rambos (later the Rambos), she sang inspirational lyrics in a folksy alto and helped develop a sound that had links to both country music and black gospel.

So, bonus round salutes one of the great women of Gospel music: Dottie Rambo.
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