I knew this was going to be a great trip. I did not know it would afford me a chance to scratch off the top item on my bucket list.
But when the iconic gospel singer Bobby Jones met with the band of international journalists I am traveling with on a fellowship from the East-West Center, he mentioned the song “Oh Happy Day” was so popular among his fans in Russia, Italy, and Japan that he can’t get offstage there without singing it.
I love that song. We used to sing it in church when I was a kid. Its heartfelt lyrics boil Christianity down to its bare bones, to something all Christians — and people who just love gospel or folk music — can come together on, drawn in by its call-and-response format.
Jones gave us a crash course on the history of gospel music. He told us how, in the early 1900s, Thomas Dorsey, a black, born-again musician, began adapting the sounds of the Saturday night honky-tonk for Sunday morning worship.
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