Tuesday, December 20, 2011
In 1971 Gavin Bryars was working on a film about people living rough in London when some people launched into drunken song. One, who was not drinking, sang "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet".
The song’s optimism, in striking contrast to the man’s living conditions, is extraordinarily moving; the direct statement of faith in his song is beautiful and somehow reassuring of the human spirit. The album "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet” was released in 1993 and nominated for a Mercury Award that same year. Sadly the singer had died before being able to share Gavin Bryars’ success.
This poem was written after listening to the album. It helped that his voice wavered like my father’s.
An Old Man Sings.
An old man sings;
I have not got the words, nor the art,
nor the understanding to convey to you
the sadness of that song.
It is as if he has always lived;
it is as if he lived as a bird that flew
through every battle, every famine,
And as he sings,
the words come clear and strong and wavering;
words that wash through his veins as surely
as blood does; words that have been left
among the homeless. Yet, when he sings,
he touches each one like a treasure.