A white man sings a black woman’s song – written and first made famous by Clara Ward in 1951 then later recorded by Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin.
Musically, this is a departure for the band which normally plays in a rock / blues style a bit like early Rolling Stones, though this song clearly uses the strength of Gary Stringer’s vocal delivery. I wonder what it means to them – is is just a rousing tune, or does it touch their soul? Is it worship or just performance? Listening carefully it seems that the name of Jesus in the original lyrics has been deliberately left out in this rendering, although the religious clues are still there – ‘soul’, ‘man who made me free, who bled and suffered’, ‘hallelujah’.
As originally written, the song is pure black American gospel where the ideas of religious salvation – being converted or ‘saved’ – is mixed up with the black civil rights struggle which itself looked back to the emancipation of the American slaves. So the song is built around thanks for liberation and a bright future hope ultimately in heaven, or symbolically the New Jerusalem – described in the Bible in the book of Revelation 21:1-7.