Over the years here at Extra Thoughts I have repeatedly mentioned blind pianist and singer Ken Medema. He was big in the Midwest in the 1970's. Ken has a talent for piano improvisation and for livening up or rewriting hymns. For a long time you couldn't find his older stuff anywhere on-line, and as I look over old posts that mention him, that complaint comes up frequently. That has gradually ceased to be the case on the music playing site Grooveshark, and I'd like to share several of his numbers here.
First, "Someday," which is the hymn "Saved By Grace." I wrote about its words here. The original author of the lyrics, Fanny Crosby, was also blind. Ken gives it a new tune.
Here's a fun jazzy number called "Sonshiny Day" that should pick you up if you happen to be feeling blue during this long, dark winter.
This next one turns up on Christian radio at Christmas time for some reason. I think it must be because of the line about the newborn baby. I would say the newborn baby is the narrator's own baby.
"Lead the Way" is, in my opinion, a particularly beautiful song in a 70's ballad style. Christian contemporary music has only gone downhill since this counted as "contemporary."
"Fork in the Road" shows Ken's grittier style as well as his ability to tell a story in song. It's about Judas and always makes me tremble a bit for my soul.
"Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying" gives us Medema with what sounds like a black back-up choir. Soulful.
Here is a more recent example of Ken with a "choir" backup, which actually sounds like a live audience. His energy has apparently not been sapped with age. Sure it's repetitious, but I love it when he yells, "Play the music." I know it's comparing small things with great, but the African drum rhythms make me think of something on Paul Simon's Graceland. Here is Medema's version of "Amen."
I'll finish up this sampler by returning to something more mellow from Medema in the 70's. "Jesus, Lover of My Soul."
Ken Medema is an original. There will not be anyone else quite like him in Christian popular music. I'd like to see this older music shared more widely.