Journal Entry, January 1, 2022
Behind every dark cloud, There’s a silver lining, And after each rainstorm, There’s a bright new star.
I woke up this morning with the music in my ears and the idea in my head that we would get together, the five of us, and reminisce to the album, “Let us go into the House of the Lord,” The Edwin Hawkins Singers. I have long maintained that if there is one art form that stands for this nuclear family group, it is this album.
I’ve harbored this thought, of a reunion of sorts where we would reminisce about where we were, about which song meant what to us. I’ve had the intension of bringing us together for this purpose. So, when I woke up this morning, and realized that three of you have passed, I was faced with this choice: I can experience myself as a zombie or a ghost who allows decades of life to pass without acting on these important necessities of spirit; OR I can act on this intention now, and experience your spirits — you, Conrad Joseph, Yolanda Moreno, and Suzanne Marie Lynn as dead but not gone. Gabrielle Yolanda, this is your brother Alexander Moreno Lynn checking in.
When troubles grieve you, And friends deceive you, Oh, don’t worry It will pass over, In the morning.
Daddy, the song Oh Happy Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FepkgNgy7uI) lit up our house because of the pride you felt when this African American art form “crossed over” to become #1 on the pop (i.e., White) charts. Each of us in this group of five can appropriate the bottom-line power of this: Gospel is the birthchild of enslaved Africans. The songs are freedom songs. For you, Daddy, the recognition, by the dominant culture, of the beauty and power of these songs was proof to you that there truly was hope for humankind.
This was your favorite on the album, and Dad, since you hover over today, I want to thank you in front of the rest of our group, for singing what you called those “morbid” songs of your grandmother. I am aware that you sang them first because they comforted you. Now, I’m more aware of what that comfort was — they were “morbid,” meaning they were about death. But dead does not mean gone. Today, I have been awarded yet another chance to live my life the way my ancestors have adjured me to — and in this I have gotten great help from your love Suzanne, and your love and care Gabrielle. It is in this circumstance that I’m living with my youngest daughter and my granddaughter. Again, since the three of you live in the ground below, in the trees around, and swirl in the wind above, you are aware that I sing these “morbid” songs every morning. I am not trying to impose on the young women who are now my charges in this house. And, at the same time, I want to teach them what these songs are about — maybe more intentionally than you, Daddy. In this teaching, your singing, you were most understated. That is why I mention the comfort factor. I, on the other hand, feel more urgency in these children getting the spirit behind these songs.
I first became inspired to do this, as the three of you know, because of the passing of my brother-in-law, Anthony Jones, the purest kind of a guy. The tribute to such people performed by Paul Robeson led me to sing spirituals of his choosing to my girls every morning — without asking their permission:
Wade in the Water, Swing Low, Sweat Chariot, John Brown’s Body, Go Down Moses, Mary Don’t You Weep, each of them either calling for Harriet and her guerrillas to come, chop off Massa’s head and get them to the water, or celebrations of the inevitable victory over evil.
At one point in the days that passed, I found myself switching from Robeson’s regimen to your favorites, Daddy, beginning with There is a Fountain, and moving to There’s a Man Going’ ‘Round Takin’ Names (your grandmother’s “go to” song), and finally arriving at your # 1 favorite song of all time, Oh Freedom.
When trials spoil your heart’s dream, Don’t be discouraged And even though pain and misery Fill your eyes with tears
These troubles will soon pass, And soon they will depart Oh Hallelujah They will pass over, by and by
Gabrielle, your favorite song on this album back then was I Heard the Voice of Jesus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7s_WZlhL3k). What a beautiful song! As a devout Christian the verses do not merely speak to you of one people’s struggle against chattel slavery. Nor are they a disguised language or metaphorical. They are the Truth of God in all things. I experience your loving presence in my life as evidence of your faith.
Suzanne, your favorite song was Let us go Into the House of the Lord (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxpE0Oa2PxU). Tell me, Suzanne, why? There are some songs, like Oh Happy Day, which once performed by the original artist, there really is no reason for anyone else to perform it. It can hardly be improved upon. There are others, like Let us go into the House of the Lord, which are so transcendent that they simply must be played by everyone all over the world. It’s grace and virtuousness are augmented, not diminished, by the new and different ways people of different cultural persuasions appropriate it. There are numerous Jazz versions of this song, varied Gospel choirs have performed it, and it is just as popular world-wide as Oh Happy Day. This international reach is emblematic of your style in the world.
And remember, Keeping faith in Him for the night But, joy, joy, joy, joy, Joy, joy will come
Mother, I’m Goin’ Through (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Kmx2D5f9Q) is my song for you, because you’ve always been about perseverance. You will not let me give up. This is why I speak with you now. This is why I must continue to speak with you — I will always need your guidance.
I’m so glad joy’s gonna come in the morning We can make it through for the night But joy is gonna come in the morning No sorrows and cares will be there Cryin’ and dyin’ will cease forever Joy, Joy, Ooooh Joy, Joy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HQCwMUx7Ds)