Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Voices from an old cassette

[The widget has been removed. I can send you the MP3 if you want to hear the song. Just say the word!]

See that new Grooveshark widget over there to the right? It's only got one song on it. Let me explain what it is.

A lot of people don't know this about me, since I've lost touch with most of my stateside relatives over the years - but I come from a big hymn-singing family on my American side. I was raised entirely non-religiously, but during my childhood summers, my mother and I would visit my grandparents, and there would be a whole lot of old-fashioned hymn-singing, which I loved.

Sometime in the early 80s, when I was 12 or so, a bunch of Draper relatives gathered around Grandma's rollicking old piano and sang a hymn. It got taped, by me (obsessed, as usual, with recording everything), onto a cassette that I never labeled. A couple of years ago, I acquired a tape digitization gadget for my birthday, started ransacking old cassettes... and found that tape.

I just found that file again. Click the Grooveshark widget to hear the hymn, digitized out of my past. Now, I'm not saying we're the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or anything: it's just seven or eight relatives standing around a piano happily hollering out a tune, and it was all about the doing of it, not the sounding. They didn't even know I was taping it, or if they did, they didn't care!

Note: It's hard to listen to at first because the original tape sounds so spotty, but hang in there: the tape stabilizes about one minute in.

The song is an old 30s tune called Jesus, Hold My Hand. (Not "When Jesus Holds My Hand." I mistitled the digital file when I created it and can't figure out how to fix it.) Just listen to Grandpa's belting baritone and Grandma's stomping piano! Hurray for my childhood obsession with taping everything.

An interesting sidenote: after checking out iTunes this evening, I have discovered that there are any number of versions of this song. Cowboys growl it. Huge choruses present it. Sweet country divas warble it. Glee clubs svelte it up. Bluegrass groups fiddle it back to earth. Old folk ensembles belt it out much the way my relatives and I did. And Elvis? Yes - Elvis! He has a version, too.

Who knew!