Chicago-based radio host and Gospel journeyman Gregory Gay pulls from the fascinating and extensive history of Gospel music to present Take Me Back, a regularly-appearing column on GOSPELflava.com that examines the glory of Gospel music in days gone by.
September 1, 2005
I was reading somewhere that Twinkie Clark recently celebrated her 50th birthday.
Wait a minute. Twinkie? 50? It’s almost unimaginable. Where has the time gone? It seems that it was only yesterday that The Clark Sisters burst on the scene with their first album produced by their uncle. Bill Moss (father of J).
While my recollections of that album are vague, memories are easier to come by these days, thanks to Armen Boladian and the people at his Sound of Gospel (SOG) imprint reissuing The Clark Sisters’ early works on CD, along with Twinkie’s two solo albums. I do have these treasures on LP, but while at the GMWA in Milwaukee, I was finally able to get my hands on the CDs.
As I listened to the title cut of Twinkie’s solo album, Praise Belongs to God (yes, all eleven-plus minutes of it), many things came to mind. Its almost unfathomable that on her first album, she would have a male ensemble backing her that included the likes of Marvin Winans (who was "perfecting" his gift, you will know what I mean as you listen to his performance on the album) and Howard Smith (Mr. "Don’t Let Hatred Be Among You" from Andrae Crouch’s I’ll Be Thinking Of You LP can someone find him for me please?).
Twinkie goes on to put her own spin on the classic hymn, "There’s a Fountain Filled With Blood". Interestingly enough, she would put a different spin on the same hymn when she covered it on the Masterpiece album in 1996.
It’s easy to see that Twinkie tried various musical styles in her early years. Songs like "Oh Taste and See" and "My Life With Jesus Is Complete" (from the Nothing To Lose album) clearly have a Broadway show tune vibe, a little different, but still memorable.
Twinkie's compositional masterpieces worthy note are "Jesus Is A Love Song" (from Heart and Soul), "For The Love of the People" (from Conqueror), "Now Is The Time" and "Salvation To Me Means More Than What the World Can Offer" with sister Jackie on lead (from Is My Living In Vain) and I dare not forget "Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt" and "Trust In Jesus" from the Esther Smith albums that Twinkie co-produced with her mom.
I even noticed the contrast of song styles that Twinkie penned for her mom, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark (Mattie had a song on each of the girls' SOG albums, as well as on the two transitional albums, Is My Living In Vain and Sincerely, before they signed with Word Records).
Who can forget "They Were Overcome", "Never Mind", "Prepare Yourself" (where Twinkie constantly encourages Mattie every 2 minutes with ‘Sing Mama’) and "My Cup Runneth Over".
Someone tell SOG that it would be nice to have Mattie’s solo album A Building Not Made By Hand on CD as their next reissue, if for nothing more than just the music and to hear Twinkie hold her note longer than anyone on the title cut. Mattie’s singing "I Get Joy When I Think About What He’s Done For Me" is good listening too. Until then, everyone is invited to my house to listen to the LP, and please bring food. Anyway, I digress.
Twinkie’s composition "He Was Hung Up For My Hang Ups", recorded by the UNAC Choir in 1975, put her on the map as a premiere songwriter during the Song Is Born years. Twinkie solidified her place as master of the Hammond organ on the 1978 COGIC International Mass Choir’s I Can Do All Things album (recently reissued by Sony Special Projects on CD) when she did the infamous 'COGIC bump' on "Hallelujah".
Vocally, you cannot forget Twinkie singing "He’s In This Place" on the 1977 album of music from the Song Is Born series (this album also introduced the world to "The Will of God"), and also on "My Faith Holds Out Till He Comes" from the Michigan State Community Choir’s That’s Christ album (the album opens with a heartfelt voice over thank you from Mattie). Then there’s her duet with Richard "Mr. Clean" White on "Accept What God Allows" from the COGIC International Mass Choir’s last project to date, Leaning On Jesus. (And we would love to know if we will ever hear another CD from them again???) Her cover of "O Come All Ye Faithful" from the Real Meaning of Christmas series on Verity is also memorable.
However, I think one of her all time best vocal performances was not recorded. Myrna Summers wrote "I Found Jesus" and "I’m Glad" and it appeared as the title of Summers’ first Savoy album, but it took Twinkie Clark to give the song life. When the UNAC Convention came to Chicago in 1981, a hoarse Twinkie Clark gave the performance of a lifetime during one of the evening services. I cannot imagine why the International Mass Choir never recorded the song. If Myrna got a royalty for every time Twinkie sang it, she would be a rich woman. I am sure it was a constant part of the repertoire of the COGIC Mass Choir from 1981-1990.
Rest assured, recordings of Twinkie’s singing the song do exist, both on video (most notably from Carlton Pearson’s 1993 Azusa Conference) and on disc (Corey Skinner’s Collegiate Choir), but they both pale in comparison to the UNAC version.
While I can go on and on, I think I will stop here before I incur the wrath of the legions of Clark Sister fans.
I do have some questions that make you go hmmm; like where is Anthony Flowers, the guy who wrote most of the liner notes for the Clark Sisters albums? Will the world ever hear on CD "I Tried Him and I Know Him" from the Southern California Holy Gospel Music Workshop album (an LP which at the time of this writing, was fetching upwards of $60.00 on online auction sites), and "I’ve Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken" from UNAC -Houston 1986. Will Twinkie ever get to duet with her idol Stevie Wonder? (Her guest stint with Michael McDonald on his Christmas album was nice.)
While we await those answers, let me share the sentiments of all of us in saying, a belated Happy Birthday to you Twinkie. Keep inspiring us for another 50 years.
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September 1, 2005