Inez Andrews, gospel singer, April 14, 1929-December 19, 2012
Today, remembering her, we revisit some favorite clips.
Fierce, insistent, soaring—this voice, which I first heard over 30 years ago, still gives me chills.
With the Andrewettes, “Let the Church Roll On,” live (TV broadcast), 1964
With Rev. James Cleveland & the Metro Mass Choir, “We Are Soldiers in the Army,” live, 1981
“A Stranger in the City,” “He Lives In Me,” “Lord, Don’t Move The Mountain,” “Mary Don’t You Weep,” live, Chicago (Apostolic Church of God), 1988
The Caravans’ star then was Inez, whom they called the High Priestess. She looks the part. A coffee-colored woman with high Indian cheekbones and an intense, almost drugged stare, she can sing higher natural notes than anyone on the road. Tina [Albertina Walker] said, ‘The rest of us sang awhile, but the folks really wanted to hear Inez whistle.’
—Anthony Heilbut, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (6th ed. 2002)
Determination is important. You’ve got to be determined to live what you sing as well as sing what you sing. God understands the . . . difficulty that we go through for the truth. The Bible says your determination will be rewarded because God sees it when no one else does.
“Mary Don’t You Weep” (AKA “O [or Oh] Mary Don’t You Weep”)
The Caravans (feat. Inez Andrews), 1958
The Swan Silvertones (feat. Claude Jeter), 1959
Claude Jeter & Shirley Caesar, 1969
The Caravans (feat. Inez Andrews), c. 2006
Bruce Springsteen, 2005
New York Times obituary (12/21/12)
Inez Andrews, whose soaring, wide-ranging voice — from contralto croon to soul-wrenching wail — made her a pillar of gospel music, died on Wednesday at her home in Chicago. She was 83.
The cause was cancer, said her son Richard Gibbs.
“She was the last great female vocalist of gospel’s golden age,” said Anthony Heilbut, author of “The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times” (1971), a history of that era, from the mid-1940s to the early ’60s. Ms. Andrews was known as the “High Priestess,” Mr. Heilbut said, ranking among the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Marion Williams, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Clara Ward.
Ms. Andrews came to national attention in 1958 with the Caravans, the Chicago gospel group led by Albertina Walker that also nurtured such stars as Shirley Caesar, the Rev. James Cleveland and Bessie Griffin. That year she was the lead singer for what became two of the Caravans’ biggest hits.
One was “I’m Not Tired Yet,” an up-tempo shout song in which she belted out, “I’ve been running for Jesus a long time/No, I’m not tired yet.”
The other was “Mary Don’t You Weep” — a rearrangement, by her, of the old spiritual into a rip-roaring sermonette. It was the Caravans’ first big hit and helped make them one of the nation’s most popular gospel groups. Ms. Andrews was the lead singer on other hits like “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand,” “He Won’t Deny Me” and her own composition, “I’m Willing to Wait.”
Ms. Andrews began her career with two groups in Birmingham, Ala., her hometown: Carter’s Choral Ensemble and the Original Gospel Harmonettes. By the mid-1950s, the Harmonettes were one of the nation’s top gospel groups, with Ms. Andrews the understudy for the group’s lead singer, Dorothy Love Coates. It was Ms. Coates who recommended Ms. Andrews to the Caravans.
In 1962 Ms. Andrews left the Caravans to start her own group, Inez Andrews and the Andrewettes. They toured the country performing songs like “It’s in My Heart” and her composition “(Lord I Wonder) What Will Tomorrow Bring?” But by 1967 she was touring as a soloist, and in 1973 she recorded her biggest hit, “Lord Don’t Move the Mountain.”
“Lord don’t move the mountain/Give me the strength to climb,” she sang.
From a seductive, bluesy sound — often singing behind the beat — Ms. Andrews could burst into an impassioned, raspy cry.
“Even in songs of rejoicing, her voice has a somber undertone,” Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times in 1990, “and when she takes on supplicating songs like the midtempo ‘Lord I’ve Tried’ or the glacial minor-key blues of ‘Stand by Me’ — both of which rise, verse by verse, to a near-scream — Ms. Andrews can sound desperate, on the verge of hysteria. Hers is a gospel of terror, and of the relief faith provides.”