‘Mother of gospel music’ has deep Memphis roots

gharden@tri-statedefender.com | 12/19/2007, 6 p.m.

George E. Hardin

A street performer, Connie Rosemond, was singing a religious song outside a Beale Street store when several men passing by asked him to sing a blues song. Rosemond refused even after the men offered him money.

Lucie E. Campbell witnessed the incident and asked Rosemond why he refused. He told her there was “something within” that would not allow him to sing the blues.
From that incident, Campbell was inspired to write the beloved gospel tune “Something Within,” the first of the more than 100 songs she would eventually write.
Campbell selected Rosemond to introduce the song in 1919 at the National Baptist Convention and it became a staple of many Black churches:
Something within me that holdeth the reins,
Something within me that banishes pain,
Something within me I cannot explain,
All that I know there is something within.
“Something Within,” and Campbell’s other songs, helped shape the worship style of many black churches. Later her songs were adopted for use in some majority white churches as well. Among her other compositions were “He Understands, He’ll Say Well Done” and “Jesus Gave Me Water,” which became a huge hit for Sam Cooke and was the first time he demonstrated the yodeling that became his trademark.

      Lucie E. Campbell

      Campbell became one of the most highly acclaimed of all gospel songwriters. The 45th anniversary of Campbell’s death will be Jan. 3, 2008.
      Campbell was born in a caboose in Duck Hill, Miss., on April 3, 1885. Her father, Burrell Campbell, was an employee of the Mississippi Central Railroad. He was killed in a train accident shortly after Lucie was born and his wife, Isabella, moved the family to Memphis in search of better opportunities.
      Campbell became a schoolteacher and trained many young singers. Her work attracted national attention and in 1942, she was invited to the White House Conference on Negro Youth Education.

          J. Robert Bradley

          The best known of her students was J. Robert Bradley. Bradley met Campbell when he and other children were waiting outside Ellis Auditorium for Christmas presents from the Goodfellows, a charitable organization. Bradley joined in the singing of Christmas carols and a police officer, captivated by his voice, went inside where the National Baptist Convention was meeting and brought Campbell out to hear him. Campbell was impressed and became his mentor.