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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

March 8, 2009

Song of the Week: Nearer Blessed Lord

The Pax Plena Song of the Week comes to you courtesy of my latest cinematic foray- the acclaimed 2007 movie Bella. Aside from being critically acclaimed, Bella also earned the endorsement of many pro-life groups for its pro-adoption message.

I'll take care not to give away the plot for those who care to see the movie.  But, in brief, Bella is the story of an odd pairing of two down-on-their-luck people, working dead end jobs at a Manhattan restaurant. The theme of the movie is one of redemption, and grace despite some of life's toughest obstacles. In a word, the movie is about overcoming.  Unsurprisingly, Nina Simone's Nearer Blessed Lord strikes the perfect chord.

The tenor of the song is a balanced mix - delivering high moments of optimism, combined with the mournful cries of realism.  In all, the music of the song itself is reminiscent of some of the best negro spirituals of the 1940s.

The piece opens with the airy medley of a blues piano, joined quickly by Simone's vocals.  The ultimate theme of the song is one of crying out to God, and the longing all humans feel to be close (viz., nearer) to a loved one when life becomes a bit too real. It is this feeling that Simone's vocals capture so well. She is at times mournful, and at other points ebullient. Only the blues piano remains constant. The syncopation of the piano adds an interesting, consistent foil to Simone's emotional, and ranging performance. 

But the real power of the song comes from Simone's ability to transcend the genre of gospel music, and re-making the song as a work of jazz.  Along the way, Simone manages to capture some of life's most intense emotions, and present a vocal lesson in contrast to even the most skilled singer.

The song can be accessed through the YouTube video below.  Lyrics follow after the jump.  For those interested in the movie or some of the other songs from the film, the website "You Crazy Dreamers" has an interesting write up of the soundtrack.  It also contains links so that you can hear a few of the tracks.  The site can be accessed here.  Enjoy!




Nearer Blessed Lord
by Nina Simone

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side

My soul look up with a steadfast hope,
My will be lost in Thine
So draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

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2 comments:

Matthew Frederick said...

Dude, you've been on a roll lately with the songs of the week.

Tory said...

Yeah! "It's baaaaack!"

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Organic, free-range thought courtesy of your average, coffee-addicted, American Indian, academic. Program Manager @IGPatUA.


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