2. I Know That You’ve Been Wounded (Church Hurt)
3. He’ll Make a Way (Trust in the Lord)
4. Talk to God
5. In the Name of Jesus (Everytime)
6. To Be Used by You (I Want to Be a Good Man)
7. Who Do Men Say I Am?
8. Storm of Life (Stand by Me)
9. In the Service of the Lord
10. I Just Want to Be a Good Man (To Be Used by You)
PASTOR CHAMPION (Nov 23, 1946 - Dec 28, 2021)
Pastor Champion was a badass.
A preacher, a pastor, an outsider gospel singer who was raised in the Jim Crow South. He fled to California and joined a gang before becoming born again, spending the rest of his days traveling with his electric guitar to congregations and people’s homes from San Jose to Shreveport.
There isn’t much known about Champion, except that the beloved soul singer Bettye Swann happened to be his sister and confidant— a secret that the pastor only shared later on.
We started working with Pastor Champion a few years ago while we were researching another release, The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us. We found him on the YouTube channel of the 37th Street Baptist Church in Oakland, California, put together by their pastor Bishop Dr. W.C. McClinton. We liked Champion so much that in 2018 we decided to make an album together, and to record it analog like the gospel recordings we love, on a two-track Nagra reel-to-reel. Over the course of just two evenings (when the workday was done), Champion taught his band—musicians who had never played together before—a handful of songs that he regularly performed.
What followed was several years of trying to figure out how to move forward – Champion refused to be interviewed for the liner notes or to come to New York to keep recording. But there was something special that happened with everyone in that room those days, never to be repeated. It wasn’t perfect, but it was honest.
As time went on, Champion kept refusing to be interviewed, saying that he’d had a hard life and he didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to talk about growing up in Louisiana, his mother being accosted by the Klan, or about his father’s gambling. He didn’t want to talk about being jailed for 90 days for using a “whites-only” bathroom, being in gangs or having a street name. We said that was fine—he could talk about what he wanted to talk about. And he said that he didn’t really want to talk about anything.
Unfortunately those conversations ended as Pastor Champion died in the last month of 2021. So we have this album as a remembrance of him. It’s quite a different record for us, almost Alan Lomaxian in feel, if Alan Lomax recorded outsider, soul gospel artists who played electric guitar.
Champion knew that this record wasn’t going to be for everyone. He didn’t really care. The important part for him was just getting the message out there in the same way that he always had: traveling alone with his electric guitar. “I want to say what I mean,” he said, “be practical, precise, to the point, and, at the same time, diplomatic.” In other words, he just wanted to be a good man.
God bless Pastor Champion and Mother Champion, peace be with them and their family. Love to all.