Along with hip hop, house is the most recent major musical genre born on our own soils. (Sometimes I think we forget that America is a real hothouse of musical invention.) Like its predecessors, jazz and the blues, it has spawned generations of disciples and many nuanced sub-genres.
The history of house is mostly an oral tradition with lovers and practitioners telling and retelling their experiences of the musical form and its trans-formative powers, these departures on the dance floor.
This recording of 'Stand on the Word' is one such example, not to mention an equally fine example of song-craft.
The original gospel anthem was performed by The Celestial Choir of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. The urgent soloist is Miss Kimberly Thomas-Locker. The choir performed under the direction of Ms. Phyllis Joubert. As a result, the recording was labeled as a performance by ‘The Joubert Singers.’
The track was discovered initially by early house pioneer, Tony Humphries, and beloved by another seminal DJ, Walter Gibbons. The performance was then tipped off to Paradise Garage maestro, Larry Levan. It was in Levan’s hands that the song became a legendary staple of his early Sunday morning set lists.
Although Levan has been credited with this remix, it is in fact the work of Humphries. Nevertheless, it was from the booth and on the dance floor of the Garage that the uplifting hook of this song took hold. In this way, the song exemplifies the collaborative nature of house music that calls on contributions from performer, remixer, DJ and dancers.
A regular at these light-of-dawn Paradise Garage performances describes the experience:
'Larry Played this often and at the same moment. When I heard it coming on, I would drop to my knees… Just great music and with those bass speakers!! Stand on the word! This sounded so good at the Garage at eight on a Sunday morning!'
History aside, ‘Stand on the Word’ stands on its own as an iconic house track. Built on the classic four over four rhythmic architecture; an uplifting and soulful vocal; and all of this mixed up in a steaming pool of gospel gravy, this is the kind of house that house built.
Similarly on the history of Paradise Garage and DJ Larry Levan, we highly recommend the excellent documentary film, Maestro.