Saturday, August 25, 2007

Redd, Ray and Andre's Prayer

Ray Scott - The Prayer

Today's selection continues the "something different" theme from yesterday's post. Redd Foxx had a comedy routine called "The Prayer" which found Foxx taking on the tones of a black preacher to wish a litany of disasters upon Alabama governor George Wallace, then one of most prominent faces of segregationism (he of "segregation now, segregation forever" infamy). Legendary singer/songwriter/producer/"Black Godfather" Andre Williams hooked up with comedian/singer Ray Scott to record a version of the routine, in which Scott put all of his fervor into the presentation with appropriate church organ accompaniment and background vocalists adding a "church" feel. The result had a 1970 release as a Checker 45 (backed with the countrified novelty "Lily White Mama, Jet Black Dad"), which led to an LP the following year. I can understand the LP being released - Chess had a strong series of party records featuring Pigmeat Markham, Moms Mabley and others - but a 45 release strikes me as slightly unusual, as I'm sure radio airplay for "The Prayer" was non-existent, for reasons discussed below.

"The Prayer" is pretty startling despite its humorous tack, as Scott's pleading includes requests that "the Governor" (as Wallace is referred to on the record) have an auto accident (involving a gasoline truck) and end up in the hospital being operated on by "a junkie with a gorilla on his back and an orangutan in his room ... [with] a rusty scalpel in his hand," among other things. I'm sure "church folks" found the whole thing sacriligious, although the lyrics must've struck a nerve among its listeners. (I heard several party albums from the '70s which made it clear that, at least in some circles, the shooting of Wallace in 1972, which left the governor-turned-presidential candidate partially paralyzed, was seen by some as an act of justice; in the later '70s Wallace would experience a religous conversion and disavow his previous stance.) A record like "The Prayer" probably couldn't get released today, in light of the Dixie Chicks' travails following a criticism of the President at a concert, making it even more of an oddity today.

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