There is never a bad time to hear the song What A Friend We Have In Jesus, is there? Alright; I’m speaking as a Christian (although I wonder if at least some who confess no formal creed might admit to feeling similarly). But whenever I hear this song, no matter how corny or how thrilling the particular version might be, it lifts me up on some indefinable level and genuinely comforts something deep inside, whether you want to characterize that something as a Jungian inner child or a deep and dark weeping soul. It’s a song that gets to the heart of the matter.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Ella Fitzgerald’s version (below) may be nothing spectacular; for a woman who was one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, there’s no showing off here. But then, one of the reasons she rates among the three or four greatest popular singers of the past one hundred years is that she didn’t show off. Her immense ability was deployed with grace, intelligence and — at all times– great class.
She worked with great arrangers, but this is no flashy arrangement either. The back-up singers might seem kinda hokey, but I think in the end it comes out just right.
Available on the album Ella Fitzgerald: Spirituals