Nine hundred body bags came home from Vietnam in December of 1967. My friend Ziggy brought his friend Eric Clapton over and we watched a Lyndon Johnson speech with the sound off and music on. I was on disciplinary probation, a reverse badge of honor. My roommate and I were minnows in the struggle, but our phone was tapped. If you’re getting the idea that this was a depressing time — I mean, depressing in the extreme — you’re absolutely right.

In this state of despair, I went to a Marion Williams concert. I knew nothing about her. But something happened there, something magical and, I want to say, chemical, because I was flying as I walked home. And I stayed high for weeks.

It’s December again, and, judging from the news, depressing once again. And I thought: Well, it worked once…

This time around, I know a bit about Marion Williams (1927-1994). Left school at 9. At 20, a gospel group heard her and hired her. In 1965, she began a solo career.

Her influence was bigger than her career. Little Richard said his vocals in “Tutti Frutti” were inspired by her high-octave cries. Aretha Franklin recorded two of her songs.

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Surely others who heard her on college campuses heard what I did — the power of belief. “When I’m singing, I get inspired by God,” she said. “I call it ‘the anointing.’ It’s an extra-special thing.” [To buy the 26 song CD, “Packin’ Up: The Best of Marion Williams,” from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]


The last minute is everything.