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SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - Clara Ward

Marian Williams takes the lead on the Clara Ward and the Ward Singers’ version of Brewster’s memorable “I’m Climbing Up Higher and Higher.”

In the gospel music pantheon, Clara Ward ranks behind only Mahalia among the great female gospel singers. She was a brilliant singer, arranger, pianist and songwriter. She was Aretha Franklin’s greatest influence. Her groups, including the Famous Ward Singers produced more exceptional soloists than even the Caravans and released enduring classics like “How I Got Over,” “Packing Up,” and the million-selling “God is Able.” At their peak, from 1950 to the mid-1970s, there were three Ward Singers on the road, one led by Clara, one led by sister Willa, and one led by their mother, Gertrude!

The album I Feel the Holy Spirit from 1959 features the Ward Singers’ greatest lineup: Marion Williams, Frances Steadman, Kitty Parham, Willa Ward, and Henrietta Waddy. As always, Clara’s albums feature several songs composed by the gifted preacher and songwriter, the Rev. Herbert Brewster. Here’s Marian Williams singing lead on Brewster’s, “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher” – which is the only gospel song I know that rhymes “justification” and “tribulation”!

2309 Clara Ward - I'm Climbing Higher and Higher.mp3

MUSIC: “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher,” Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers, from the LP I Feel the Holy Spirit, Side 2, Track 2

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU, the Black Gospel Music Preservation Program at Baylor University Libraries and is funded by generous support from the Prichard Foundation.