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SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - "The Virgin Mary Had One Son" by The Staple Singers

The Staple Singers, of course, were heroes of the civil rights movement and creators of top hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” But they originally recorded rural folk music for the obscure Riverside label -- including this rare 45, “The Virgin Mary Had One Son.” Roebuck “Pops” Staples probably heard this ancient spiritual from freed former slaves at the turn of the last century growing up in tiny Drew, Mississippi.

The song is dominated by Pops’ spook, tremolo-laden guitar and Mavis and her siblings sing it like a minor key lament, slow and mournful. It hearkens to a much older time and place – and the result is a wonderful elegy to close the tumultuous year of 2022!

MUSIC: Staple Singers, “The Virgin Mary Had One Son,” 45 (December 31, 2023)

Staple Singers - Virgin Mary Had One Son.mp3

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU and the Black Gospel Music Preservation Program at Baylor University Libraries.

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Robert F. Darden is the author of two dozen books, most recently: Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-In to Resurrection City (Penn State University Press, 2016); Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement(Penn State University Press, 2014); Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor(Abingdon Press, 2008), Reluctant Prophets and Clueless Disciples: Understanding the Bible by Telling Its Stories(Abingdon Press, 2006); and People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music(Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2004).