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SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - Willie Mae Ford Smith


Gospel music’s least recorded superstar, Willie Mae Ford Smith, could make grown men weep with “The Lifeboat is Coming.”

Willie Mae Ford Smith is one of the very few – very few -- gospel singers whose voice and presence are on par with Mahalia Jackson. She influenced generations of artists. Her performances are legendary in gospel circles. And yet, we only have a handful of recordings by this generational artist.

Smith didn’t record her first album, I Believe I’ll Run On until 1973 – when she was 67 years old. She’d spent her life working and evangelizing, in first the Baptist, then the Holiness denominations and never seemed to find the time for a recording session.

A few scattered 78s and 45s are all we have of her legendary performances -- old hymns and gospel songs like “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away,” “If You Just Keep Still,” “If Jesus Had to Pray” and her most famous song, “The Lifeboat is Coming.” And it’s said that when she sang “Lifeboat” in churches, women threw their purses on the stage and grown men wept.

2226 Willie Mae Ford Smith - The Lifeboat Is Coming 44100 1.mp3

MUSIC: “The Lifeboat is Coming,” by Willie Mae Ford Smith from the LP I Believe I’ll Run On, Side 1, Track 4.

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