If you've picked up Paul Simon's excellent new release So Beautiful or So What, you might have noticed a familiar voice on the lead track, "Getting Ready For Christmas Day."
What you're hearing are the dulcet tones of none other than Rev. J.M. Gates, who has received his highest profile reference in a popular song since Mott the Hoople named a song "Death May Be Your Santa Claus."
The original sermon, "Gettin' Ready For Christmas Day," was recorded in the Kimball Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia on October 2, 1941, a little over two months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In addition to the jailer and the undertaker, Rev. Gates had no idea that Emperor Hirohito was also getting ready...
Ahh... I want to give you a talk (yeah) this morning (Alright.) from this subject – getting ready for Christmas day. The 25th day of December. You getting ready now.
Some have had their garments (That’s true.) laid away, paying some (Yes, they is.) this week, some the next week, getting ready for Christmas day.
Some have taken their last nickel, paid it on an automobile, getting ready for Christmas day. But let me tell you something. Somebody is getting ready for you. And let me tell you, namely, the undertaker, he’s getting ready for your body. Not only that, the jailer he’s getting ready for you, Christmas day. Hmm?
And not only the jailer, but the lawyer, the police force, now getting ready for Christmas day. And let me tell you, they’re getting ready for you now, and I want you to bear it in mind that they’re getting ready.
You want to be ready. I wants to be ready, getting ready for Christmas day. Done made it up in your mind that I’m going, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago. I am going on a trip, getting ready for Christmas day.
But when Christmas comes, nobody knows where you’ll be. You might ask me. I may be layin’ in some lonesome grave, (That’s true.) getting ready for Christmas day. You may live, 24 days, hmm, and then live till the midnight hour, not be able to see the morning sun rise, getting ready for Christmas day. Getting ready, done put in for your pass, "I’m going and see my relatives in a distant land."
Getting ready, getting ready for Christmas day. Greasin’ up your gun, getting your dirk in order, getting your ice picks ready, getting ready for Christmas day.
Oh, I want to say to you, not only get ready, but be ready, get your heart ready, get your heart fixed. Go down to the Holy Ghost station, stay there till you get your hearts fixed, getting ready for Christmas day.
There's more references to African American religious music on Simon's new album. In addition to "Getting Ready For Christmas Day," the penultimate track on So Beautiful Or So What, "Love & Blessings," features a sample of a 1938 recording of "Golden Gate Gospel Train" by the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (later known simply as the Golden Gate Quartet). This album is positively dripping with wonderful old music!
"Gettin' Ready For Christmas Day" is available on the superb Dust-to-Digital box set, Goodbye Babylon. Well worth checking out in full...
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Here's the official music video for Paul Simon's "Getting Ready For Christmas Day," featuring J.M. Gates!