Afternoon Song – Take Me To The King
Tamela Mann’s 2012 #1 gospel hit, “Take Me To The King”, could be an utterly individualistic “just-you-and-me-God” song, but for two things:
1 – it emerges from the African-American sacred song tradition where, as scholar Bernice Johnson Reagon reminds us, “there is no ‘I’ without a ‘we'”. So when Mann sings “I don’t have much to bring…I’m trying to pray…I’m all churched out“, what’s unspoken is that there’s a community surrounding and supporting her in her struggle (musically, that’s why the choir’s there backing her up).
2 – in the middle of the song, composer Kirk Franklin tucks this verse:
We need a word for the people’s pain;
So Lord, speak right now; let it fall like rain.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann has written extensively about the prophetic tradition in the Bible and its understanding of how change happens. And what Brueggemann says is that without a word for the people’s pain, change will not happen. What initiates an end to oppression (e.g., slavery in Egypt for the ancient Israelites) is what Brueggemann calls “the public expression of private pain“.
Mann is singing out of that tradition, too.