Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Titanic: An eerie song

Lord Pirrie, chairman of H&W (left) and Bruce Ismay, chairman of White Star, make a final tour of inspection of Titanic before her launch. 31/5/1911. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Blind Willie Johnson was a travelling preacher who made some eerie sounds on his slide guitar.

Among his bestselling gospel records, produced at the end of the 1920s, was this individual take on the Titanic story.

Blind Willie didn’t write his own material and one of his trademarks was to sing the first half of a line, then finish the phrase on guitar, relying on his audience to fill in the gap.

The lyrics of God Moves on the Water mentioned Captain Smith and stated “many gunshots were fired” but this wasn’t a hellfire and damnation view, suggesting the Almighty sank the Titanic in judgement, more an exploration of His mysterious ways.

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