56 “I’m In The Battlefield For My Lord” by Rev. D.C. Rice & His Sanctified Congregation


July 5, 2011 by gadaya

“All Negro-made church music is dance -possible… The service is really drama with music. And since music without motion is unnatural among Negroes there is alwayas something that approaches dancing-in fact, IS dancing-in such a ceremony. So the congregation is restored to its primitive altars under the new name of Christ.” Zora Neale Hurston. The Sanctified Church. Turtle Island, Berkeley, 1983

Once again, I’ll use Paul Oliver’s “Songsters and Saints” book to tell about Reverend D.C. Rice, the last preacher to appear on Harry Smith’s Anthology and the one concluding the “Social” set, singing the joyful “I’m In The Battlefield For My Lord”, along with his Congregation and Jazz band.

“Rice was born around 1888 in Barbour County, Alabama and attended his father’s Baptist church there. During the war he moved to Chicago and was “saved” when he joined Bishop Hill’s Church of The Living God, Pentecostal on the East Side. After Hill’s death in 1920 he took over a small Sanctified church which expanded through the appeal of his leadership, and the attraction of the eight or nine piece bands which he often used. In 1928, having heard recordings by Reverend McGee and Reverend Gates, he sought a recording session with Jack Kapp of Vocalion Records, who told him “to preach like you’re preaching to the whole world out there”. Though scared, “I just let myself go and preached like the Lord told me to save all the sinners in the world”. His sermon, based on Luke 24:2, “and they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre”, was a forceful but very condensed summary of the Resurrection.

“The Angels Rolled The Stone Away”

It was more for his singing and music than for his preaching that Rice’s records are notable. A large proportion of his recordings were songs without sermons, including Who Do You Call That Wonderful Counsellor, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?, and a version of the same song, Sin Is To Blame, that Rev. McGee has recorded earlier. When he preached, his sermons were brief, as on I Will Arise And Go To My Father, stating a text and describing it before leading his congregation into song. He was a firm, clear preacher with a full voice, but he did not match this with an interpretative skill; his sermons pointed no morals, drew no conclusions.  Clearly he was aware of other preachers, particularly Rev. McGee, and recorded a version of Shall Not A Dog Move His Tongue, quoting Exodus 11:7. “When I use the word “dog”, I do not mean the natural dog, but you that have a dog-like spirit. You bark at the pastors, you snap at the deacons…”, he explained. But he did not develop the theme, undoubtedly derived from McGee, nor did he fefer to it again in his short sermon, which continued the story of Moses before Pharaoh.

“Who Do You Call That Wonderful Counsellor”, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”, “Sin is to Blame”, “I Will Arise and Go to My Father”, “Shall Not A Dog Move His Tongue”

Most original of Rice’s recordings was the fifth to be issued, though it was made at his second session, Come and See. Drawing from the sixth chapter of Revelations it described the opening of the Seven Seals, with the title a sung refrain:

And I saw when the Lamb had opened one of the seals

And I heard the first beast saying-

Come and see; come and see; come and see….

And there went forth a white horse and he that sat upon him

Had a bow and a crown.

And he went forth conquering and to conquer,

And I heard the second beast saying-

Come and see; come and see; come and see…

So he continued through the opening of the seals in turn with the congregation singing the refrain in slow harmony, the trombone playing majestically with them. Rev. Rice, with his talent for condensing the scriptures continued:

I looked under the altar and I saw the souls

That were slain for the word of God,

And for the testament of Jesus,

And they looked out and cried with a loud voice,

How long, Oh Lord, dost thou judge and avenge our blood?

White robes were given to each of them,

That they might rest for a season,

And I heard the sixth beast saying-

Come and see; come and see; come and see…

“Come and See”

Testify-For The Lord is Coming Again was sung in responsorial form by Rice and his congreagation to the boom of a bass, piano and clattering tambourine:

Testify (Testify!) Don’t be sad (Don’t be sad!)

Tell the truth (tell the truth!) Don’t you add (don’t you add)

For no adder- can’t go in,

For my Lord is coming back again.

Sanctified father, sanctified son,

Sanctified people, all are one

If you’re not sanctified-can’t go in-

For my Lord is coming back again.

Testify- For The Lord Is Coming Back Again

We Got The Same Kind of Power Over Here, made at Rice, last session in mid-1930, was to the customary form of a Testifying meeting. Rev. Rice’s wife was called upon to testify:

I’m saved and I’m sanctified, baptized with the Holy Ghost and power,

Speaking with tongues as the spirit give up.

I thank God today for the same power,

That raised up jesus from the dead,

Has also quit my mortal body

And today I’m running up the King’s Highway- pray for me!

“Hallelujah!” responded Rice, “it’s a wonderful power in the blood”.

We Got The Same Kind of Power Over Here

Rev. Rice’s recording career stopped in 1930 because of The Depression and he left Chicago for Jackson, Alabama, where he had a small church for two years. In 1932, he became the pastor of the Oak Street Holiness Church in Montgomery , Alabama, and in 1941 also became Bishop of The Apostolistic Overcoming Holy Church of God for Alabama, Georgia and Florida. He had electric organ, and other instruments, depending on the musicians in his congregation. However, at this time only his Vocalion recordings survive. Bishop Rice passed on in March 1973, in Montgomery, Alabama. (from Roger  Misiezwicz’s notes on Document’s Complete recorded works of Rev D. C. Rice)

I’m In The Battlefield For My Lord

This classic gospel song, written by Sylvana Bells and E.V. Banks, and performed here with lots of swing by Rev. D.C Rice, his congregation and some jazz musicians, is the perfect closing for the religious set of the Anthology. The song itself is an old favorite of Gospel singers, using the war imagery to express one’s faithful worship of God.

I’ve selected a few recordings of the song, all but one (an electronic-pop version from australian songwriter Charles Du Cain) from Gospel performers.

  1. I’m In The Battlefield For My Lord  Rev. D.C. Rice   1928-30
  2. I Am On The Battlefield For My Lord/I’m A Soldier United States Army Field Band In My Dream
  3. On The Battlefield For My Lord (feat. Juanita Harris) The Choral Project Tell the World
  4. I’m On The Battlefield For My Lord Charles Du Cane Tomahawk
  5. On the Battlefield for My Lord Curtis Lundy Gospel Glory
  6. I’m on the Battlefield for My Lord Ethel Caffie-Austin The Harry Smith Connection: A Live Tribute to the Anthology

(Click on Harry Smith to download all the tracks of this post)


6 thoughts on “56 “I’m In The Battlefield For My Lord” by Rev. D.C. Rice & His Sanctified Congregation

  1. christine says:

    Thanks very, very much for this! Love this old stuff!

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks again for all of your wonderful work and thought ….

  3. anttumad says:

    As we all say: thanks!
    Great job lot of knowlege and pleasure.
    Thanks a lot from a hot Spain city.

  4. denis_denis says:

    but that can’t be him singing ‘battlefield’ can it? It’s so high-pitched…

  5. Useful info. Fortunate me I discovered your website unintentionally, and I’m surprised why this accident did not took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

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