Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lucy Smith Collier, Gospel Keyboardist, Dies

Those listening to the radio or attending gospel programs in Chicago during 1955 would have been treated to the Little Lucy Smith Singers (right) rendering their gospel hit, "Somebody Bigger than You and I," in soulfully rich, sweet harmonies.

Anthony Heilbut, author of The Gospel Sound, informed TBGB that Little Lucy Smith Collier passed away today.

In addition to fronting the popular female gospel group that bore her name, Collier was an amazing pianist and organist, serving for many years as a singer and principal accompanist for the Roberta Martin Singers.  She even served as matchmaker, introducing Martin to her father, James Austin, and the two eventually wed.

Collier's grandmother was Elder Lucy Smith, a pioneering female church leader whose All Nations Pentecostal Church was among the first African American churches in Chicago to have a regular radio broadcast.  Little Lucy, along with other gospel luminaries such as Gladys Beamon Gregory and Romance and Florence Watson, provided music for All Nations back in the day.

Heilbut, who recorded Collier in the early 1990s for a CD called The Soul of Chicago (Shanachie/Spirit Feel) notes that James Cleveland learned his piano techniques from Collier's playing.

Another member of gospel royalty has gone from labor to reward.  Bless you, Little Lucy Smith, for your many contributions to gospel music.

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