“Wade in the water, Wade in the water, Children wade in the water, God is gonna trouble these waters.” Listening to these words pouring forth from Miss Freddye in a sonorously soothing and firmly rounded voice, one can’t help but feel themselves being submerged into large, calm waters of peace and serenity. The repetition of those mystical words “Wade in the water” is hypnotizing and draws the listener into a spiritual trance that they can only snap out of once the piece is done.
The hymn has a certain aged and historical touch to it, and well, that is because it is a historic folk song. It is believed that it was sung to runaway slaves by the African American abolitionist and superwoman Harriet Tubman to avoid being trailed by the slave-masters’ sniffer dogs. Miss Freddye’s rendition of the hymn is a bridge between the ancient and the present, fusing the stories of those among whom the song originated with our experience of the modern world in which we live.
The song’s spiritual lyrics are dotted all through with biblical allusions such as “didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel, well, then why not every man” and “looks like the children that Moses led” but in a manner that does not saturate the song as to exclude listeners that are not theists or that do not subscribe to Christianity. It is more of a comforting and reassuring piece of musical art that can appeal to any music lover that appreciates the art. The song is laden with a message of hope in the midst of adversity with lyrics such as “ The Jordan’s water is chilling cold, it chills my body but not my soul, he’s gonna trouble the waters”.
The hushed, toned-down percussion and gently-persistent piano organ provide a surface for the pleasant sonic waves of Miss Freddye’s vocals to float and hover upon. The background vocalists emphasize the words of the “Lady of Blues,” and their humming gives the song that spiritual, sacred, and holy aura that elevates the song’s impact on the listener.
As much as it is not an original composition, Miss Freddye’s rendition of this beautiful folk song will extend its reach to a larger audience and make it more relatable and appealing to a modern audience. And with all that is happening in the world at the moment, we definitely can use the reassurance from the “Lady of Blues” to wade these murky waters.