What a night! NSAI's Christian Writers Night is always great, but tonight, it was truly incredible: Dottie Rambo was the guest speaker!
I've been a fan of Dottie's for years. Her lyrics and melodies are inspiring and beautiful, and should be assigned homework for every Gospel songwriter. I've sung many of her songs, and "Sheltered In the Arms of God" has been particularly important for me. Monika and I have sung it together many times, and in my time of grieving, it carried me through many hard moments.
I'd never seen Dottie live, though I've heard and seen her many times on TV and CDs. I also have cassette tapes of her songwriting classes, so I've heard some of her personal stories. In person, she is very, very tiny. She wore a leather suit and full, fabulous make-up. And for those with an interest: She plays a Martin.
Guest speaker nights are organized with a one-hour interview, followed by a Q&A. We heard a lot about her childhood, including a wonderful description of her first discovery of her songwriting talents. First song at 8, touring at 12, and a publishing deal in her early twenties - what a life! She has now written over 2500 songs! It's no wonder Fanny Crosby is her hero. Who else is that prolific?
The guest speaker is always invited to play a few songs, so Dottie picked up her guitar and asked if there were any requests. Everyone else hesitated, so I called out "Sheltered in the Arms of God". She took a deep breath. Just seven months before his passing, Porter Wagoner and she recorded this song for her latest album (yes, she's still recording!). As she told the story, her voice choked up, and it became clear to me that this song has blessed the writer as much as its listeners. As she played the first verse, she forgot a few of the chords. But she was wonderful as she laughed at herself and said, "Hey Songwriters, do it this way!" She then invited us to sing along on the chorus, which was just incredible! Some people sang parts. Most of us choked back tears. What a blessing!
She had wonderful stories about the amazing people who have recorded her songs, like Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley. Apparently, Elvis was scheduled to record an entire album of her songs, but it was near the end, and his failing health prevented him from completing the project. Can you imagine Elvis doing "I Go to the Rock"? Such a loss...
Oh, and another interesting story: She wasn't allowed to record "I Go to the Rock" for four years after she wrote it! Other people could record it, but her record label wouldn't allow her to record it because it was "too rock and roll". Funny, huh?
She wrapped up the interview by leading the whole group in sing "If That Isn't Love". Wonderful!
After the formal interview, the floor was opened for questions. What I love about Dottie, besides her incredible talent, is her complete humility, and her awesome sense of humour. She doesn't take herself too seriously, and she loves a good practical joke (who knew?). She often spoke about her love of music, God, and people. She answered questions generously and with a loving spirit.
She recognizes her fame, but at the same time said, "The Lord is the star. You'd be a fool to try to outshine Him."
What an incredible, incredible night! I was talking to my aunt in Newfoundland today and telling her a little of my recent experiences. She remarked on all the amazing opportunities we're getting here in Nashville, and how we never would have had most of these experiences had we not taken the leap of faith to move here. I think tonight is the perfect example of such an experience!