We haven’t had any big band swing music added to the Jukebox Hero Hymnal yet, and our old pal Virginia, aka Rocket Scientist, believes it’s high time that situation was remedied. So, at her request, here’s Harry James & His Orchestra with “The Devil Sat Down And Cried” written by Walter Bishop, Sr.
Although it was Walter Bishop, Jr. who would gain the most notoriety as a bebop pianist playing with the likes of Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford and Miles Davis, his father Walter Bishop, Sr. was no slouch. Along with being a drummer in various swing bands, Bishop, Sr. was also an avid composer, churning out such numbers as “Boogie Woogie Comes to Town,” “Jack, You're Dead!” and his most recorded tune, “Swing, Brother Swing.”
The Bishop family lived in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural and artistic movement that centered around the predominantly black sub-section of Manhattan between the end of World War I and the middle of the 1930s. And as noted in the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, “the religious scene in Harlem experienced the same kind of dynamism that was propelling achievement in the arts, so the Harlem Renaissance was not only a period of artistic and literary vitality but of religious vitality as well.”
In fact, some people thought religion was showing a bit too much vitality in the neighborhood. As the Encyclopedia goes on to explain, “by the 1930s, it was arguable that there were more churches per square mile in Harlem than anywhere else in the country, so many that Harlemites complained there were too many churches with too many preachers.” Be that as it may, it does illustrate that there was a sizable audience for religious based tunes, and Walter Bishop, Sr. was happy to oblige with “The Devil Sat Down And Cried.”
Now, I don’t know if the devil can actually cry or not (John Milton thought he could), but I’m pretty sure he feels anger and frustration whenever someone repents of their sins. In his book, “Catholic Christianity,” Dr. Peter Kreeft explains that “the devil hates and fears the confessional more than any place on earth outside the Eucharist itself.” And why wouldn’t he? A penitent heart pretty much undoes the old goat’s life’s work. Oh well, his pain, our gain.
“Blessed is the one whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit… Many are the sorrows of the wicked one, but mercy surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; exult, all you upright of heart.” (Psalms 32:1-2, 10-11, NABRE)