Marshall Chapman just announced the May 15 release of new album Songs I Can't Live Without on her own Tall Girl imprint. It's a collection of cover songs that trace Chapman's musical influences, starting with her early life exposure to a gospel standard many of us first heard in Sunday school, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
"'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands' is the first song I remember singing as a child. I was eight years old," Chapman says. "It was a big hit on the radio by an English singer named Laurie London. It's one of those songs you know the minute you hear it. Anyway, this was Spartanburg, South Carolina. TB and LeNoir Thackston lived next door to us. LeNoir was my great aunt. Her oldest son, Barry, was in the Air Force stationed in Texas. Whenever Barry would be home on leave, all the kids in the neighborhood would go crazy. That's because Barry loved children. (Children can always tell when adults love them.) He even had nicknames for us. His nickname for me was 'Cookie.' Harriette Elmore who lived across the street was 'Monkey.'
"Barry knew I loved to sing, so he would encourage me," she continues. "'Hey Cookie!' he'd shout out. 'Sing that song about 'He's Got the Whole World in his Hands'.' So I'd start singing it in my little eight-year-old voice. And Barry would get so happy, his happiness just pulled that song right out of me. When we first tracked this album, another song was the closer. But it just didn't seem quite right. So for days and days I thought about a replacement. Then it hit me that a gospel song might be the ticket. I considered 'I Shall Not Be Moved.' But then I remembered 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.' The day we recorded this was the day of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. I was driving to the studio in East Nashville, and when I saw all the flags at half mast, I had to pull over to the side of the road. There I jotted down notes for the recitation that you hear at the end of this recording. I hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoyed recording it."
Tellingly, Chapman's cover has already gotten high praise from at least one famous peer.
"It's a gift and a blessing that the Tall Girl has put a fresh frame around nine songs that none of us should have to live without," adds Rodney Crowell in a press release. "And there's the added value of Her sermon at the end of 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands' quite possibly halting the spread of COVID-19."
Chapman is known to both country and rock audiences as a gifted singer-songwriter and the author of Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller (St. Martin's Press, 2003) and They Came to Nashville (Vanderbilt University Press, 2010).
The Spartanburg, South Carolina native became one of Nashville's great songwriter rebels in the '70's as both the solo artist behind Epic Records release Jaded Virgin (1978) and other albums plus songs cut by mainstream stars, including Olivia Newton-John's "I Think I'll Say Goodbye," Jessi Colter's "A Woman's Heart (Is a Handy Place to Be)," Tanya Tucker's "You Can't Run From Yourself," John Hiatt's "Old Habit are Hard to Break," Emmylou Harris' "Better Off Without You," Joe Cocker's "Just to Keep From Drowning," the often-covered "Somewhere South of Macon," "Last Mango in Paris" and other Jimmy Buffett standards and the No. 1 Sawyer Brown hit "Betty's Bein' Bad."
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She's also a frequent collaborator of another prolific songwriting talent, Matraca Berg. The pair contributed songs to Good Ol' Girls, an off-broadway country musical about the lives of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle.
Like her childhood idol Elvis Presley, Chapman has often sprinkled gospel music into her catalog. She's credited with The Lewis Family's "Livin' in the Name of Love" and Russ Taff's "Take My Hand."