Evie- "A Little Song Of Joy For My Little Friends"

                          "Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share."       


For most of the early through mid 1980’s, I was never one for going to bed without a fight of some sort. If it wasn’t the feeling that I was missing out on something going on when it was lights out, it was the terrors that hid behind the door, under the bed or in my young mind. Charismatic Christianity was alive and well in my household and I was terrified of Satan blasting my skull in as soon as the door was shut for the evening. Mind you, this was the era of "Satanic Panic". Also worthy of note, I DID see and feel things of an unearthly nature and while the me of today is much more at peace and welcoming of such events/vibrations, little boy Michael wasn't ready for such business. I would cry, I would scream and I would plead with my mother to let me either stay up later, sleep in her bed or on the floor in the hallway between our bedrooms, and nine out of ten, she would decline because she wanted me to overcome my fears. The times that she would give in, I would have a toy or fun outing taken way the next day as a lesson or punishment (cuz, well, Jesus). One way of assisting me in becoming a brave Man of God was by playing religious LPs for me to fall asleep to. Records by Lamb, Andre Crouch, Rez Band, Mylon Lafevere and Broken Heart and Petra as well as assorted other Jesus related cuts filled my room on any given night. While I was sometimes allowed to listen to secular radio during the day, it was forbidden at night to do such a thing because of certain (yes) spirits associated with the Devil’s music could possibly fill our home. And yes, I actually believed this when the sun went down. 


One such “safe” record was “A Little Song of Joy for My Little Friends” by the Christian recording artist Evie.  Filed under the “children's gospel” genre, “A Little Song…” flirted with lightly sleazed Nashville country, psychedelic candy, late 70’s Top 40 AM balladry, watered down funk and soul music as well as classic gospel. When other records wouldn’t calm me down, mom would put this record on and it brought a certain peace to me because a) I’d owned it since I was 3 and a half so it was extremely familiar and b) I was madly in love with Evie. My first imaginary girlfriends were my best friend Sara, Janet from Three’s Company and Evie. This album was a dark secret for me. When friends were over during the day, I would have it tucked away because I was embarrassed for its overt corniness, Christian sentimentality that the neighborhood kids just didn’t deem cool, as well as the strong love interest/gooey feelings for Evie at elementary school age I was grappling with at the time, which I guessed meant I was going straight to Hell at any given moment.

                                            Evie, "Everything is Beautiful", 1973

Evelyn Tornquist Karlsson was born in the United States to Norwegian immigrants on March 29th, 1956. She cut her first album (in English) at the age of 16 in 1972. After releasing roughly 30 albums in English and various Scandinavian languages, she married a Swedish pastor and musician by the name of Pelle Karlsson in 1979. In 1981, she retired from music to focus directly on Christian ministry work, heading up various women's ministries around Europe and the U.S. 

Another album of hers I remember listening to at home was called "Mirror". The cover was absolutely blasted with a psychedelic Evie logo and a small, circular mirror sticker directly in the middle of the art. I would spend hours staring into the tiny reflective sticker, looking at my contorted facial features. Praise the Lord! 

                                                                Evie's "Mirror", 1977

Twenty odd years ago, I played in a three piece band called "Legendary Singers". We cut one EP that made it as far as the cd-r format which made it into the hands of friends as well as a local college radio station in Lexington, KY. At the time I described the music as a blend of Tortoise and Minutemen but wouldn't dare draw such comparisons now. These days I'm honest and say that we were a sloppy, "screamy/yelly" rock group with melodic undertones. Maybe like a homeless, wasted Beefheart begging for coins outside a Joy Division tribute night(?). Sigh. The guitar player (Greg Backus) was/is incredible. Anyway, you get it. Our most ambitious piece took form as a long jam involving a Juno synthesizer that veered into "space rock" territory. Within said piece, we sampled a spoken word section from a song on the "A Little Song of Joy" record. The lyrics went: 

"Jesus isn’t just for big people, He loves little people too. Even though He’s a big grown up, He’ll fit right inside your little heart.  The amazing thing is gang, when He comes in your little heart now, as you grow, He’ll continue to grow inside and you’ll never lose the feeling of his love and that’s a lot of fun. With Jesus in your heart, the whole world looks a lot brighter and I should know because He’s been in my heart for a long, long time.” 

                                       Legendary Singers goobin' about in '99 or 2000?

I remember joking around as we recorded the song, speaking of the sample lightly, in a mocking tone. After all, it was Christian children's music from the late seventies. I enjoyed the fact that the sample was much creepier and stranger than the piece we three had brought to the table. After the members of Legendary Singers had left for the evening, I seem to remember feeling unsettled, uneasy about this song, this album, the message of Evie, and the heavy hand of Charismatic Christianity on western culture. I knew it was a good move to use such a sample, to "pervert" it into a secular context. Finding the worldliness within the soft textures, I saw it as a crucifixion of Christianity via a rock trio bent on denouncing organized religion. Soon enough I felt good about the choice and went to bed (or stayed up all night getting wasted?). 

                                            Gently brainwashing kids everywhere

Years later, sitting down to write this piece on Evie's "A Little Song of Joy for my Little Friends", I threw on a YouTube rip of the LP expecting pleasant memories, a new found respect for the session player's moves, aesthetic appreciation of this Swedish woman's religious take on children's music, a rekindling of my childhood crush, warmth of my now deceased mother putting a record on to soothe her sons' fears

and I found all of the above. I also revisited my relationship with the manipulation of sweet sounds to convince kids in the seventies that Jesus was the only answer. He wasn't. He's not. People are still selling this bullshit. On such a much larger scale. Wow. "A Little Song of Joy" is a helluva trip. Trippy Evie. A Little Trip of Hell. Childhood was insane. Christ insanity dripping through kid speakers. The drip that eased me to sleep at night against the spirits that lurked round the corner. Now those spirits are my friends. Take a look in the mirror and laff yer ass off. Jesus isn't just for big people. He loves little people too. 



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