My song today is ‘Peace in The Valley’. This song was written in 1937 by Thomas A. Dorsey, originally for Mahalia Jackson. The song became a hit in 1951 for Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys, reaching Number seven on the ‘Country & Western Best Seller Chart’. It was among the first gospel recordings to sell one million copies. Foley's version was a 2006 entry into the ‘Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry’.
In 1950, it was one of the first songs recorded by a young Sam Cooke, during his tenure as lead singer of the Soul Stirrers. After the success of Red Foley's interpretation, Jo Stafford recorded the song for her 1954 gospel album ‘Garden of Prayer’.
The song achieved enormous celebrity during Elvis Presley’s third and final appearance on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ on January 6 of 1957. Before an audience estimated at 53 million viewers, Presley closed the show by dedicating the song to the 250,000 refugees fleeing Hungary after the 24 and 31 October 1956 double-invasion of that country by the Soviet Union. Because he also requested that immediate aid be sent to lessen their plight, the appeal, in turn, yielded contributions amounting to US$6 million, or the equivalent of US$49.5 million in today's dollars.
Over the next 11 months, the International Red Cross in Geneva, with the help of the US Air Force, organized the distribution of both perishables and non-perishables purchased with the above-mentioned funds to the refugees in both Austria and England where they settled for life. On October 15, 1957, Presley's first Christmas album, containing a master studio recording of the song, was released, topping the Billboard Charts for 4 weeks and selling in excess of three million copies, as certified by the RIAA on 15 July of 1999. Because of these extraordinary developments, Istvan Tarlos, the Mayor of the city of Budapest, in 2011 and as a gesture of belated gratitude, named a park after him, as well as making him an honorary citizen.
Eventually, the song became a country-pop favourite and was recorded by Little Richard on his 1961 Quincy Jones-produced gospel album ‘The King of The Gospel Singers’. Other artists also recorded the song, including Connie Francis (1961): George Jones (1962): Johnnie Cash: Loretta Lynn: Dolly Parton and Faith Hill among numerous others.
During my early childhood, every boy and girl in the land would attend the Saturday morning Matinee at the local cinema. Those friends who didn't have the money for the entrance fee would stand outside the emergency exit door that was always situated near the toilets. After the auditorium lights had been dimmed at the start of the film, someone would go to the toilets, open the emergency door and admit their penniless friends to a free showing.
It mattered not that the film changed every Saturday morning as the experience which cinema-goers encountered would always remain the same. The film would always be a cowboy film of the wild west. The story would never alter and would be set around the travels of a long wagon train, travelling from the east to the wild west of America. The covered wagons would carry hard-working families of good character beneath their moving canvases. The story would tell about their individual struggles across the dangerous plains and their courage in overcoming them. All the travellers would be looking for a spot of land where they would build their log house and settle down peaceably with their family. Here they would live out the rest of their lives happily.
The place where the travellers would find and settle was always the very same image. It would be in the centre of a 'peaceful valley', with rich green pasture surrounding it on all sides, sheltered by a mountain at either side. Running through its vale will be a stream of the purest and coolest water that ever sprang from God's earth.
We all share the same dream today, but unfortunately, most of us will never experience anything like the peaceful surroundings of a family home. Those of us who have the good fortune to own our own house, spare a thought for those couples who will never own their own property however long and hard they work and save. Those of us who have a dry roof over our heads, give a thought to those who sleep rough on the open streets, in shop doorways, on park benches and beneath arches in cardboard boxes for warmth and protection. Those families who live in accommodation of sufficient room to afford each their own personal space, please give a thought for the many families on Social Security who live in 'emergency accommodation' for years., that comprises of no more than one room in which a family of five is expected to live, cook, eat, toilet and sleep!
I pray that they too could find 'Peace in the Valley'.
I jointly dedicate my song today to three people (two relatives and one neighbour), all of whom celebrate their birthday today. First, my nephew Gary, who is the son of my sister Mary and who lives in the Salford area of Manchester. Have a smashing birthday, Gary. Uncle Billy and Sheila xx
Next, is my great-nephew Jack who is the grandson of my brother Michael and his wife, Denise. Happy birthday from Great Uncle Billy and Sheila xx
Last but not least, is my close neighbour and friend, Andrea Leathley, who organises the 1940’s weekend in the village of Haworth yearly. Thank you for all the effort you put in throughout the year, Angela with your husband, Brian. Have a happy birthday, Love from your near neighbours Bill and Sheila xx
Love and peace Bill xxx