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How I Got Over: Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers [Hardcover]

By Willa Ward-Royster (Author)
Our Price $ 43.78  
Retail Value $ 51.50  
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Item Number 119390  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   263
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.35" Width: 6.32" Height: 1.22"
Weight:   1.47 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jun 30, 1997
Publisher   Temple University Press
ISBN  1566394899  
EAN  9781566394895  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In 1931, Gertrude Murphy Ward was pressing clothes in a Philadelphia dry cleaning establishment when a voice said to her, "Go sing my Gospel and help save dying and lost men and women." With her two daughters, Clara and Willa, she went on to found the group that became the world-famous Ward Singers. By 1970, it took fifty police officers to control the crowds that greeted the Ward Singers at one of their concerts. Lavishly illustrated with photographs from the author's collection, this book chronicles the world-famous Ward Singers' story from rural Anderson, South Carolina, to the streets of North Philadelphia and beyond.Told by Clara Ward's older sister, Willa, with the assistance of musician and writer Toni Rose, the Wards' story ranges over the joys and frustrations, triumphs and agonies of what it means to be simultaneously a family, an entertainment business enterprise, and a group with a mission to spread God's word. Like many other gospel singers, the Wards grew up in poverty. Willa remembers living in twenty-four different homes before she was nineteen. This was especially true after Gertrude quit her job to sing for goodwill offerings. By the time of Clara's death in 1973, however, the group was performing all over the world. They appeared on television with Dinah Shore, Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and many others and recorded the first million-seller hit by a gospel group, "Surely God Is Able."From Ma Hannah, matriarch of the Murphy family, to Marion Williams, Mahalia Jackson, and C. L. Franklin, "How I Got Over" brings to life an unforgettable group of people, some famous, some unknown, as they are vividly recollected by a woman who was there. In her telling of heart-warming family scenes, childhood escapades, triumphant performances, Willa Ward-Royster re-creates a career and a way of life that will remain in the reader's memory. Willa Ward-Royster performed with the Clara Ward Singers as a solo artist and as head of several of her own groups. Though semi-retired, she still appears in combination with such former Ward Singers as Frances Steadman, Kitty Parham, and Esther Ford and performs in area suppler clubs, nursing homes, and senior centers. Toni Rose is a freelance writer and musician. She has worked with many bands and groups as a vocalist and drummer. She sculpts and writes poetry and was co-owner of High Fashion Designs: Ben-Toni Label.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Couldn't Put It Down  Jan 13, 2007
I read this because Clara Ward was a supporting character in the excellent biography of the legendary preacher, C. L. Franklin, "Singing in a Strange Land". I agree with other readers that Gertrude Ward was in serious need of extended psychiatric counseling and, very likely, an exorcism. It is beyond doubt that this dreadful woman worked her prodigously gifted daughter Clara to death and labored to deny her access to most human joys. "How I Got Over" is a real page-turner (I finished it in about 24 hours!). It gives the gospel world a bad image, but agrees with my experience (as a Christian) that the shameful private deeds of most pious Bible quoters could teach Hell's minions a few tricks. On the positive side, it (1) gives wonderful insight to the diabolical hardships Jim Crow imposed on Blacks (information most compelling in personal narratives), and (2) shows the magnitude of the debt owed to the Black church by lovers of 20th-century popular music. Despite the book's many virtues, it is obvious that Willa's depiction of Gertrude (and, perhaps, of Clara) is expurgated. For example, the unconscionably low compensation paid to the various Ward groups' supporting singers (and Willa herself) make one conjecture what those group members would have written about Gertrude and Clara.
God is Love and Love is For Everyone  Feb 22, 2003
The original Ward Singers are three strong, Black women who show the true integrity, fortitude, and legacy that belies the woman of color in America. For the understanding of my people I thank God that Willa Ward-Royster had the fortitude to persevere and complete this book. The Ward Singers fought, clawed, and starved to pave the way for our current gospel calvacade of stars today. Mama Gertrude was a fundamentalist steamroller who did wonders with the simple understandings that she grew up with. Clara was a prolific song writer/arranger and a tireless singer/work-aholic who had to work at fever pitch throughout her life to make even a small step away from that fundamentalist prison that she was born victim. Despite the slights from her own mother, Willarene remained selflessly loyal to the memory of her sister. As a sister Willa does protect the reader from much of Clara's activities and stories that do not directly intersect her performances. (You have to get those stories verbally from her contemporaries!) Clara should be proud that she liberated a generation. To deny her sexuality would be tantamount to denying her race. Look at her lyrics and her speeches: Clara still remains a Psalmist and a Prophet.
High Heels And Tambourines  Dec 17, 2002
Yes! Finally after looking for Highways and Hedges to no avail, I found How I Got Over! Never got to meet the lady, but was deeply moved and influenced by her. Met Gertrude, however and one of the Ward Singers. I'm afraid what Willa says about Gert is true and not bias!

Nonetheless, my questions were answered as to why I always sensed a sadness in Clara's incredible delivery. My heart broke for her, and I understand what I'd been told and what I read about the alcoholism!!!! Yes, she was the greatest gospel singer ever, and lives on in my heart, memory and music.

I don't find it funny!  Aug 29, 2001
Firstly to all who judge! You are not God. Clara Ward, her mother Mrs. Gertrude Ward, her sister and the other memembers of the Ward Singers were Christians yes. And who are we to say otherwise. But we seem to be forgetting that they are humans also. No man, or child is infallible. Christ was the only perfect creature to walk this earth. And in daily living we are to be like Him the best we can. This biography on Clara Ward was similar to "Got To Tell It: Mahalia Jackson The Queen of Gospel" in that it was out to soil the character of women who work on the Lord's behalf. We forget that. These woman were doing the Lord's work...the disciples had their faults to did they not...Jesus himself was tempted. I think that Willa Ward should be ashamed of herself that her jealousy towards her sister or her grudges against her mother should cause her to paint such a picture of them. If they were indeed like that you should have left that to God to review. I offer the same advice to Jules Schwerin and Brother John Sellers who did a fine job at creating a story that has a whole lot of misinformation (on the part of the author, Schwerin) and makes you believe that Mahalia Jackson was one of the cruelest people that ever walked the face of the earth. Both books make no mention of the fact that both women aided younger gospel singers with their careers and took care of young mother less children. Or the fact that Mahalia helped to send 50 black kids to school. Clara Ward was a mother to Aretha Franklin and her siblings after their mother passed in 1952 and was deeply admired by youngsters like Diana Ross. Or that Mahalia was a good role model and the idol and godmother-like figure to Della Reese, Shirley Caeser, Dorothy Love Coates, Mavis Staples, James Cleveland and Aretha Franklin. I find that both books tend to be biased and sided and unfare and not worth your money.
herstory: a balm in gilead  Aug 22, 2000
i truly enjoyed reading the ward sister story. telling the story including the good, the bad and the ugly is an effective catharsis tool for the reader as well as the storyteller.

the book tells the behind the scenes story of many gospel music greats. psychologist tell us that secrets left untold can create unhealthy manifestations. i applaud ward for telling her truth. let us remember that all families and business associates have disagreements and challenges. however, may we never forget that the ward sisters were also pioneering business women, fashion trend setters, and civil rights advocates - activities unheard of in the early 20th century for women of color. though staying behind as administrator of the company may seem unglamorous, it can now be seen as a blessing because ms. ward is still alive to receive all of the accolades bestowed upon the ward singers!

i honor their courage. may we learn from their humanness in all its joy and pain. it is my prayer that this book can be a balm in gilead to heal the gospel herstory/history that we seek to hide, and strengthens the stories behind the music that we find great pride in sharing.


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