Nellie Lutcher: A Maid's Prayer
A Maid's Prayer
Nellie Lutcher (piano, vocals)
Nellie Lutcher And Her Rhythm (Bear Family)
Nellie Lutcher (piano, vocals),
Hurley Ramey (guitar), Truck Parham (bass), Alvin Burroughs (drums).
Composed by Nellie Lutcher & Florida Morgan.
Recorded: Chicago, December 28, 1947
Rating: 80/100 (learn more)
"A Maid's Prayer" is one of the oddest items in singer-pianist Nellie Lutcher's discography – or anyone else's, for that matter – and makes for a fascinating footnote in the story of Afro-American race relations. The piece was written at a time when domestic service was virtually the only avenue of employment open for black women, and, by way of example, virtually every black actress in Hollywood was playing maids; Academy Award-winner Hattie McDaniel famously said that portraying a maid on the screen was the only alternative to actually working as one.
Credited to Nellie Lutcher herself along with one Florida Morgan, "A Maid's Prayer" has a strong sense of humorous irony. The piece is essentially a spoken monologue, which Lutcher delivers in rubato with her own piano accompaniment. In a prescient prequel to Arthur Prysock's "A Working Man's Prayer," this is a semi-spoken monologue in which a working girl ponders what existence will be like for a domestic in the hereafter. When she crosses the River Jordan, will she still have to make the beds and empty the garbage cans? Will she have to polish the stars and hang them out? She recites:
I know I will be discouraged
I know I will be dismayed
If I should be a maid in Heaven
And still be underpaid.
Also, along with Louis Jordan's "Ofay And Oxford Grey" and the Golden Gate Quartet's "No Restricted Signs Up In Heaven," it's one of the few mainstream recordings by entertainers of the period to examine the social status quo. Unlike Frank Sinatra's "The House I Live In," the surface of the piece is not directly concerned with racial issues, but there's no denying that's what the subtext is.
Reviewer: Will Friedwald