‘Say Amen' to Howard Hewett

Isn't it funny how a song can transport you to another time or remind you of the person who turned you on to it? During the '80s, when BET was still new to the airwaves and MTV hadn't embraced hip-hop wholeheartedly, my friend Latisha introduced me to “Parents Just Don't Understand” before it was a hit, Kool Moe Dee's “Wild Wild West” and J.J. Fad's “Supersonic” via mix tapes (our West Virginia pop stations were strictly Top 40).

The song that reminds me most of Latisha isn't hip-hop, though. It's the incredible gospel song, “Say Amen,” by Howard Hewett, who we then knew from Shalamar's “Dancing in the Sheets.” Our gym teacher humored us on Talent Day by letting Tish karaoke (before we knew what that was) to “Say Amen.” My friend Wendy and I acted as backup singers, even dressing up for these “events.”(We had big plans. Tish was going to be a big-time R&B singer and I, her manager).

Despite its title, “Say Amen” didn't strike me as a gospel song – which wouldn't have been particularly cool to a hair-metal- and R&B-ensconced pre-teen. It's just a beautifully written and sung song, becoming more so with its meaning. Hewett, who maintains a great voice to this day whether singing R&B or gospel, will likely perform it Saturday at Stir.