Dottie Rambo - Remembered
I am still in a state of shock. When I received a phone call from a friend of mine around 8am Sunday morning, I never dreamed the news I was about to receive would be that Dottie Rambo had been killed in a tragic bus accident earlier that morning. My heart literally sank as I was hearing the news. What a tremendous loss, but I still can't help but think what a wonderful Mother's Day she had, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Dottie had spent her entire life singing and writing songs for Jesus. Her songs have reached literally millions of hearts and souls through such people as Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Barbara Mandrell, Happy Goodman Family, Greenes, Perrys, Kingsmen, Cathedrals, Oak Ridge Boys, Sandi Patti as well as her own family group, the Rambos; as these, along with so many other artists, have recorded and continue to record Dottie's "children", as she liked to call her songs. What a wonderful legacy she has left behind though her music. Very few people, I believe, sought the heart of the Master like Dottie Rambo did. She wrote what so many of us could not verbalize and was able to reach down and ##### our hearts though such tremendous and heartfelt offerings such as "He Looked Beyond my Fault", "If That Isn't Love", "Sheltered in the Arms of God", "We Shall Behold Him", "For What Earthly Reason", "Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of that City", "I've Never Been This Homesick Before", "I Will Glory in the Cross", "I Just Came to Talk with You Lord", "In the Valley He Restoreth My Soul" and so many more. One of my all-time favorite Dottie Rambo songs is one of her more obscure tunes the Rambos recorded back in 1981 called "You Will Have to Live the Song". That song could have been Dottie's testimony; as the song basically says "you will have to live the song before you know." Every note and every tear shed as Dottie travailed over her songs, she has lived (though it wasn't always easy) and she could convey those messages better than anyone.
Dottie's songs are such a wonderful portrayal of who she was and who Christ is. She allowed you to see her heart, all the while showing the listener the very heart of God. Countless people found comfort, tranquility, joy and love through her music, and though she walked through many valleys to bring us these songs, the very essence of those songs helped us through our very own dark days. Though her songs were so complex at times, they were yet, so very simple and easy to understand. Even as a child growing up on the Rambos music and Dottie's songs, I understood what she was writing about. I remember as an 8 years old child totally comprehending the message behind "In the Valley He Restoreth My Soul". Oh how that song has elevated me to spiritual heights when I needed it most. Dottie's songs could be quite serious; but she was also in many ways, a child at heart; as she so wonderfully displayed in her children's musical, "Down by the Creekbank" (which I performed at the age of 7 years old). Though it's been close to 30 years since I performed it, to this day it brings back incredible feelings of nostalgia and warmth. Dottie's music embodied everything that was good and right. No one could craft a song like Dottie Rambo. I don't think I've heard a song she wrote that I just didn't like. Some I liked more than others, but all have touched me in some way. She wasn't just at the top of her class; she owned the whole school.
I've been extremely privileged to meet Dottie on several occasions, the last being the middle of last year (2007) when she sang at South Henderson Pentecostal-Holiness Church in Henderson, North Carolina. I was able to spend a few moments with her as Larry Ferguson (her manager and a friend of mine) and I were helping her to the bus after the concert and I will forever treasure that time, albeit brief. I was also privileged to do an interview with Dottie about 8 years ago for this website and we talked for close to 3 hours about her music and her life; we laughed, we cried and we rejoiced. My admiration and respect for Dottie grew tremendously that evening and I will forever treasure that interview.
Being an observant person, I love to watch people. I have observed Dottie in several places and environments and have always found her to be the same, no matter where she was. Back in 2006 at the National Quartet Convention, I observed how she interacted with her fans. There was a very long line of people waiting to see her and she could have very easily just moved everyone along so she can be done with meeting people. But she took her time and intently listened to their comments and had real conversations with people when they came to meet her. She made each person feel like they were the only people in the world and that they were the only ones that mattered to her. Even some young boys (maybe around 10 or 12 years old) were so excited to meet her and she treated them with such respect. She loved people, and it was a genuine love. Most of the time, ministry isn't what is on the platform; it is usually that one on one interaction, displaying God's love and compassion, and Dottie displayed that better than anyone.
Dottie's legacy was felt in churches all across America (and probably the world) on the day she died, as I know of 3 churches around the country that used a Dottie Rambo song in their Mothers Day service, (one of them being my own church) and the people who sang those songs had no clue that she had left this world. I remember sitting at my own church as a lady stepped up to sing, "Come Spring" and thought, how ironic, but yet how appropriate. I couldn't help but smile as a slight tear ran down my face.
Dottie did not walk through this world unnoticed, as her legacy lives on and her songs continue to be an anchor of hope for those tossed on stormy seas. It could be said that each life is a song. I believe that Dottie's life was one big, beautifully written melody and she has lived that song to its fullest, all the way to the end. She spent 74 years writing this song, and that song is now complete; for what she has known only in part, is now completely made known. All the songs that she was blessed to pen, were only parts of her life song. You can literally look at each lyric and read her life story. As a testament to that, the lyric in one of her songs says, "the roads been long, I'm a little bit weary, many miles behind me, but Home's a lot nearer." Dottie has fought many long, hard battles here in this life and has endured many heartaches and struggles, but she's crossed over the river now and is standing on the other side, where she is forever "sheltered in the arms of God" in a land "where a heart will never break anymore!"
THE GREATEST SONG I EVER HEARD
Dottie Rambo was an amazing talent. She was a singer, comedian, actress, philosopher, but above all else, a God Called Writer. As I began to adjust to the startling news that she had left us so quickly for the Hills Of Home that she sang about so often, I started thinking about the times in my life when my path crossed with hers.
I first saw her in person in 1969. I had no idea that night how much of an impact she would make on my life over the next forty years. I had already written my first song. So I listened close to every song that they said came from her pen. She sang a brand new one that night that they didn't even have on a record yet. I thought "Build My Mansion Next Door To Jesus" was the greatest song I ever heard.
I began buying every Rambo record I could get my hands on. And I studied how this prolific writer put words and melodies together. I fell in love with so many of her songs from just hearing the recordings. Those records introduced me to "He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need", "The Holy Hills", "Too Much To Gain To Lose", "If That Isn't Love", "Sheltered In The Arms Of God", "Until He Comes", "In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul", "Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City", "I've Never Been This Homesick Before", and "Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome". The first time I heard each of these songs, I was once again sure, that I had just experienced the greatest song I ever heard.
I didn't get to see the Rambos again until 1978. That night I saw Dottie step to the center of the stage and sing a brand new song called "I Go To The Rock". As I sat in the balcony of Faith Temple Church in San Jose, California, I knew I had just witnessed the greatest song I had ever heard. But a few minutes later in the program they introduced another new song. They said this one was only four days old!! When I heard them sing "Behold The Lamb", I just knew it was the greatest song I ever heard. I can't explain how the Holy Spirit filled the room.
Dottie had turned that concert into a worship service. She closed the service with yet another brand new song. And even though I thought I had just experienced the two best songs I'd ever heard, "I Will Glory In The Cross" convinced me once again. That was the greatest song I had ever heard.
I didn't know what to do. I had never experienced Jesus the way I did when Dottie sang that night. I was overwhelmed. I began to question God as to whether or not I was called to a ministry of songwriting. I couldn't imagine ever writing under the anointing like she did.
I didn't see her for another nine years, but during that time her recordings introduced me to songs like "We Shall Behold Him", "The Mercy Throne", "The Broken Rose", and "For What Earthly Reason".
When I did get to see her again in 1987 I approached her to ask her advice on songwriting. By this time I was having a few songs recorded by some professional
artists, and I wanted to hear what advice she could give me to take me to the next level. I'll never forget her words to me that night. She said, "don't let the music business overwhelm and frustrate you. Write all you can, and give God all of the Glory."
Through the years I saw the music business and music styles change. Dottie's writing even changed with the times. One of the changes in Gospel Music has
been toward putting a greater emphasis on Praise and Worship Music. Dottie was never considered by the industry to be a Praise and Worship leader, but I can
say that in my life, she was.
She ushered us into the presence of Jesus so many times with her songs. She didn't even have to be there to sing them, because the Spirit she connected with when she was writing, lingered on the lyrics. She could have never taken us into God's presence if she didn't know how to get there herself. Isn't that what a true worship leader should be? Shouldn't they know how to lead you to the presence of the Lord, and shouldn't they be able to reveal a deeper aspect of his Holiness than you have ever seen before?
Dottie could lead us to a deeper experience with Jesus because she had already been there. And she wasn't afraid to expose her weaknesses in order to show how great God's strength was made perfect in it.
THIS HOUSE OF FLESH IS BUT A PRISON
BARS OF BONE HOLD MY SOUL
BUT THE DOORS OF CLAY
WILL BURST WIDE OPEN
WHEN THE ANGEL SETS MY SPIRIT FREE
I'LL TAKE MY FLIGHT LIKE A MIGHTY EAGLE
WHEN THE HILLS OF HOME START CALLING ME
Good bye, for now, Miss Dottie. The prophecy of these lyrics have been manifested for you.
Start Teaching Those Angels How To Sing.
Oh, and by the way, thanks for singing me the greatest song I ever heard.
Written by Daryl Williams