the story behind “I Still Have Joy”

August 3, 2021
Dear Singing Friends,
This is the first of a series on the songs in our Amidon Online Sheet Music Download Library/Store:
 Short Story
“I Still Have Joy”, by Danny Mccrimmon and Joseph Calvin Jackson, is a classic African American gospel song that I arranged for a cappella SATB, though it is more typically performed with a full gospel choir, organ, piano, drums, etc.   “After all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy…

In 1992 Mary Alice and I were invited by Pete Seeger to create a new stage for his Clearwater Festival that we called “The Circle of Song”.  The idea was to have a stage of participatory singing with different singing leaders.  One of the groups that led singing on our stage was the Whiteville Choir, all workers in the Whiteville Apparel plant in North Carolina.  Pete Seeger had heard them sing at a North Carolina festival and he had passed the hat over and over again at that festival until he had enough money to bring the Whiteville Choir to his own Clearwater Festival.  At our Circle of Song stage they sang union songs on Saturday and gospel songs on Sunday. Mary Alice and I joined some of the Whiteville Choir singers at an informal song-trading party at our hotel that Saturday night.  At one point, one of the women leaned over to Mary Alice and said “Here is a song you should sing” and she sang, by herself, a sweet and subdued “I Still Have Joy” into Mary Alice’s cassette tape recorder.  We had never heard it before and fell in love with the song.

Mary Alice and I started leading “I Still Have Joy” at various group singing events, haromonizing by ear.  When I introduced it to our Guilford (VT) Community Church Choir I wrote an arrangement that was little more than a transcription of the harmonies we did when we sang by ear.  My “I Still Have Joy” arrangement got passed around, and when I helped form “Hallowell”, Southern Vermont’s hospice singing group, “I Still Have Joy” became a staple of our repertoire.

I had tried, unsuccessfuly, to find a source for the song in those years before powerful internet search programs.  More recently, when I was doing permission searches for our “Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir” collection, I was knocked over when I found this Dorothy Norwood version of the song.  Now I try to sing my a cappella arrangement a little slower and with more of a back-beat.

Here the “Acapella Company” has turned “I Still Have Joy” into a sweet zipper song (“Joy”, “Faith”, “Love”).

And here is another fantastic classic gospel song that is a different take on “Still Have Joy”:

I Still Have Joy
by Danny Mccrimmon & Joseph Calvin Jackson
I still have joy, I still have joy,
After all the things I’ve been through I still have joy.
I still have joy, I still have joy,
After all the things I’ve been through I still have joy.
There are times in my life when I felt I couldn’t go on,
But the Lord He blessed me  and he made me strong.
I kept the faith and I held on through the night,
This is my testimony, he’ll make every thing all right.
I get joy when I think about all he’s done for me;
He even broke the habits trying to conquer me.
I spoke to the mountain and it ran down to the sea,
I can’t began to tell you what He’s done for me.
Keep on singing!
Peter Amidon