Originally written for my Specialized Journalism (The Arts) course at USC.
The Anointed Pace Sisters were overlooked, just like my mom and I. This eight sister gospel powerhouse wandered between greatness and obscurity. Though Dr. Mattie Moss Clark discovered them in the early ‘70s, the legendary choir director for the Church Of God In Christ (C.O.G.I.C.) was foremost the mother of The Clark Sisters. The multi-million selling, Grammy award winning group was born into a dynasty while The Pace Sisters were forced to become one. For a divorced mom and a misunderstood kid, it’s obvious we identified with the latter.
“U-Know” by The Anointed Pace Sisters was imprinted into my five year old memory. During this embryonic time, I was searching for a world to belong to. I was over a decade younger than my siblings and looked like a man I barely saw. Life was an enigma of confusing interactions while my sense of purpose was tantalizingly on the horizon. I leaned on my mother’s religious guardrail to find what I could not see. From the back seat pew of my mom’s Volkswagen Jetta, I strained to find my perspective in hers.
A dubbed Maxell cassette crossed the chasm in between. As the loading cassette player gently cooed tranquil tape hiss, our service was about to begin.
After almost three decades in the background, 1992’s U-Know was The Anointed Pace Sisters grand entrance into gospel music’s spotlight. They didn’t come with youthful, New Jack Swing edginess like Commissioned or catchy pop singles like The Clark Sisters. U-Know is a raw, live gospel album anchored in a message refined by affliction. The two-part, almost eight minute title track is both a motivational speech and a spiritual communion.
“U-Know” is deceptive in it’s understated, paint by numbers introduction. It’s cheesy, twinkling keyboard melodies screams a late 80’s music montage. Despite the simplistic beginning, The Pace Sisters has a unison so rich and textured that the listener expects more dramatic complexity. The song begins to fulfill its potential as the Pace Sisters proclaim, “you know the pain I bear”. Their voices soar into a multi-layered harmony steadied by their belief in a compassionate God.
Right at four minutes, “U-Know” enters it’s most iconic, rewind worthy moment. A guitar pours out its anguish to mark the song’s memorable breakdown. The Pace Sisters begin to sing “you. know. Lord.” in syncopated round robin fashion. The omnipresent vocals feel as encompassing as the God they sing of. Lead vocalist Lashun Pace then exudes both tension and release in closing, “you see those secret places”. Growing up in a conservative culture like the C.O.G.I.C. denomination, sometimes the most evocative statement lies in the unspoken.
“U-Know” ends where it truly begins. A coy Lashun waits patiently until the audience starts clapping. She playfully sings “you know Lord” to the crowd’s confirming shouts. In a moment, “U-Know” transforms from an intimate prayer to a riveting sermon. Lashun seems to channel both God’s angst and concern as she adds a visceral, rugged texture to her voice commonly known as squalling. By the time Lashaun asks the audience to “rock like this”, the crowd is lulled into the peace after the journey.
This vivid memory was left behind like my mom’s dusty cassette tapes. “U-Know” was overtaken by technology and time. Or so I thought.
There is something weird that happens when I come to LA. Leaving home makes me so desperate to relive it. All the songs I rejected as “old”, outdated, and obnoxiously religious return to my thoughts like a long lost family member coming in the night.
While I race to meet deadlines and maniacally stalk one last Facebook page, this nostalgic visitor creeps in. The night’s lonely isolation forces me to reach for echoes of the divine. I want to feel the intersection of my humanity with another while the rest of the world sleeps.
Twenty years later, my mom’s Jetta church inspired the anthem for my Los Angeles journey. “U-Know” has become a spiritual loading zone for my baggage to fill. I’m able to discard my pain in the darkness while I wait for the morning.