Fred Hammond: The veteran fusing praise music with R&B

Saturday 1st August 1998

Today, praise and worship and contemporary R&B have merged to produce an exciting hybrid. Mike Rimmer spoke to one of the pioneers of this new development, FRED HAMMOND.

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I wondered whether he thought a lot of people give up passionately crying out to Jesus because they just don't believe he can do anything anymore. Hammond replied, "Most people feel their sin has been so horrid or bad that God could not possibly want to do anything to help them. I know that was a large part of my life and I felt I had let God down so many times that it was no use in crying out. But one thing I just kept doing was crying out anyway."

He continued, "My favourite line in the song is 'I don't mean to waste your time but I can't listen to the crowd or the situations in my life that are telling me to keep it down.' When we see Jesus passing by do we hide? What does our life dictate to us? Do we hide or do we run to him? If you have sin or wrong things going on in your life like I had in mine you better run closer to him because he's the one who can fix it. For so long we have tried to hide our dirt before God, but God has said, 'Give me all of that, let me clean you up and take care of you.'"

Fred has first hand experience of how God still uses us despite our weaknesses and mistakes. It may come as a surprise to some readers to discover that such an anointed minister of gospel music could still have feet of clay but Hammond was honest enough to share the reality of some of his struggles as he gave an overall picture of the album. '"Pages Of Life' is basically pages of my life, taking it from my past and into my future and present. There's been a time over the last three to five years when I have been trying to be more real with people. I started not liking my image too much as far as staying up with the record industry and being in competition with so many other people but I was still doing it in ministry and loving God. But I looked up and I was just so far from God it wasn't funny."

He continued, "I sat down and told my wife one day. I was crying and trembling and I said, 'I'm doing all this but I feel as though I'm missing God and I'm so far from him.' So my wife started praying." Fred took me back in his past, "I want to bring up a time when I was really young and was in a grocery store with my mother and I got detached. And as I got detached I didn't know where she was and finally a baggie saw me in the middle of the floor crying and just having a 'heart attack', so he picked me up and took me to the front counter and they said on the mike, 'Somebody's son is lost,' and before I could say anything my mother came out from the side. Well I thought she was about to go home with a different son and I was going to have to go home with a different mum, it was terrible. But 1 turned away and it seemed like she was gone but when I went back to the front of the store she came and she was closer than I had realised and that was what I had to do with God. I looked up and realised 1 wasn't close to him so 1 had to return to that place of prayer, of calming down. Not letting the hustle and bustle get to you and in prayer I found my way back. And God was always there."

We closed our conversation chatting about music and musicians. One fact that is often overlooked with Fred's music is that he is one of the finest bass players in Christian music, with a tight, funky style which has underpinned Commissioned's best work and continues to be a highlight with RFC.

So who are Fred's favourite bass players? He named five of the world's finest, "These are the people who taught me how to play, not personally but who I listen to, Marcus Miller, Abraham Laborial, Anthony Jackson, Stanley Clarke and Jacko Pastorias." And while we're at it Fred confessed that Stevie Wonder is a hero. "To me his 'Key Of Life' album was the best album ever", he enthused. So, coming from Detroit have Fred and Stevie spent time together? There was a slight mournful sound to his voice as he said, "I've been around him but never spent intimate time with him. He is so phenomenal and there are always a lot of people around him."

Like Hammond, Stevie Wonder is a man who enjoys pushing back the frontiers of music. One can only speculate what incredible music could be born if the two of them ever spend time in a studio together! CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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