Prolific gospel songwriter Clevant Derricks' best known song, the standard "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," has been recorded by Elvis Presley (found on Peace in the Valley: The Complete Gospel Recordings), the Imperials, Tennessee Ernie Ford (Amazing Grace: 40 Treasured Hymns), Donnie McClurkin (on both Donnie McClurkin and WOW Gospel 1999), Gladys Knight (Many Different Roads), among many others. Derricks vast catalog also includes the standard "When God Dips His Pen of Love in My Heart," which has been covered by Albertina Walker (Songs of the Church: Live in Memphis), the Five Blind Boys (on the 2000 Heritage CD Hot Gospel), and the Cathedrals (21 Favorite Hymns). Another Derricks' favorite is "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials." Derricks is not to be confused with the same-named star of the '90s-era sci-fi TV series Sliders and the movie Moscow on the Hudson.
In the beginning, Derricks' basic reason for writing songs was to inspire his fellow poor, black church members during the Great Depression. Encouraged by them, young pastor Derricks left rural Alabama for Dallas, TX. Impressing the owners of music publisher Stamps-Baxter, they purchased the rights to three of his original songs, one being "Just a Little Talk With Jesus." The song became one of the biggest songs in the country and a huge moneymaker for the publisher. Unfortunately, because of the term of his publishing contract, Derricks didn't receive any royalties until the late '70s. What made matters even worse was that two of his other songs, "We'll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials" and "When God Dips His Pen of Love in My Heart," were following suite, generating huge profits for Stamps-Baxter.
While trying to sell more songs, the songwriter met Nashville music executive Aaron Brown of Word Records. Discovering that Derricks hadn't been receiving royalties from "Just a Little Talk With Jesus," Brown contacted BMI vice president Frances Preston who then established Derricks' performing rights royalties to the song; which meant that from then on he would receive income from the song. A few months later, Derricks and his family offered to sing for Brown. Enthralled by what he heard, Brown offered the songwriter a recording contract with Word Records. While gathering material to record Brown suggested "Just a Little Talk With Jesus" which resulted in an instant gospel classic. Two years later in 1977, Clevant Derricks passed away.
Reflecting on the songwriting income that he missed out on for decades, as well as the injustices and indignities he must have suffered in the era of Jim Crow racism, Cleavant Derricks' song lyrics brim with steadfast faith and a realness earned from a lifetime of Christian duty -- "Sometimes tho the way is dreary, dark and cold/and some unburdened sorrow keeps me from my goal/I go to God in prayer and I can always find Him there" from "When God Dips His Pen Of Love In My Heart." ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi
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