As far as I know, this was the first recorded version of the song and it was released two months later by Deep Purple as their fifth American single. Their version of the song was titled “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher). It was written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook – two professional songwriters who penned a number of hits during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
In 1969, Greenaway sent a demo to Derek Lawrence – the producer of the first three Deep Purple albums. Lawrence didn’t think the band would be interested in the song, but he sent it to Ritchie Blackmore anyway. At this time, Deep Purple was seeking another lead singer, another bassist, and unbeknown to Lawrence, another producer.
While Purple’s version failed to chart in the UK, it did poorly in the US by peaking at #108. While Rod Evans was out of the band having been replaced by Ian Gillian, Nick Simper apparently played on this single as Roger Glover had not yet joined the band. Although Derek Lawrence supplied Deep Purple with the demo, they did not utilize his services as producer.
Tony Edwards and John Colleta, managers of the band, are listed as the producers. To my knowledge, it’s the only cut where Edwards and Colleta were cited in this capacity. They are listed on the UK single on Harvest Records, but not on the US version on Tetragrammaton Records. Subsequent recordings have listed the band as producers. You can check out Deep Purple’s version with a number of their other early recordings on this 2010 post of “Deep Purple before Smoke on the Water.”
Although Deep Purple just barely charted with the song, they did not have the first recording of “Hallelujah (I am the Preacher)” – Derek Lawrence used his bevy of studio musicians and vocalists to produce his outstanding single under the name of The Derek Lawrence Statement. Along with its flipside, I believe that this was the only release by The Derek Lawrence Statement; however, the group in various forms recorded under about a half a dozen different names for Lawrence. “I Am the Preacher” was released in May 1969, which was two months before Deep Purple’s rendition.
The powerful vocals of The Derek Lawrence Statement are provided by Larry Steele, Liza Strike, and Tony Wilson. I believe each take a turn at the lead vocals. They are joined by Albert Lee on lead guitar, Harvey Hinsley on rhythm guitar, Chas Hodges on bass, and drummer Micky Burt.
The Derek Lawrence Statement still lives as it has been sampled for four hip-hop recordings. They include Qwel and Meaty Ogre’s “The Fourth Reich of the Rich” from 2006, Dilated Peoples’ “Hallelujah” from 2014, Fel Sweetenberg’s “Tomorrows in the Stars” from 2014, and Brock Berrigan’s “The Preacher” from earlier this year.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Day.