“I Am The Preacher” was a song co-written by UK songwriters and singers Roger John Reginald Greenaway (born in 1938) and Roger Frederick Cooke (born in 1940). Both were born in a suburb of Bristol, England. Roger Greenaway was one of the founding members of a close harmony group called The Kestrels, who formed in 1955. The group provided backing vocals for recording artists Billy Fury, Eden Kane, Lonnie Donegan and singer/comedian Benny Hill. Roger Cook joined The Kestrels in 1964. It was when Greenaway and Cook got to know each other as members of The Kestrels they glimpsed a creative fusion they wanted to pursue.
“I Am The Preacher” is a pop song with heavy religious overtones. It begins with Hallelujahs. The song is narrated from the vantage point of a preacher who is bringing a message to the people of the world who have yet to find peace. The preacher has a message about a better way of living rooted in love. The lyrics tell about obstacles that get in the way such as war, misguiding others. The preacher also speaks of the pervasiveness of lament (wailing) among the people. He says “I am the pupil who sells his life for freedom,” indicating the preacher is making a sacrifice of himself for the greater good of humanity.
In the late 60s and early 70s there was an emerging Jesus Movement. There were numerous pop songs with religious overtones. These include “Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “Put Your Hand In the Hand” by Ocean, “One Tin Soldier” by the Original Caste, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Sweet Cherry Wine” by Tommy James & The Shondells, “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” by Paul Stookey, and “Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins. “I Am The Preacher” was part of this genre breaking into pop music.
In early 1972 “I Am The Preacher” managed to reach #65 on the RPM Top Singles chart in February. that year but having a significantly better showing on the CHUM chart in Toronto where it peaked at #15. The song fared even better in Vancouver where it climbed to #2. The song also made the Top 30 in Hamilton (ON) and Rochester (NY).
-Ray McGinnis, Nov 6, 2019