The most passion in Bluegrass is found in Gospel. And one of the most passionate was Dottie Rambo. Dottie was born Joyce Reba Luttrell in Kentucky in 1934 to an impoverished family, in a country already beset with the depression. Her musical career began when she was eight and playing at a creek bed. Words and music for her first song came to her. Her mother encouraged her gift of music. At twelve, she made a commitment to write and sing only Christian music. Her father told her to give it up or leave. She left. She performed at churches and offerings were taken up to support her. She met Buck Rambo at a revival and they married in 1950 when she was 16. They formed their own group, and later were joined by their daughter, Reba. In the 1960s, she began to get more national attention as a songwriter and soloist. By 1968, she won a Grammy for best soul gospel performance for her album, It’s the Soul of Me, beating out Mavis Staples. Billboard magazine called her “trendsetter of the year” for singing with an all-black choir. In 1994, the Christian Country Music Association awarded her with the Songwriter of the Century Award. Her songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston, Vince Gill, Pat Boon, Sandi Patty, The Oak Ridge Boys and many more. In all, she wrote and published over 2500 songs. In 1987, she suffered a ruptured disc which led to left leg paralysis. Surgeries reinstated only limited mobility, but she kept on writing and performing. Dottie died in a bus accident in 2008 along I-44 near Mount Vernon, Missouri while en route to a Mother’s Day show in Texas.
Though Dottie wrote the music for most of her songs, “He Looked Beyond My Fault (And Saw My Need)” is written to the well-known Irish tune, “Londonderry Air”, best known as the tune to “Danny Boy”. However, I will hear that tune with Dottie’s words from now on. It was one of her most popular songs and was pivotal for her career.