Dottie Rambo: Charismatic gospel singer

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The Independent Online

Dottie Rambo was one of the most influential figures in Southern Gospel music. She was a charismatic performer who initially achieved fame as a member of the Rambos, alongside her then-husband Buck and their daughter Reba, before more recently consolidating her stature through a number of acclaimed solo projects.

She is credited with having written some 2,500 songs, the best known of which, "He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need", was inspired by her dying brother's acceptance of Christ. Other notable entries in the Rambo songwriting catalogue include the 1982 Gospel Music Association Song of the Year, "We Shall Behold Him", as well as "Sheltered in the Arms of God", "Mama's Teaching Angels How to Sing" and the Dove Award-winning "Go to the Rock", which received a memorable performance by Whitney Houston in the film The Preacher's Wife (1999). Other artists who have covered her songs include Elvis Presley, Carol Channing, Bill Monroe and Jerry Lee Lewis.

She was born Joyce Lutrell in rural Kentucky and at the age of 12 she became a born-again Christian, then left home to perform in a trio called the Gospel Echoes. In 1950, "Dottie" met Buck Rambo at a revival meeting. They married and began performing together as the Singing Rambos, achieving greater fame when eventually joined by their teenage daughter Reba.

In 1967 the trio performed for US troops in Vietnam, where they were billed as the Swinging Rambos, allegedly because military authorities believed that the Viet Cong would view a Christian singing group as a target. The following year Dottie Rambo won a Grammy for her album It's the Soul of Me. Shortly thereafter the Singing Rambos signed to Heartwarming Records, for whom they went on to make a series of albums, Reflections (1971), These Three are One (1975), The Son is Shining (1976) and Down by the Creek Bank (1978) among them, that represent their best work.

By the late 1980s Dottie Rambo was experiencing health problems, including partial paralysis, and in 1994 she and Buck divorced. Her career as a performer effectively stalled until the release in 2003 of Stand by the River. A further solo album, Sheltered, is scheduled for release later this year.

Paul Wadey

Joyce Reba "Dottie" Lutrell, singer, songwriter and guitarist: born Madisonville, Kentucky 2 March 1934; married 1950 Buck Rambo (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1994); died Mount Vernon, Missouri 11 May 2008.