Happy birthday to the Mighty Hannibal, James Shaw

The Mighty Hannibal started as a Doo-Wop/R&B singer, recording singles for Pan World Records, before generating enough interest to sign with the much more renowned King Records. Sadly Hannibal’s other occupation, that of an LA pimp, created problem’s at the label, where he was dropped after a few singles.

Upon returning to his hometown of Atlanta, GA, Hannibal started recording for the Surefine label, releasing a pair of dance themed singles to moderate success. Subsequent to these records, Hannibal penned his masterwork, Hymn No 5, an impassioned, and bleak, protest song told from the perspective of an American dying in the trenches of Vietnam. In 1966, Hannibal’s socially conscious message was a little ahead of the curve, and the track was banned from airplay. Even so, Hymn No 5, somehow struck a chord and found it’s audience, reaching #21 on the R&B charts. Unfortunately for Hannibal, his growing notoriety brought with it an increasing addiction to heroin, the indirect result of which, saw him spending a year and a half in prison.

The good news of Hannibal’s incarceration was that he got straight and returned to recording, denoting the shift in personas by changing his stage name to King Hannibal. 1973 saw the release of Hannibal’s first full length, Truth, which featured a longer, updated, version of Hymn No 5, and the anti-drug gospel of The Truth Shall Make You Free, among it’s heavy funk sound.

For many years after, Hannibal’s work consisted of Gospel works of varying style and quality, when at the turn of the century his oeuvre received the compilation of which it was deserving, Hannibalism, on the respected Norton Records, home to numerous reissues of pioneering American music. The renewed interest in Hannibal’s music, led to a variety of performances, where he was backed by hip young bands like The Black Lips, a documentary, Showtime, by Ezra Bookstein, and a co-written songwriting credit on the Elton John and Leon Russell collaboration, The Union.



The longer re-recording of the above

And an awesome variation by Delia Gartrell, Hannibal’s wife and songwriting partner on the original Hymn No 5. Hannibal co-wrote and produced several singles for Delia, all worth seeking out.





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