Dianne Williams' famous ad-libs are at the center of Google's new Chromebook holiday ad//Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson [The TRiiBE]

If you grew up Black and churched in the Chicagoland area, there’s a good chance you remember hearing “Jesus Can Work It Out” on the radio while heading to Sunday service or during your choir’s A and B selections.

The Gospel song, recorded in 1980 by Dr. Charles G. Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir (a.k.a. “The Warriors”) from Chicago’s South Side, is a timeless classic with a deeply relatable message. Despite all of life’s struggles, scraping up a few dollars for the “light bill due, a gas bill too” or even the baby’s new pair of shoes, it’s never too late to turn it all over to Jesus who can work the problems out.

“The song gives people hope — it’s a happy song,” said Dianne Williams, the record’s lead singer. “It lets them know that at the end of all the dark clouds, there is a rainbow.”

Just in time for the 2017 holiday season, “Jesus Can Work It Out” is making another comeback – this time in a national television ad campaign for the Google Chromebook. The Woodlawn-based choir’s foot stomping, hand clapping and soaring voices are inspiring America in a wonderful new way, after the choir’s remix of the song blazed airwaves in the 2000s.

The Google ad, which began airing this month, includes samples of the song’s recent House remix by Karizma, a DJ from Baltimore known for his deep house production work. The commercial spot plays on the song’s lyrics to show consumers how the Chromebook functions as a one-stop shop to help them “work it out” in their daily lives – from online shopping and movie streaming to playing video games and working from home.

Since the ad first aired on November 5, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing for Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer’s new pastor, Rev. Derail Smith, and the song’s lead singer, Williams. She wrote the track’s catchy and forever relatable ad-libs, a fan favorite, that are the centerpiece of the commercial itself.

While penning the ad-libs, some of which she freestyled during the recording, Williams said she drew inspiration from her life experiences and blended that with her love of writing poetry and rhyming – something Smith called “Gospel rapping.”

“We have our daily struggles we go through and that’s what was going on with me when I did the words to the song, as far as the ad-lib part. I was a single mother with a child, going to work and living from paycheck to paycheck,” Williams said. “People can relate to it – and even children know the song. It gives people hope.”

This past summer, Williams was ill and recovering in the hospital when Google reps emailed her about sampling Karizma’s House remix of the song in the commercial. The reps needed Williams’ permission since she was the second writer on the choir’s 1980 version. At the time, Pastor Smith gave her a call and said he’d heard that Karizma’s House remix played during Chosen Few Music Festival and Picnic in Jackson Park – with throngs of young people dancing a slide to the song.

Smith sent the video to Williams. He immediately knew it was a sign of great things to come.

“I said, ‘Dianne, I don’t know what’s going to happen but this is going to get big . . . get ready because this song is going to have a rebirth,’” Smith recalled, with Williams responding, “You think so?”

When she was able to respond to Google reps, they were rushing to get everything cleared for commercials to begin airing in November. “I wasn’t feeling well at the time, so I didn’t see it [happening]. But the rest is history.”

The choir and church’s ministry continues at the Woodlawn-based church, whose founder, Dr. Hayes, passed away in 2014. Under his leadership, the choir made a major impact on Gospel music in Chicago and nationally – they’ve recorded more than 30 CDs, won many awards, and toured across the globe, including performances in Spain, Holland, Switzerland and all over the United States. Williams even said she couldn’t believe how deeply international audiences connected with the choir and with Gospel music over the years, with beachgoers in Italy dancing along to “Jesus Can Work It Out.”’

“All of this is possible because of God and our founder,” Smith said. “He left a legacy and we are grateful to continue it.”

Dianne Williams and Rev. Derail Smith//Courtesy of Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer

The song itself was written by Elder George Jordan and first recorded in 1974 by the Christian Tabernacle Choir and Pastor Maceo Woods. (Jordan passed away a few years ago, Williams said). When Dr. Hayes and The Warriors recorded “Jesus Can Work It Out” in 1980, it experienced a rebirth at the time and drew wider notoriety.

Williams and Smith said they’ve been encouraged by the renewed attention to “Jesus Can Work It Out,” as well as the resulting response from young people. While Gospel doesn’t always get mainstream attention, Williams said, young people like the beat and the words aren’t out of reach.

“A lot of young people don’t make it into the church. They’re turned off from the church. So the response from the youth and from people who don’t normally listen to gospel is phenomenal,” Smith said, noting that the new remix is now being played on the radio during House sets. “If you think about it, House music comes from a soulful type of sound.”

The Chromebook commercial’s sample omits references to “Jesus” and “the Lord,” which raised some eyebrows from Gospel lovers on social media. But Smith believes the original message will still reach people.

“I believe that because God is such a strong force and power, when you hear the rhythm and energy of [the song], He is going to come through. The song has that type of feel because it’s a Gospel song,” Smith said. “I understand that with promos you have to be careful with atheists and people who don’t believe in God, but it’s a song of hope. So therefore, I know He’s coming through.”

Williams added that the promo spot includes the line “He can work it out” and that people who are familiar with faith and God will still understand the meaning, as they have with various other Gospel songs that crossed over into the mainstream.

The choir still performs to packed audiences at musicals and the church sponsors outreach programs, back to school drives, and connects people in need with food, shelter and resources. Williams and Smith credit Hayes’ longtime efforts to the church’s many successes, and acknowledged original songwriters and others who were instrumental to the recording of their celebrated hit. They hope the renewed interest in the song also amplifies the work the church and choir are doing in the community.

“People thought that after Father Hayes passed, it would be done for us,” Williams said. “Cosmopolitan is still alive and well.”