Prophet Omega (real name Omega Townsend, August 27, 1927 - February 28, 1992) was a weekly radio evangelist broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee on Music Row’s WNAH in the 1970s. He was founder of the Peaceway Temple then located at "Apartment Q-258 at 488 Lemont Drive" (the Kenmont Apartments). He has become most known for the recordings of his sermons which became popular among musicians in the 1980s. Prior to entering the "prophet circuit" Townsend was a carnival worker.
By way of cassette recordings Prophet Omega's sermons developed a cult following among road musicians in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The cassettes were favorites on musician tour buses. Excerpts of his sermons have been sampled into rock music and quotes from his sermons have become the namesake of music projects. The Rolling Stones and David Bowie were among the many fans. Melissa Etheridge and Adrian Belew both have used his excerpts in their works. Al Kooper contributed largely to the initial spreading of Prophet Omega recordings among musicians. He considers the recordings to be a form of folk art.
Musicians have noted Omega's sense of rhythm, soul artist sound (like James Brown) and blues artist sound. Also, they noted a sense of 'knowing' in association with the ingroup that had heard his recordings. The following is an excerpt from one of his more popularized sermons:
...repeat these words, I am what I am and that's all I am is what I am. That's all I am is what I am ...and I am It. Now, repeat those words. If you repeat those words and continually to repeat those words Blessings gonna come to you. You got to remain to being your self. You cannot be nobody else. Ain't no use in tryin' bein' no whirlwind and jumping here and playing checkers with your own life. That ain't gonna work, baby. Now, repeat these words behind me, I am what I am. Now, that's all you are! You are what you believe you are....
A half-hour documentary about Prophet Omega entitled Friends Seen and Unseen was created by Kathy Conkwright, Demetria Kalodimos and was edited by Bobby F. Dowd. It was released by Genuine Human Productions in 2000. It was presented at the 2000 Nashville Independent Film Festival. The film won a Tennessee Spirit Award.
Upon his death the original reel to reel recordings of his show were disposed of by his family. However, in 2006 a 2-CD set of his recordings gathered from collectors was released entitled The Complete Sermons.
- The Spin Nashville Scene February 23, 2006
- Kathy Conkwright and Demetria Kalodimos, Friends Seen and Unseen, Genuine Human Productions, 2000
- Jackson Griffith The man behind the curtain Musician Al Kooper reveals the connection between Prophet Omega, Lynyrd Skynyrd and short shorts Sacramento News and Review, 01.05.06
- Anil Prasad Adrian Belew The mind's turntable Innerviews, 1992
- Stew Salowitz Demetria Kalodimos to Address Illinois Wesleyan Commencement iwu.edu, April 25, 2007
- Friends Seen and Unseen genuinehuman.com