"We've come tonight to bring you some joy, some happiness, some inspiration, and some positive vibrations. We want to leave you enough to last you maybe the next six months." Eight years ago this month, soul/pop/gospel music legend Mavis Staples released a live recording titled Live: Hope at the Hideout. Recorded in Chicago's tiny Hideout Lounge, these thirteen songs of protest, hope, and defiance feature Mavis with a stripped down, raw and swampy three-piece band and just a handful of back-up singers. You can stream the entire album here (YT) and all things considered, you really should. [Alt link: stream from her record label's site]
(contains possibly unrealistic air travel scenes, and a stuffed vulture) Wings Of A Dove, by the group Madness, was a hit single (lyrics) in 1983 in the UK and Ireland. The group, known for their fun and low-budget (dog runs across stage at 2:56) videos, used footage from a French TV van ad. Carl Smyth allegedly had the idea for "Wings of a Dove" while watching the Inspirational Choir of the Pentecostal First Born Church of the Living God on late night television. Smyth claimed, in later album notes, that "a voice spoke to me and said 'Boy, write a song for these good people.'" [more inside]
An essay [NYT] by Kate Bowler, author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, following her diagnosis with stage 4 cancer. The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. [more inside]
Of all the great back catalogs in the history of rock, Bob Dylan’s is among the most covered, his acolytes ranging from The Byrds to Adele via Manfred Mann and Guns N’ Roses. But something tells us you haven’t heard anything quite like Dylan’s Gospel by The Brothers and Sisters, a choir of Los Angeles session singers brought gloriously to the fore for a very special, one-off record. [more inside]
"There has never been a recording artist quite like Marcy Tigner." Marcy Tigner started out as a trombone player but soon created a puppet in her own likeness and used her child-like voice to teach others in Learning to do God's Work. All in all she put out more than 40 albums, and passed away in 2012 at age 90. YouTube: Join the Gospel Express (part of the Incredibly Strange Music series); Christmas with Marcy; Men in the Bible. Recent mention on Cracked.com (scroll down to end of #1)
You Don't Have To Ride - Gospel Records from My Collection :"I've been collecting gospel records for a little while now and figured it was time that I share. Every day I post at least one track from my collection." You can check out the the house favorites tag for works the author finds "especially astonishing." [via mefi projects]
Wattstax [SLYT] is a 1973 documentary film about the 1972 Wattstax music festival, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Emotions, The Bar-Kays, and other greats of soul, R&B, and gospel, Wattstax also incorporates relatively unknown comic Richard Pryor's musings on life for black Americans in 1972, "man-and-woman-on-the-street" interviews, and audience footage. [NSFW] [more inside]
If Jesus and company were around today, the Bible may look like a art & fandom Tumblr project, complete with meta essays, headcanons, and playlists. Their writers aim to "follow in the Judeo-Christian tradition of questioning, evolving, and shaking up the status quo in order to update scripture for a secular audience, offering it up as a volatile mix of narrative, social commentary, spirituality, and punk rock." In this version Jesus is a cat-loving activist, Mary Madgalene is a hijabi punk, and the mystics are spoken word artists, musicians, and bloggers.
When Staple Singers hits like I’ll Take You There and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) came on the radio, it was easy to get lost in Mavis Staples’ raspy, soulful lead vocals. But if you listened closer, a key element in the Chicago gospel-soul group’s warmly distinctive sound was the deft soprano harmony of Mavis’ sister Cleotha Staples, who died on Feb. 21 at age 78 in Chicago. RIP Cleotha Staples.
Here's some raw, homespun, electric guitar gospel from a 1950s Checker label release by the Reverend Utah Smith: Two Wings. [more inside]
The Rev. Charlie Jackson of Louisiana (1932–2006) was a purveyor of some of the rawest, grittiest blues music about Jesus that you've ever heard. In a TV variety show appearance on his one and only concert tour of Europe, the Reverend maintained a warm and friendly manner through a somewhat condescending interview, and went on to perform Wrapped Up, Tangled Up in Jesus with some backing vocal help from the legendary El Dorados.
On January 13 and 14, 1972, Aretha Franklin sang during services at the Reverend James Cleveland's New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. The audio recordings released as Amazing Grace remain the largest-selling gospel album in history. However, of the 20 hours of 16mm film footage by Sydney Pollack - intended as a concert movie for tandem release - only a few snippets have ever been seen. (previously: 1, 2)
The Bible & Terminator 2: Heteroglossic discourse and poetic authority.
"She sounded like Saturday night on a Sunday morning. Patsy on Jesus. Elvis without the pelvis." is how the liner notes for The Glory Road, the Numero Group's 2005 reissue of Fern Jones' classic album Singing a Happy Song start. When her album was recorded, the session musicians had just played Elvis's 1958 sessions. Later, Jimmie Davis and Johnny Cash both covered one of Fern's songs (I Was There When It Happened(YT)). Much of the information on the web, including this brief piece from The Oxford American about Fern, these images from her revival days, and other history comes from the website maintained by her daughter. Fern's daughter is interviewed about her mother here (mp3), with musical clips included. NPR reviewed the reissue in 2005 when it came out. [more inside]
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
Gospel singer Herman Cain's album "Sunday Morning" is now available online. In the fifteen years since the album was originally released the singer and baptist preacher has also found success in the business world, broadcasting, and politics.
American gospel singer Marion Williams (wiki) performs for a Dutch television special, recorded in Utrecht, November 1962: "Somebody Bigger Than You And I" "Mean Old World" "Take Me To The Water" "It Is Well With My Soul" "I Believe" [more inside]
Say, you wanna hear a sad song? Eddie Hinton was a guitar player, vocalist, and songwriter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Co-writer of one of the tenderest, sexiest hits of the late 60s, Dusty Springfield's Breakfast in Bed, Hinton was a key member of the world-famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971 (turning down an invitation from Duane Allman to be a member of the Allman Brothers Band) who worked as a studio musician on albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, and Toots Hibbert, but his early success was sidetracked by mental problems, booze, and drugs. [more inside]
'These children don’t recognize the flags of their home countries, but they can all sing "Jesus Loves Me."'
He began his musical career as Georgia Tom, playing barrelhouse piano in one of Al Capone’s Chicago speakeasies... [more inside]
He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley -- Where other documentaries have focused on the early rock-and-roll of the Sun years, the Memphis Mafia, or the fat, drugged Elvis of the Las Vegas era, this documentary focusses on a side of Elvis many people may not be familiar with, and does a convincing job showing that it was early Southern gospel groups (both black and white) which were his true love and the main musical influence throughout his life. Filled with wonderful archival footage and revealing, and rather tender interviews from his band and his backup singers. (Part One) 1::2::3::4::5::6::7::8::9::10::11::12 (Part Two) 1::2::3::4::5::6::7::8::9::10::11 And here is a clip of Elvis singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic section from his American Trilogy, used to good effect in the Bazooka & Jetpack Scene from the movie Kick Ass. [This post dedicated to "The King" of Metafilter music, the mighty mighty flapjax at midnight]
Blues Houseparty is a fun, entertaining and highly recommended 57 minute documentary that takes us into a Virginia houseparty of 1989, where the assembled Piedmont blues and gospel musicians and their friends pick guitars, sing, dance and engagingly reminisce on the houseparties of old. Amidst hearty laughs, barbecue and general good times, the guests recount personal memories of fun and rowdiness, corn liquor, 500-pound hogs, the devil's music and the Lord's music. There's a whole lot of cultural history on display here, a slice of black American life that is all but gone now. The mood is infectious, to say the least, and the music just keeps getting better and better throughout the film. The next best thing to being there!
The trick is to give without looking to receive - to give of yourself to your family, your friends, your community, and the world community with love. The King of Rock and Soul Solomon Burke, Archbishop of the House of God For All People and member of the Hall of Fame died on a plane (2) after arriving in Amsterdam. [more inside]
Lewis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones was one heck of a banjo player and storyteller best known for his role on Hee Haw. Those Delmore Boys? Lord can they sang,sang,sang. Merle? Hell he invented a whole new way to pick. Want to learn how? Drawn together by their love of traditional gospel music, they became country music's first supergroup. The Brown's Ferry Four. Their complete recordings.
Given it is Sunday, feel free to get your Jesus on with The Mighty Clouds of Joy. Somebody say Amen.
Have you heard of Washington Phillips? He was possessed of a wonderful voice, and delivered his simple but gorgeous gospel tunes in an easy and utterly unprepossessing style. He accompanied himself not on guitar or piano, as might be expected, but rather on a chiming, delicately ethereal zither, lending a curiously timeless air to his recordings from the 1920s. An altogether unique performer, his music is a real treat for the soul: Take Your Burden To the Lord, What Are They Doing in Heaven Today, Denomination Blues, I Had a Good Father and Mother, Lift Him Up, Paul and Silas in Jail, Mother's Last Word To Her Son and Train Your Children. [more inside]
Folk America: Excellent BBC 3-part documentary tracing folk music from the '20s to the folk revival of the '60s, encompassing the depression and the civil rights era. part 1: Birth of a Nation (59.21) part 2: This Land is Your Land (59:30) part 3: Blowin' in the Wind (58:49) [more inside]
Fans know him as Tonéx. His eccentric style and vertiginous high notes helped make him one of the most acclaimed praise singers of the past decade, and, for a time, one of the most successful. ... This past September, the television host known as Lexi broadcast an interview [Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3] with Tonéx on the Word Network, a gospel channel, in which he made his clearest public statements about his sexual orientation. He is, within the church world, the first high-profile gospel singer in history to come out of the closet. Within hours, he started to realize what he had done. His relationship with the mainstream gospel industry was effectively over.From a fascinating article in the most recent New Yorker [abstract only]. This podcast [freely accessible] with the author of the article, Kelefah Sanneh, delves into the rarely discussed "secret" in the black church that many gospel musicians have been and are gay. Sanneh touches on the stories of both James Cleveland, the creator of the modern gospel sound who died of AIDS in 1991, and one of his backup singers, Carl Bean, who became famous for the 70s disco hit "I Was Born This Way." One contemporary preacher and gospel singer that Sanneh discusses in relation to Tonéx is Donnie McClurkin, a man made infamous during the Obama campaign for railing against homosexuals in Southern Black churches. McClurkin has admitted to engaging in homosexual acts for 20 years but does not identify as gay and believes a strong Christian faith can deliver a person from the "sin" of homosexuality. He recently delivered a sermon directed at young black homosexuals in the church, specifically calling out Tonéx. [McClurkin sermon Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3]
"...A Fourth of July picnic, a Sunday Best church revival, an urban rock concert and a rural civil rights rally"
There was a historic music festival in the summer of 1969. But it's not the one that took place in Bethel, NY. The Harlem Cultural Festival ran from June 29 to August 24 that summer, presenting a concert every Sunday afternoon in Mount Morris Park (known today as Marcus Garvey Park). Three hundred thousand people turned out for the six free concerts, hearing acts like Nina Simone , Sly & the Family Stone (the only act to play both Woodstock and the "black Woodstock"), Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, Moms Mabley and. Speakers included Jesse Jackson and "blue-eyed soul brother" Mayor John Lindsay. Security was courtesy of the Black Panthers, since the NYC police refused to provide it. Filmmaker Hal Tulchin recorded over 50 hours of concert footage, which has remained unreleased. Historic Films seems to hold the footage; it was supposed to be made into a movie to premiere at Sundance 2007, but its release seems to be continually delayed for reasons unclear. [more inside]
"She was a rock star," recalls Ira Tucker Jr., who grew up watching Tharpe with his father's gospel group in the 1940s and '50s. "You know, like Beyonce today and people like that. That's what Rosetta was to us." Sister Rosetta Tharpe wasn't the first one to bring black popular music into the church. (Here's the great Arizona Dranes playing barroom honky-tonk piano on the gospel side I Shall Wear a Crown in 1927.) But her fierce stage presence and her original blend of gospel, boogie-woogie, swing and smoking hot blues guitar was a crucial forgotten influence on what we now recognize as rock and roll. (Many more recordings inside. Enjoy!) [more inside]
As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake. Of the 40 states with right-to-carry laws, 20 allow guns in churches. [more inside]
Pilgrim Productions Presents: Voices Across America, an archive of gospel music in a variety of genres, submitted for free play and download by church groups and folk and traditional groups across the country and beyond. Style, age, and quality vary greatly, but fans of noncommercial music will enjoy hunting for the gems of blues, Cajun, bluegrass, choral, shapenote, country, vintage, and mountain gospel and more.
The foot bone connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone, the back bone connected to the shoulder bone, the shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the head bone, now hear the word of the lord...and be sure to check the hover-overs for link details on all this bony business,
Desperate Man Blues Edward Gillen's documentary about Joe Bussard, renowned collector of 25,000+ blues, folk and gospel 78rpm records from the 20s and 30s. It's about the hunt and the hunter, as much as what he found. One week only on Pitchfork TV [more inside]
"Looking For a City..." Johnny Cook and Vestal Goodman have a competition to see who can sing the highest. [SLYT]
Get Down on Your Knees, Crying Holy (Unto the Lord) with Vince Gill, and Working on a Building with Patty Loveless. Some gospel music from Del McCoury.
The music of the People's Temple. Five years before Jim Jones coerced 900 of his church members to commit suicide in Guyana, the People's Temple cut an album. [more inside]
September 14, 1998 "the Tan Canary" passes away. He started out as a gospel singer but went on to perform blues, soul, county, and jazz. In 1968 he covered the country standard "Release Me" and it became a hit. His audience grew, but stardom outside of his home in New Orleans was not to be his. [more inside]
Did a 'dream team' of biblical scholars mislead millions? [Chronicle of Higher Education] You may recall the curfuffle over the gnostic "Gospel of Judas" (previously). The National Geographic's documentary premiere "attracted four million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated program in the channel's history, behind only a documentary on September 11. . . . However, it's a perfect example, critics argue, of what can happen when commercial considerations are allowed to ride roughshod over careful research. What's more, the controversy has strained friendships in this small community of religion scholars — causing some on both sides of the argument to feel, in a word, betrayed."
THE church elder’s reaction was one of utter disbelief. Shaking his head emphatically, he couldn’t take in what the distinguished professor from Yale University was telling him. "No," insisted Jim McRae, an elder of the small congregation of Clearwater in Florida. "This way of worshipping comes from our slave past. It grew out of the slave experience, when we came from Africa." But Willie Ruff, an Afro-American professor of music at Yale, was adamant - he had traced the origins of gospel music to Scotland. [more inside]
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