Perhaps you're familiar with Amazing Grace, the biggest selling gospel album of all time and most certainly the biggest selling album of Aretha Franklin's career. What you may not know is that Sidney Pollack filmed a documentary during the recording of that album. It was never completed due to analog technical issues, but 43 years later, in our modern digital age, those have been overcome and it's about to hit the festival circuit. But hold on! Literally moments before it was due to make its world premiere at Telluride, Franklin got an unprecedented court injunction to stop the movie from being shown. And the film has also been pulled from Toronto's film festival. Franklin filed an amended lawsuit yesterday to prevent any screenings, specifically citing any seeking to find a distributor.
Given it is Sunday, feel free to get your Jesus on with The Mighty Clouds of Joy. Somebody say Amen.
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]
In the spirit of Sunday morning (and the Martin Luther King holiday weekend), I bring to you the news of a musical release of historical proportions. Dust to Digital has compiled Goodbye, Babylon an exhaustively annotated, beautifully packaged collection of American gospel music from the turn of the century up until 1960. Some performers are recognizable names in sacred and secular music. Others practice lesser known styles like Sacred Harp singing. Non-religionists, don't feel left out, this music is enjoyable strictly on it's musical and historical import, since along with blues, traditional country and Tin Pan Alley, gospel music both white and black is one of the main foundations of modern American music. Judging by the raves it's been recieving, this (admittedly expensive, but worth every penny) box set is destined for a place next to the Anthology Of American Folk Music in the collection of any serious student of American music.