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A guide for finding resources related to the African American experience. This guide highlights a variety of genres and authors (non-fiction, urban fiction, poetry, film, music, etc ) across a number of formats (print, electronic, audio/video).
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Gospel Print Page


From Britannica Library Reference Center:

The tradition that came to be recognized as black American gospel music emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries alongside ragtime, blues, and jazz. The progenitors of the tradition, however, lie in both black and white musics of the 19th century, including, most notably, black spirituals, slave songs, and white hymnody.

The roots of black gospel music can be ultimately traced to the hymnals of the early 19th century. A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected from Various Authors (1801) was the first hymnal intended for use in black worship. It contained texts written mostly by 18th-century British clergymen, such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, but also included a number of poems by black American Richard Allen—the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church—and his parishioners. The volume contained no music, however, leaving the congregation to sing the texts to well-known hymn tunes. After the Civil War, black hymnals began to include music, but most of the arrangements employed the rhythmically and melodically straightforward, unembellished style of white hymnody.

In the last decade of the 19th century, black hymnody experienced a stylistic shift. Colourful and allusive texts, reminiscent in many respects of the older black spirituals, were set to melodies composed by white hymnodists. The arrangements, however, were adjusted to reflect black American musical sensibilities. Most significantly, the hymns were syncopated; that is, they were recast rhythmically by accentuating normally weak beats. Among the first hymnals to use this modified musical style was The Harp of Zion, published in 1893 and readily adopted by many black congregations.

The immediate impetus for the development of this new, energetic, and distinctly black gospel music seems to have been the rise of Pentecostal churches at the end of the 19th century. Pentecostal shouting is related to speaking in tongues and to circle dances of African origin. Recordings of Pentecostal preachers’ sermons were immensely popular among black Americans in the 1920s, and recordings of them along with their choral and instrumental accompaniment and congregational participation persisted, so that ultimately black gospel reached the white audience as well. The voice of the black gospel preacher was affected by black secular performers and vice versa. Taking the scriptural direction “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed tambourines, pianos, organs, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and some brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in call-and-response counterpoint with the preacher’s sermon. Improvised recitative passages, melismatic singing (singing of more than one pitch per syllable), and an extraordinarily expressive delivery also characterize black gospel music.

Among the most prominent black gospel music composers and practitioners have been the Rev. C.A. Tindley (1851–1933), composer of “I’ll Overcome Someday,” which may have served as the basis for the anthem of the American civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome”; blind Reverend Gary Davis (1896–1972), a wandering preacher and guitar soloist; Thomas A. Dorsey (1899–1993), a prolific and best-selling songwriter whose works include, most notably, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”; and the Reverend C.L. Franklin (1915–84) of Detroit (father of soul music singer Aretha Franklin), who issued more than 70 albums of his sermons and choir after World War II. Important women in the black gospel tradition have included Roberta Martin (1907–69), a gospel pianist based in Chicago with a choir and a school of gospel singing; Mahalia Jackson (1911–72), who toured internationally and was often broadcast on television and radio; and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–73), whose guitar and vocal performances introduced gospel into nightclubs and concert theatres



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    Dixie Hummingbirds: 75th Anniversary
    Call Number: CD SACRED DIXIE
    Dixie Hummingbirds: Ira Tucker, Sr., William Bright, lead vocals ; Frank Frierson, James Williams, Enoch Webster, backing vocals ; Lyndon Baines Jones, lead guitar. With Tony Garnier, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Larry Campbell, Dr. John and George Recile.

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    How Sweet It Was (DVD)
    Call Number: DVD 782.254 HO
    A best of the best compilation covering a span of over 40 years. Compiled by gospel music expert Anthony Heilbut, this exciting multi-faceted package offers great film of gospel icons, filmed in the 1960s, as well as many all-time classic music tracks from the 1940s-1960s on the accompanying CD. Also includes booklet with biographical notes and photos.

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    Odetta Holmes
    Ask the library to purchase or interlibrary loan!

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    Shout, Sister, Shout!: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharp
    Nobody's fault but mine (Joan Osborne ; with the Holmes Brothers) (4:01) -- My journey to the sky (Maria Muldaur ; with Bonnie Rait) (4:04) -- Rock me (Toshi Reagon) (5:08) -- Two littel fishes and five loaves of bread (Odetta ; with the Holmes Brothers) (3:22) -- Strange things happening every day (Michelle Shocked) (4:59) -- This train (Janis Ian) (2:41) -- Shout, sister, shout (Maria Muldaur, Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli, Tracy Nelson) (3:01) -- Beams of heaven (Phoebe Snow ; with the Holmes Brothers) (3:52) -- Precious memories (Sweet Honey in the Rock) (4:58) -- I want a tall, skinny papa (Marcia Ball ; with Tracy Nelson, Maria Muldaur & Anglela Strehli) (3:13) -- My Lord and I (Victoria Williams ; with the Holmes Brothers) (4:22) -- Stand by me (Rory Block) (2:49) -- Up above my head (Maria Muldaur & Tracy Nelson) (3:45) -- Don't take everybody to be your friend (Joanna Connor) (4:05) -- That's all (Angela Strehli) (3:59) -- I looked down the line (and I wondered) (Maria Muldaur) (4:14) -- Didn't it rain (Marie Knight) (3:43) -- Down by the riverside (Sister Rosetta Tharpe) (3:01).

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    Sister Rosetta Tharp
    Ask the library to purchase or interlibrary loan!

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    Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting With Mahalia Jackson
    Call Number: CD 782.254 Jac
    While this compilation has 14 performances from 1956-1965, there's no indication that it was intended as a best-of, and indeed no indication as to exactly what theme upon which it might be centered. There are live performances and studio performances, and half of the cuts were previously unreleased. Some have full bands and backup vocals (jazz drummer Shelly Manne is even on some tracks); some only have keyboard accompaniment. It's good, yes, but curious, since it doesn't serve the needs of the general consumer looking for a best-of-type anthology, or totally serve the hardcore collector, since there's just the half that's been unavailable before. So perhaps the ultimate purpose is to get some more mileage out of the Jackson catalog. If none of those prickly concerns are an issue, the music's solid enough, and the previously unissued cuts are not of a radically different standard than the ones which were released. The full-band arrangements, such as "Down By the River" and "That's All Right," pack the most punch. ~ Richie Unterberger

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    Thomas Dorsey (featured on Great African Americans in Music)
    Ray Charles -- Nat King Cole -- Ella Fitzgerald -- Aretha Franklin -- Hammer -- Sarah Vaughan -- Stevie Wonder -- Chuck Berry -- Natalie Cole -- Thomas Dorsey -- Whitney Houston -- Janet Jackson -- Charley Pride

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    WOW Gospel 2016
    Call Number: CD 782.254 WOW GOS
    Publication Date: 2016

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    Mighty Clouds of Joy
    Contents: Been good to me -- House of the Lord -- Order my steps -- Mighty high -- A church -- Lord I thank you -- If Jesus can't fix it -- Keep on doing it -- God can -- Mama prayed us through (intro) -- Mama prayed us through -- I believe in the Lord -- I made a step.

    Been good to me -- House of the Lord -- Order my steps -- Mighty high -- A church -- Lord I thank you -- If Jesus can't fix it -- Keep on doing it -- God can -- Mama prayed us through (intro) -- Mama prayed us through -- I believe in the Lord -- I made a step

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    Still - CeCe Winans
    Call Number: CD R&B WIN
    Still -- Close to you -- Things (featuring Marvin Winans) -- Grace -- Reason to dance -- He can handle it -- Changed my world -- The garden -- Never thought -- I found love (Cindy's song) -- Let it be (featuring Mary Mary).

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