Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Question: Gospel Gal, Gospel Gal, Where Have You Been?

Answer: Writing this.

I haven't been able to blog as much as I've wanted to over the past few months, largely because this and other projects have taken huge chunks of time. Still, some of the interviews I got to do for this piece made it almost worth it. Today, The Gospel Truth. Tomorrow, the next fabulous memoir. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II, (1920-2005)

"There is no black church, no white church, no American church, but . . .a church. . . a home for black, white, Americans, and people of every culture."

--Pope John Paul II, (1920-2005)
(quoted by Bishop Edward K. Braxton)


A Shout-Out

If you love gospel music--and you stay up late/early on weekends--you'll want to check out Bob Marovich's "Gospel Memories" program, featuring vintage gospel, spiritual and jubilee recordings. His program is usually on the first Sunday of the month from 2:00-6:30 a.m. CST on Chicago's WLUW (88.7 FM)

Bob's based in Chicago, but even if you can't listen to WLUW, you can listen to the live webcast at Because of the time change, this month's program will run from 3:00-6:30 a.m.

This month's program will feature recordings from the following artists:

Vera Copeland
Harmonizing Four
Soul Stirrers
Isaiah Owens
Radio Four
CBS Trumpeteers
Hardeman Singers
Princess Stewart
Five Singing Stars
Georgia Louis
Mighty Kings of Harmony
Clefs of Calvary

His website is

Music of the Movement

Here's a really neat story about "The Club From Nowhere"--a group of women who baked and sold cookies, cakes and pies to raise funds for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The story is great on its own, but the music is also cool. You can hear the following songs in the story:

1. "Tupelo," by Pop Staples, Albert King and Steve Cropper. From the CD The Complete Stax/Volt Singles, Vol. 2, 1968-71. Fantasy Records.

2. "God Is a Battle Axe," by Sister Wynona, recorded Feb. 11, 1949. From the CD Women of Gospel's Golden Age, Vol. 1. Fantasy Records.

3. "Can't Sit Down," by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. From the CD The Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vol.1, 1938-1943. Fremeaux.

4. "Black Woman," by Brownie McGee. From the CD The Best of Harry Belafonte's Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music, 2001. Buddha Records.

5. "Rainy Night in Georgia," by Brook Benton. From the CD The Best of Brook Benton, 2000. The Island Def Jam Music Group.

For me, this is another of those sweet moments where my interests intersect. In this case, that's Civil Rights history, music, public radio and baking. Mmmmm.

A Couple of Scandals

No ministry or organization or business is exempt from the possibility of scandal. Here are a couple of recent ones related to the gospel music industry. I probably won't do much related to the first one, but am intrigued by the second:

First, a payola dust-up:

Payola Probe Leads to Gospel Radio Firing (Chicago Sun-Times)

WGRB/Chicago PD Robinson Out Over Alleged Payola (Radio News Roundup)

Clear Channel Fires Gospel PD over Payola Scandal (Billboard Radio Monitor)

Chicago PD Fired Over Payola Allegations (FMQB Radio Industry News)

The Mike Robinson (no relation to Sandra Robinson) mentioned in these stories has now replaced Sandra Robinson as program director at WGRB, according to

Second, a pretty interesting one:

Lawsuit: Sony-BMG Blacklisted Agent to Keep Gospel Singers Underpaid (Associated Press)

This is worth watching. Some big names are listed here, and if it's true that Verity Records president Max Siegel (a lawyer himself) intimidated artists into dropping their agent--artists as significant (and, one would assume, business-savvy) as Dr. Bobby Jones, Donald Lawrence, Hezekiah Walker and Twinkie Clark--that's No Small Thing.

More on Verity Records--which celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year-- can be heard here.

National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. So, beloved lurkers, I shall spend it finding and presenting the best poems related to gospel music that I can find. I've got some interesting things planned, so stay tuned. If you know of a poem you'd like to share, e-mail it to me (with bibliographic information/verifiable citation info) at gospel dot gal at

To kick things off, here's a beautiful poem from one of my favorite poets, James Weldon Johnson (photo on that page by photographer Carl Van Vechten. I love it when my interests intersect like this!):

O Black and Unknown Bards

O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel's lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?

Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see?"

What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone,
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears.

Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young.

There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
that from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You--you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine.

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting paen
Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed
Still live,--but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.

--from American Negro Poetry: An Anthology