Thelonious and the Gospel Truth

Check the Wall Street Journal today for my article "'Gospel Truth: The Evolution of an American Musical Tradition," p. W13 in the "Weekend Journal" section (or click above). My conclusion: "the music of Southern Protestantism and the juke box intermingled frequently through the 20th century--as did the musical worlds of white and black Protestants. Of course, the same was not true of the churchgoers themselves."


Unknown said…
Brilliant synthesis (especially given the word limits these papers stipulate!).

Even at the end of the 19th century, Pentecostal whites like Charlie Tillman, author of The OLD TIME RELIGION, openly admitted that they borrowed their tunes and rich harmonies from slaves and former slaves. Yet Tillman and his closest associates in the South remained, like the generation before them, deeply racist.

But not all Pentecostal whites were as opposed to blacks as Tillman. Even in the era of Jim Crow, some churches in Western Tennessee were integrating both culturally and personally. An area of research that I think still has not been touched to a significant extent.
A wonderful article! The Jim Crow south also included the anti-rock movement, which was couched in the perception that rock and roll and black gospel were products of African religious practice.

There was an equally significant split within the African American community which contributed to the evolution of this form of gospel music: jazz, blues and rock were demonized, while black gospel (though similar in style) was accepted. The difference was not only in content, but in space and context (bars, clubs, etc.).

As a side note, it would be an interesting study to find out how many in-house church gospel music labels have distribution deals with corporate labels, thus creating an ethical dilemma for the non-profit status. How does this affect tax status? How does this affect the church's hiring practice under federal EEO law?

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