Musical Monday: Larry Norman and Repurposing the Gospel Aura

Paul Harvey

A couple of musical posts to liven up your Monday. First, blog friend David Stowe, author of the very-soon-to-forthcome No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism (which we blogged about a few weeks ago), has a guest post at the UNC Press blog based on a conversation in 2007 with Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, shortly before he (Norman, that is) passed. The stories, full of musical celebrities, are fun. And he continues:

Were all these stories credible? Who knows. He told me he’d chatted in an airport lounge with a woman in a beautiful jacket who claimed that her husband was Bob Dylan. Andraé Crouch, who happened to be there with Norman, confirmed the woman’s story. Norman confirmed something that my ears had told me: that Dylan’s Grammy-winning single “Gotta Serve Somebody” was closely modeled on Norman’s song “Righteous Rocker,” released several years earlier.

This is a fun read, highly recommended.

As is Douglas Harrison, Repurposing the Gospel Aura, in today's Religion Dispatches, which takes the use of a gospel choir as a backdrop to Eminem's much-commented-upon Chrysler/Detroit commercial as a way of reflecting on how and why this music invites audiences "to imagine themselves as part of a colorblind fellowship of humanity bound together by the soulful sound of a black gospel choir." Harrison reflects on what is gained, and what is lost/missing, in that process. Black gospel is a "universal language of inspiration and transcendence that cuts across race, class, and history," but in the process, "the very real racial tension surrounding the struggle for equality of opportunity in America isn’t so much resolved or reconciled or even recognized. It is simply ignored in these digestible little pageants of musical and psychosocial harmony."

Thinking of this post at Religion Dispatches, it's a good time to congratulate our blog contributor Gerardo Marti, who has just finished his book manuscript, for Oxford, on a very similar theme: Worship Across the Racial Divide: Notions of Race and Religious Practice in Multiracial Churches, coming out with Oxford next year. Gerardo talks about how African American music comes to stand for authenticity in the churches he studies. And he talks about much else besides -- maybe we can entice him to do a little post here in celebration of mailing off the manuscript, telling us about his work a bit more? Let's hear it, ya'll.


Luke Harlow said…
Wow, lots of good stuff here Paul! And also: count this is a "second" on the motion to get a post from Gerardo about his forthcoming book.
Gerardo Marti said…
Thanks Paul and Luke -- let me get my act together between a few this's and that's and I'll put something up.

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