Gospel (and other) music for Easter

An appropriate time for a bit of gospel…

Mahalia Jackson

From the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, the intro says it all: “The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer… Miss Mahalia Jackson”


Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Gospel and rock & roll: The connection is well known. Numerous soul singers had roots in that tradition, starting with Ray Charles,  and Sam Cooke who was once one of the great stars of gospel.

But one performer who is less known now,  was perhaps a much more important link between the two musics: Sister Rosetta Tharpe,  a highly under-rated performer. Below, part 1 of a BBC documentary. Each part is about 14:30 minutes

Part 2    Part 3    Part 4

For more on Sister Rosetta, I recommend the biography, Shout, Sister, Shout by Gayle Wald (who was interviewed extensively in the above documentary), and the compilation CD, Up Above My Head.

And more…

A very different sound… the unique Rev. Louis Overstreet, captured on video, with the congregation, doing “Working on the Building”

Back to Sam Cooke, mentioned above… there is also a biography of him available on YouTube which includes some discussion of his gospel roots.  Part 1 is here. (Subsequent parts in the sidebar)

In a different vein, a new CD is scheduled to be released later this month: Mercyland: Hymns for the rest of us  assembled by Phil Madeira.

It promises to fulfill a line spoken by one of its performers, Emmylou Harris, “Not all hymns are found in the pocket on the back of the church pew.”

Some comments from an American Songwriter article:

Wanting to explore the commonalities of faith, Madiera invited acts like The Civil Wars, Shawn Mullins, Buddy Miller, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mat Kearney, Cindy Morgan, Amy Stroup, The North Mississippi Allstars, Dan Tyminski, John Scofield and Harris to contribute ten original and two traditional songs to the project. These are “folks who set up their tent out in the left part of the field,” says Harris.

“When I was a young boy, my mother played me the music of Mahalia Jackson, which introduced me to the reality of a bone chilling, soul-stirring music that made everything else pale in comparison,” explains Madeira in a press statement. “These were joyous odes that sang of the love and the dignity of all humanity. Over the years I was saddened to see how often the differences of personal beliefs were highlighted in the mainstream dialogue.”

Listen to four of the songs here