News / Arts & Entertainment

Gospel Music Restoration Project to Add Flavor to New Museum

Mahalia Jackson, "Queen of the Gospel Singers," practices a new song in her Chicago apartment, Aug. 30, 1955.
Mahalia Jackson, "Queen of the Gospel Singers," practices a new song in her Chicago apartment, Aug. 30, 1955.
Richard Paul
Through Baylor University’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project a remarkable collection of music that’s been housed in Texas is poised to add flavor to a new museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  

Today, Bob Darden is a college professor in Waco, Texas.  But in 1960, he was a small child whose father had just brought home the family’s first three LP phonograph records.  Two of them, he didn’t care about.

“The third was Mahalia Jackson’s Christmas album," he said.  "And my parents say that at about age six or so,  that I played Mahalia’s album over and over.”

Gospel Music Restoration Project to Add Flavor to New Museum
Gospel Music Restoration Project to Add Flavor to New Museumi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Darden’s fascination lasted throughout his life.  He eventually became gospel music editor for Billboard magazine.  Then in 2005, Darden - frustrated that it was getting harder to find this music that he loved -- wrote a letter to The New York Times complaining that black gospel was disappearing.  A man named Charles Royce read the letter “and called that day and said, ‘Tell me what we need to do and I’ll help fund it.’”

Royce’s gift was used to create the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University, where Darden was teaching.  As of today, Darden says, “We have 8,000-plus individual sides digitized and catalogued and more coming in every day.”

That’s 8,000 mostly 45 RPM gospel records - the little ones that held one song per side - from the 1940s to 1970s.  In 2011, the collection came to the attention of former first lady Laura Bush, who has a home in Waco and is on the cultural council of the Smithsonian Institution’s new museum of African-American History and Culture.

“They let us know of this wonderful project that was going at Baylor, in Texas and then a team of people came up here to D.C. to show us what they’ve accomplished and we were all very impressed,” said  Dwandalyn Reece, the museum’s curator of Music and Performing Arts.

The fact that these are 45 rpm records turned out to be very important in an unexpected way.  45s always had a side called the "hit" side, with a popular song and then the "flip" side, which fewer people listened to.  The flip side, Darden says, was “usually where the artist does their own personal song.”

When it comes to the U.S. civil rights era, Darden says, that makes these records important artifacts, because so many of the flip sides were civil rights songs that are completely unknown.

Even for an historian of music like Dwandalyn Reece, this was a revelation.

“You think people are just talking about religion, and the other side they have a message embedded in that as well," she said.  "The whole idea of having, like a Civil Rights Movement message in a gospel song - it was - just blew my mind.”

African-American gospel music, Darden likes to remind people, is the foundational music for most American music from the 20th century.

“Every rock n' roll African-American artist, every rap, every soul artist came out of the church and sang these songs,” he said.

Now the highlights of this remarkable collection are on their way to Washington, D.C.  Putting this music in the Smithsonian, Reece says, “gives a forum for more people to hear this music and have access to it.”

It’s an important gift to the United States and to the world, she says.  And more than that, “I see this as an untold story that hasn’t gotten its due yet.”

The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture - including the best of the Royce-Darden Collection - is scheduled to open in 2015.

You May Like

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."