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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.