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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."