Gospel music. It's mostly about heaven and sweet Jesus and the bad old devil, right?
Well, a lot of it is, but researchers are discovering an almost-forgotten depth of this music, which has deep roots in the African-American community. They are finding that some of this music gave voice to the most persuasive proponents of civil rights and other peace justice issues.
A Baylor University researcher who is overseeing a preservation effort called the "Black Gospel Music Restoration Project" has found that a lot of "B" sides of old 45 records address exactly these issues.
"The reason we haven't known about the 'B' sides before is that more than third of what we've received is not in the lone book that tries to catalog all gospel music," says Robert Darden, an associate professor of journalism at Baylor and a former gospel editor for Billboard magazine. "When we've known about a song, it is almost always the hit or 'A' side."
National and international interest in preserving these old gospel recordings was spurred in 2005 by this piece by Darden in The New York Times.
All of this strikes me as more evidence of the connection between religious faith and morally driven social causes designed to liberate people from various prisons. Can music be a tool in this? Clearly. And it's a good thing not to lose the history of how some of that happened.
If you want more information about "Black Gospel Music Restoration Project" click here. At the page to which that link will connect you, it's possible to search through the entire collection being gathered by this intriguing project.
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WHERE ALL THE MIDDLE EAST TURMOIL IS LEADING
I mentioned here yesterday the protests in Egypt (you see that country's flag pictured here today) and the future of democracy there and in some other predominantly Muslim countries. Yesterday's protests seemed at least as potent as the ones the day or two before that, and it's increasingly unclear whether President Hosni Mubarak can withstand the onslaught. Nor is it clear to me whether the Muslim Brotherhood -- banned but tolerated in Egypt -- will begin to take a more active role. To help all of us understand what's happening not just in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon but in other countries in the Middle East, I want to link you to a couple of pieces. First is this one by the Egyptian Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has returned to Egypt to participate in the protests. ElBaradei is critical not just of Egypt's leadership but also of the response by the American government. Next is this piece from Commentary magazine that is also critical of the American response to developments in the Middle East. Finally, here's a CNN piece explaining how the situations in Egypt and Tunisia are different. We're still days, weeks or months away from knowing whether the current turmoil is of huge significance or simply a blip on the screen. I'm guessing something just below huge significance with long-term consequences we can't yet foresee.
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