The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church

The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church

by Michael W. Harris
     
 

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Most observers believe that gospel music has been sung in African-American churches since their organization in the late 1800s. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as Michael W. Harris's history of gospel blues reveals. Tracing the rise of gospel blues as seen through the career of its founding figure, Thomas Andrew Dorsey, Harris tells the story of the most… See more details below

Overview

Most observers believe that gospel music has been sung in African-American churches since their organization in the late 1800s. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as Michael W. Harris's history of gospel blues reveals. Tracing the rise of gospel blues as seen through the career of its founding figure, Thomas Andrew Dorsey, Harris tells the story of the most prominent person in the advent of gospel blues. Also known as "Georgia Tom," Dorsey had considerable success in the 1920s as a pianist, composer, and arranger for prominent blues singes including Ma Rainey. In the 1930s he became involved in Chicago's African-American, old-line Protestant churches, where his background in the blues greatly influenced his composing and singing. Following much controversy during the 1930s and the eventual overwhelming response that Dorsey's new form of music received, the gospel blues became a major force in African-American churches and religion. His more than 400 gospel songs and recent Grammy Award indicate that he is still today the most prolific composer/publisher in the movement. Delving into the life of the central figure of gospel blues, Harris illuminates not only the evolution of this popular musical form, but also the thought and social forces that forged the culture in which this music was shaped.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Harris...skillfully demonstrates the ways that music can serve ideology, whether as "survival texts" or as an emblem of class warfare. He also captures the union of piety and commerce inherent in American fundamentalism."--New York Times Book Review

"Harris cleverly weaves together his biographical and cultural analysis....He has written a fine book from which historians, even the tone deaf among them, will profit."--American Historical Review

"Harris carefully portrays Dorsey as the personification of the tension between the assimilationist and indigenous African-American traditions....This is no mere academic anatomizing imposed on a music of folkish popular culture....The fact that Harris transgresses the repressive orthodoxy of the church and reveals the human contribution to gospel music to be "the blues" makes his book one of the few nonfictional pieces placeable in Ralph Ellison's "blues school of literature."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"The Rise of Gospel Blues fills a critical void.... More than a biography of an important composer, Harris frames Dorsey's life and music against the backdrop of early twentieth-century African-American social and intellectual history....A complex and provocative work, providing a solid foundation for exploring the role of gospel music in the twentieth-century African-American church."--Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter

"A most welcome book whose subjects are dramatically underrepresented in the literature and whose specific subject has been preserved too long only in the memories of the oral tradition."--Choice

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199879885
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/30/1992
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
7 MB

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