What follows is a fascinating report on a surprising find made by scholars at Baylor University who were researching a collection of gospel music. What they found on the "B side" of the many 45s they studied turned out to be a major find.
Civil Rights on the Flip Side: Vintage Gospel 45s Show a Surprising Number of Civil Rights Songs on Their “B” Sides
Released: 1/31/2011 8:00 AM EST
Source: Baylor University
Newswise — A surprisingly large number of “B” sides on old 45s of gospel songs address the subject of civil rights, the Vietnam War and other social issues, according to a Baylor University researcher who is overseeing a preservation effort called the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.
The recent discovery “tells us that the gospel community was much more involved in the civil rights movement than we previously thought — outside of Mahalia Jackson and Dorothy Love Coates, who we knew were very involved,” said Robert Darden, an associate professor of journalism at Baylor and a former gospel editor for Billboard magazine.
In 2005, Darden began a search-and-rescue mission for gospel music on old 78s, 45s and LPs and in various taped formats to be preserved digitally and cataloged at Baylor. Darden — author of People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music — was concerned that while contemporary gospel was thriving, early gospel by lesser known artists during the 1940s to the 1970s, the “Golden Age of Gospel Music,” might be lost forever.
“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,” Darden said. “When we've known about a song, it is almost always the hit or ‘A’ side.”
The songs related to civil rights may have escaped notice because few scholars are studying gospel music’s impact on that issue, as well as the fact many of the artists are lesser known or even unknown, other than by a small circle of friends, family members and church members, he said.
The spirited “Where is Freedom?” by The Friendly Four begins with a rousing appeal: “Here’s a freedom song for all you freedom fighters out there everywhere. And when you sing, remember the wonderful ones who lost their dedicated lives for this precious purpose and won’t be allowed to see it through. Now sing — SING, every one of you!”
The lyrics speak of civil rights marches and demonstrations in Atlanta, Tennessee, Birmingham and Chicago, of violence and snapping police dogs, of integration and equal rights.
To read the entire essay click here.
For more information about the project, visit www.baylor.edu/lib/gospel
Note: Darden will be speaking on the topic during February, Black History Month. He will speak at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 on "The Influence of Black Sacred Music on the Civil Rights Movement"" during an event at Northwest Vista Community College in San Antonio.
Contact: Terry Lee Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, Baylor University, (254) 710-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org