Search - The Story of Gospel Music on DVD

The Story of Gospel Music
The Story of Gospel Music
Actors: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Cleveland
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
NR     2005     1hr 30min

From mahalia jackson to aretha franklin to shirley caesar these performances offer a fascinating look into the origins of gospel music. Vintage recordings and modern performances highlight this song-filled history of an am...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Cleveland
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Other Music, Religion & Spirituality, Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/18/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Great, but.....
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 06/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I enjoyed this DVD myself. The other posters and the opening review have given a good idea of what it's all about. The Mahalia Jackson and Shirely Ceasar performances (both recorded in England, the former in 1984 and the latter in 1964) are almost worth the price of admission as both are quite powerful.

The narrators, by the way, are identified during the proceedings. They include Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, one of Dr. King;s associates, and Dr. Horace Boyer, a scholar of gospel music who I've had the pleasure of meeting and having heard speak at a local college once.

However, you want to smash the DVD when the editors STUPIDLY cut up an extremely rare clip of the Edwin Hawkins Singers singing one of the greatest gospel records of all time, "Oh Happy Day" (this is the DVD age-no reason why an entire perfromance cannot appear as an extra). The beloved Clara Ward and her singers are shown as they are warming up to perform a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and the clip is cut just as Miss Ward and co. are raring to cook! A number of other tunes are presented in their intirety. Who was the IDIOT that edited this thing?

That aside, it's wonderful. You will surely play it more than once."
A thorough understanding on gospel's origination!
Rizzo | Denver, CO | 01/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's safe to say that gospel music is enthusiastic, moving, powerful and healing. This British (BBC) documentary is well-put together, very insightful with many gospel performances. However, the producers failed to identify on screen, interviewees, commentators or performers. You must pay close attention to what is said, or try to follow the names on the back of DVD cover.

The story of gospel takes us back to the West Africa slave trades, spirituals and revivals to Aretha Franklin. We learn about the earlier singers, touring to introduce this different effective music as did the Fisk University Jubilee, and Mahalia Jackson who brought gospel to a wider world.

You will learn the instruments that incorporate into the gospel. And the sound that is derived from the blues and jazz and you will see clips of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the guitar playing gospel singer of the 70's.
An interesting aspect is on writing the music is and teaching how to verbalize and articulate the message the music is about.

We are made to understand the political implications of gospel, and the hardships of Preacher Shirley Caesar taking gospel on the road in the days of segregation. More profound luminaries include the Godfather of Gospel Thomas Dorsey and Reverend James Cleveland.

By the time you finish, you have a great understanding of the music of gospel as we are treated to some great commentators. One impressive commentator is a black man sitting at the piano with an exceptional musical and speaking voice. Again, we don't learn his name.

This DVD is excellent!!......Rizzo"
Informative but could be more so
T. Blikre | Redmond, WA United States | 01/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Considering it's 90 minute length, a lot of interesting information is shared. However, none of the experts interviewed are identified- not by onscreen text, not verbally, and not even in the credits. It's frustrating to not know who these experts are and from whence they speak!"
Everyone gets a swing at it (almost).
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 06/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Overall, a good balance of information and inspiration. Some of the "talking heads" are overused, others underused. The same goes for the performers. Some is familiar footage (especially Mahalia); some less so (Rosetta Tharpe). The film gives the viewer just enough of the Pentecostal, "Sanctified" tradition of gospel music-making to bring credibility and color to the words of the consulted authorities. Too much emphasis on emotive, collective singing would have worn thin just as quickly as too much intellectualizing. Perhaps there's excessive recitation of familiar history by formally attired expert-types, familiar ground about oppression and its positive outcomes (in story and song), though the film does manage to single out some of the key igniters and keepers of the flame.

The biggest disappointment is the failure to identify speakers and, in some instances, even performers and arresting performances! (What were the filmmakers thinking?) Most will have no trouble recognizing Mahalia, James Cleveland, Sister Rosetta, Shirley Caesar, but it can become frustrating having to backtrack (in vain) to identify certain individuals. The story could have used better titling and more provocative questions (Gospel's relation to pop music? To the evolution of jazz? Its drift away from clear elocution and close harmonies? Its increasing reliance on synthesizers, hard funk, glitz and glitter, and the often surreal confluence of the sacred and secular, the ultra modern and primitive, the spiritual and sexual).

Nevertheless, it's an overview and a start, with some occasionally surprising, delightful moments of spontaneity and originality. The "authorities"--theologians, historians, sociologists, ministers of music, etc.-- are in themselves performers (more so, in this film, than the musicians), clearly enjoying the opportunity to expound on a favorite subject (and relishing their role in the film). They're at times almost as much fun to hear as the music (esp. the guy at the piano, filmed with numerous Gothic candles as backlighting)--almost. Overall, the project could have used a stronger, larger role for the Holy Ghost. Maybe the director feared that, unlike the other performers and participants, S/He would insist on a credit.

But upon reflection, the undeniable "physicality" of Gospel music can in itself become wearing after awhile. When one has accumulated a generous sum of years, conceded to frailties once assumed to be the business only of "others," and moreover discovered the profound consolations of artful elegy (whether in Shakespeare or Wordsworth, Verdi or Ellington), the cheerleading associated with Gospel music (and holy rollers of any stripe) can begin to sound increasingly hollow. The presence of "the spirit" is no less welcome, but in the ineffable, mystic sense of "receiving" rather than "getting" it. No amount of emotionalism or calisthenics can match the action over which we as humans have no control: God's reaching down in manifestation of a divine and truly miraculous Grace."