Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 3

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture:
CL Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and Beyond, Pt.3
By:  Angela Lee Price
Black gospel music historically has had a profound positive impact upon American culture, and indeed the world. During the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, gospel music made a significant impact in helping rid this nation of discrimination and segregation. Black gospel music birthed soul music that contained themes of love, unity, uplift, and empowerment.
This short blog series will examine the impact of postmodernism upon the entertainment industry, particularly gospel and secular music, and the impacts gospel music has had upon society across the eras of "the Franklins," C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and beyond.


PART 3:  KIRK FRANKLIN EARLY 1990s
By the time the 1980’s were in full swing, the sacred and secular had all but gotten a divorce. References in song to the virtues West, Vandrunen, and C.S. Lewis talked about as being essential to the moral integrity began to take a back seat to capitalistic interests. Whereas Aretha Franklin was affectionately referred to as the “Queen of Soul,” many postmodern experts proclaimed iconic entertainer Michael Jackson the “King of Pop,” and singer Madonna the “High Priestess of PoMo.” Also, the 1980s saw the national emergence of a new genre of music called rap and hip hop, which existed prior to that only as a subculture in northern cities, most particularly New York and her inner cities. Author Os Guinness in his critically acclaimed book on postmodernism, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It stated:
“Take Madonna, ‘female icon’ of the 1980s. She is the ultimate spin doctor to her own PR, the consummate orchestrator of her own controlled, ever-changing, ever-commercial images. Call her shameless, call her cheap, call her cynical, call her pornographic, call her sacrilegious, call her what you like. There is no limit to what she will say, do, wear, mock, promote, degrade – all to draw attention to herself and sell her soul along with her latest image and product…Compared with Madonna’s deliberate abuse of Christian symbols, the Russian’s was the soul of sincerity….Madonna as a High Priestess of PoMo is the epitome of a fifth modern influence that confronts us in America today – popular postmodernism, including its devouring attitudes to truth, goodness, and beauty” (Guinness, 1994, p. 102).
In 1989, Madonna recorded the song, “Like A Prayer.” It was very controversial because the lyrics carried dual meanings about sex and religion. Madonna paved the way for Lady Gaga to wear meat on her body and call it art and for rapper Nikki Minaj to reach superstardom calling her demons her “alter egos.” The VertigoShtick.com website said about Lady Gaga in a March 2011 post entitled, Lady Gaga - "Born This Way," Vertigo, Madonna, Hitchcock, Postmodernism, and Other Thoughts” that she is probably the definition of a pop music postmodernist. True, postmodernist theory and philosophy hasn't exactly been applied to pop music in any definitive sense (yet...I'll get on that), but if we scroll down a list of some general postmodern attributes every one of them smacks of Gaga:”
Worldseen.org, a Christian website that analyzes worldviews in popular culture, posted a review of the 2010 song “The Fly,” by Nikki Minaj stating:
“Although she sometimes talks about God in her songs, the rest of her lyrics, lifestyle, and confessions, indicate she holds to a more postmodern worldview. With this knowledge in mind, it is interesting to read the lyrics to one of her songs “Fly” featuring Rihanna. Minaj who in her own words claims she has demons that are either influencing or possessing her opens the song with this words, “...Everyone want to box me in suffocating every time it locks me in, paint they own pictures than they crop me in, but I will remain where the top begins. Cause I am not a word, I am not a line, I am not a girl that can ever be defined. I am not fly, I am levitation; I represent an entire generation....” (http://worldseen.org/reviews/music/category/pomo-2.html).
Today, as many people debate trivial issues like whether it was okay of Beyonce Knowles-Carter to lip sync the National Anthem at the inauguration of President Obama, secular and hip hop music continue to shape the hearts and minds of impressionable youth with self-centered, materialistic, and misogynistic messages. Rapper Lil Wayne (as known as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), raps the postmodern mantra of self-centeredness in the song "She Will" featuring Drake, “I’m all about “I” give the rest of the vowels back!”

One of the most prolific voices trumpeting the gospel message in a postmodern era is gospel artist Kirk Franklin. He is a multi-talented award-winning singer, songwriter, record producer, music director, pianist, rapper, and television host. When he burst on the gospel music scene in the 1990s, Franklin quickly became a cutting-edge trendsetter with crossed-over appeal. About his early impact on black secular music, Craig Werner wrote in Higher Ground:
“The impact of the church-trained singers both reflected and contributed to a resurgence of gospel music. Gospel had never gone away, of course, but from the mid-seventies on, it had rarely made a direct impact on the pop charts, and its political statements were hears almost solely by a churchgoing African American audience. Summon memories of Sam Cooke, Kirk Franklin emerged as the most powerful force in gospel’s reengagement with black secular music. Incorporating hip-hop beats and R&B production techniques into his gospel compositions, Franklin used his Gospocentric label to help reopen a crossover market that had been closed for the better part of two decades” (Werner, 2004, p. 281).
By 1994, Kirk Franklin had released two albums, “Why We Sing,” and “Whatcha Lookin’ 4.” His second album did better than the first hitting Billboard’s Top 200 chart at number 23, the R&B chart at number 5, and both the video and the contemporary Christian charts at number 1. Commenting on the success of the album, Franklin wrote in his book, Church Boy, “That was the highest breakout ranking of any gospel album in history, and we were totally blessed by it” (Franklin, 1998, 169). 
Franklin admitted experiencing a lot of criticism from people in the church who complained that he had become too secular with his edgy, contemporary style, “Some of our strongest critics, especially inside the church, said we have turned our backs on traditional gospel music and were just contemporary R&B artists exploiting Christian lyrics for the money. But that’s not true” (Franklin, 1998, 165).


An excerpt from my February 2013 research paper, THE INFLUENCE OF POSTMODERN-THOUGHT IN MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT
MY RELATED POSTS:
The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 1
The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 2
Where Is the Love in Love Songs and in Society?
The Gravity of Gospel Hip Hop
Negro Spirituals Come Full Circle

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 2

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture:
CL Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and Beyond, Pt.2

Black gospel music historically has had a profound positive impact upon American culture, and indeed the world. During the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, gospel music made a significant impact in helping rid this nation of discrimination and segregation. Black gospel music birthed soul music that contained themes of love, unity, uplift, and empowerment.  This short blog series will examine the impact of postmodernism upon the entertainment industry, particularly gospel and secular music, and the impacts gospel music has had upon society across the eras of "the Franklins," C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and beyond.


PART 2: ARETHA FRANKLIN
Soul music of the modern era often felt like gospel music, and with good reason. It's roots can be traced back to the black church, and even before that, to the invisible church and the songs of slaves called Negro Spirituals. Werner in his book, Higher Ground could have easily selected Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and James Brown, to chronicle the rise and fall of soul, but instead he chose Aretha, Stevie, and Curtis. These three all came from the South, and had triumphed in suffering to share their testimonies. Moreover, Aretha and Curtis grew up singing gospel music in the church. At age 14, the first songs Aretha recorded were gospel songs sang at the church her father pastored, New Bethel Baptist Church. How her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin influenced her musical style, Aretha stated, "Most of what I learned vocally came from him. He gave me a sense of timing in music and timing is important in everything." (Werner, 2004, p. 26).  Werner stated:
In 2004, as in 1804 and 1904 and 1954, the challenge was to respond in ways that made it real. As James Baldwin wrote in "Sonny’s Blues,” “For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph, is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” It was the song that Aretha, Curtis, and Stevie had been singing all along as they summoned countless thousands aboard the gospel train to the higher ground. For those with the ears to hear and the will to respond, the invitation remains open. As Curtis Mayfield once sang to the weary and the wary as well as to the warriors: “You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.”
With a musical base with roots in the black church, soul music, although secular in lyrical content, shared many similarities with gospel music, including rhythm, melody and vocal arrangement, a call to empowerment, brotherly love, and higher purpose. Nelson George, author of the book, Post-Soul Nation wrote, “soul was descended from gospel, and when performed by a queen like Aretha Franklin, the music possessed the devotional intensity of a Sunday sermon” (George, 2004, p. vii). Soul music included the “call and response,” improvisational rifts and lyrics, handclaps and body movements, and the social commentary of the black church. Soul music included artists like Sam Cooke prophetically declaring “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1964), and Aretha Franklin singing “Respect” (1967), James Brown encouraging healthy self identity with “Say It Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud” (1968), Marvin Gaye asking “What’s Going On?”(1971). About the songs of the Civil Rights Movement George wrote, “For me this historic period was absolutely about soul in its deepest spiritual meaning. It was about faith in the human capacity for change and a palpable optimism about the future” (George, 2004, viii).
In 1972, Aretha Franklin made gospel music history with her double platinum album, Amazing Grace. It sold over two million copies in the United States, and is the biggest selling live gospel LP of all time. Accompanying Aretha is the Southern Community Choir under the direction of James Cleveland. The LP won a Grammy Award in 1973 for Best Soul Gospel Performance. Here is what's really amazing. Amazing Grace surpassed Aretha's entire body of work and is the biggest selling album of her fifty-plus year recording career.
The impact of gospel music and its message of redemption, triumph, and hope began to wane from around the mid-seventies to early eighties. By then, the Civil Rights Bill and Voting Rights Act had been signed into law, and Dr. King, had been assassinated. A new generation had come of age that had not experience the atrocities of Jim Crow discrimination. Americans developed “Dance Fever,” as the Disco music that originated out of the nightclubs and discotheques of urban sub-culture reached the height of popularity as it became mainstream. Aretha Franklin lamented what she began to see as secular influences in gospel performances,
“There are many ways to praise the Lord. Different generations hear different beats. I must say, though, when the bass lines are pure boogie and the beats are pure funk, I wouldn’t call it gospel. When the performer’s body language is funking so hard as to be religiously disrespectful, then I wouldn’t call it gospel. Gospel is a higher calling; gospel is about God. Gospel is about beautiful and glorious voices and spirit-filled performances, and people who are anointed” (Werner, 2004, p. 265).

(Next time, Part 3: Kirk Franklin)

(Excerpt from my research paper , THE INFLUENCE OF POSTMODERN-THOUGHT IN MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT, February 2013.)
The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 1

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 1

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture:
CL Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and Beyond, Pt.1

Black gospel music historically has had a profound positive impact upon American culture, and indeed the world. During the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, gospel music made a significant impact in helping rid this nation of discrimination and segregation. Black gospel music birthed soul music that contained themes of love, unity, uplift, and empowerment. This short blog series will examine the impact of postmodernism upon the entertainment industry, particularly gospel and secular music, and the impacts gospel music has had upon society across the eras of "the Franklins," C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and beyond.

In the 1960’s black artists began calling a new genre of music birthed from gospel music “soul music.” Soul music had such far-reaching effects that not only did people get on the gospel train, but they also got on the groundbreaking television dance show, Soul Train, the hippest trip in America. Arthur Craig Werner chronicled the rise and fall of American soul music in the book, Higher Ground, which examined the personal and professional histories of entertainment icons Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Curtis Mayfield. Describing the impact of gospel music on secular entertainment, Werner explains, “Insisting that people take the Bible and the Declaration of Independence seriously, the gospel vision was intent on changing the world. That was the good news the singers sang on high and the movement brought down to earth” (Werner, 2004, p. 3).PART 1: C.L. FRANKLIN

R&B and soul legend Aretha Franklin is known affectionately as "the Queen of Soul." The "Queen" had a father who knew the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The father of Aretha Franklin was the renowned Detroit preacher Rev. Clarence Lavaughn Franklin. C.L. Franklin was very influential in his own right. He ascended to preaching heights in the mid 1940s at the same time C.S. Lewis published Abolition of Man. C.L. Franklin pastored New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit that grew to between three and four thousand, and he served as the president of the National Baptist Convention. Harry Belafonte called him a super whooper. Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, Sam Cooke, James Cleveland, and B. B. King visited him regularly. Future Supreme Mary Wilson and her family attended New Bethel. Gospel music played a pivotal roles in worship services reflecting Franklin's philosophy that it "mends the broken heart, raises the bowed down head, and gives hope to the weary traveler" (Werner, 2009, p. 23). Many of the soul, jazz, and blues artists of that era made it a point to attend church to hear Rev. Franklin preach. Blues great B.B. King remarked about Franklin, “Listening to Reverend Franklin’s messages was like listening to a good sermon. You felt hope” (Werner, Ibid).

How her father influenced her musical style, Aretha stated, "Most of what I learned vocally came from him. He gave me a sense of timing in music and timing is important in everything." (Werner, p. 26).


(Excerpt from my research paper , THE INFLUENCE OF POSTMODERN-THOUGHT IN MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT, February 2013.)

The Impact of Black Gospel Music on Popular Culture, Pt. 2

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sermon Cliff Notes: Can Love That's Lost (Left) Be Found?

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

Could it be you are a Martha? You have left God in the church while being wrapped up in the busyness of the Church. My brother, Rev. Michael Lee preached a powerful word Sunday morning at Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, "Can Love That's Lost (Left) Be Found," based on Rev. 2:1-5 and the letter to the church at Ephesus.
 
The sermon title was borrowed from the song, "After the Love Has Gone, by Earth, Wind, and Fire:
...Oh oh oh oh oh oh after the love has gone what used to be right is wrong
Can love that's lost be found
Oh woh woh after the love has gone
what used to be right is wrong
Can love that's lost be found....


Three points were taken directly from verse 5 to reclaim left/lost love": 1) Remember what you did before when you were first saved; 2) Repent. Stop doing your current action, substituting busyness for relationship with the Lord; 3) Do the things you did at first.

Under the first point, Michael talked about how he and Willow couldn't wait to see each other when they were dating and first got married. Michael said Willow remembered how he use to give her flowers often. Michael remembered how Willow use to leave him handwritten letters every day. He remembered how he use to sang love songs as he traveled to see her, "Working my way back to you, baby!, and "I got 25 miles to go...I got to keep on driving (he made up his own words to the song)". He asked us to remember how it was when we first accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior; how we were "tore up from the floor up," but Jesus loved us and turned our messed up lives around any way. He reminded us how we were so on fire then that we use to get on our friends' nerves telling them about Jesus. We have to remember from where we have fallen.



We're wishing Michael ad Willow lots of love as they celebrate their 20th anniversary on Feb. 19th! Thanks to Pastor. David Snardon and congregation for their warm and gracious hospitality. Listen to the Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church radio broadcast this Friday, February 14th at 9:00 a.m. on our sister station 1240 LOVE WLLV Radio in Louisville.

What Does Frederick Douglass and Valentine's Day Have In Common?

By: Rev. Angela Lee Price

Abolitionist, orator, author, diplomat, politician and polemicist Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Maryland in February in either 1817 or 1818. The exact date of his birth is unknown. However, he chose to celebrate his birthday on Valentine's Day, February 14th. Frederick Douglass was a courageous African American intellectual who escaped slavery, and through his life and literary works, provided hope for the future.

In his 1845 autobiographical book entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Douglass eloquently articulated that hope as he reflected on his life as a slave in Maryland. Had Douglass not penned his autobiography, we would have never known the full scope of brutalities, injustices, hypocrisies and humiliations he endured in his quest from slavery to freedom nor would we have understood the level of brilliance, creativity and bravery required of him in order for him to teach himself, and other slaves, to read and write in a system that treated the American Negro as chattel.

Moreover, Douglass’ scathing condemnation of slave-holding Christianity provides hope today to seminarians and Christians currently grappling to understand and explain this nation’s racial divide.
---------------------
Here are excerpts from three of Frederick Douglass' speeches:
Church and Prejudice
Fighting Rebels With One Hand
What A Black Man Wants

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Remember, There's only one way to eternal life. Jesus Saves!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville

On Saturday, February 1st, I toured the Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville free exhibit, at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Also, I attended a couple of the workshops there, including, "When Walnut Street was in Vogue."  Ken Clay,   Mervin Aubespin, authors of the book, Two Centuries of Black Louisville, along with  Barrington "Boogie" Morton, and Ron Johnson lead a panel discussion on Louisville's version of the Harlem Renaissance, Old Walnut Street black entertainment district of the 1940's, and 50's. Ken Clay said that one of the goals of the three-day event was to inspire people to continue to document, collect and preserve African American/West Louisville's history.  The exhibit featured many historic pictures from the era including many from the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement in Louisville.  There were media and photographers at the event, including some from the Courier Journal Newspaper, and one of the pictures I was in made in on the front page of the Sunday, Metro Section. In the photo, I am talking with a couple of members from my church, Janice Varner and Robert Holly.  Actually, they are doing most of the talking, as I am a late Baby Boomer, telling me the rest of the story behind some of the pictures in the exhibit.  I really enjoyed the history lesson since I lived, as an infant in the 1960s,  just blocks from the Old Walnut Street district

Saturday night, there was the "Walnut Street Revue," a live stage show reminiscent of the 'chitlin circuit" performances at Walnut Street's Lyric Theatre during the 1940's and 50s, featuring comedian Ray "Moms Mabley" Belt, and "Motown" music of 2nd Chance, vocalists Freda olt, Greg Figgs, Kasi Cooks-Davis, and Ricky Bartlett with soul guitarist Billy Clements ad the Jerry Tolson Band.  Sunday, there was a live gospel performance, The Great Gospel Shout-Out featuring Joe Leavell and One Purpose, Messengers for Christ, and Totally Dedicated.


 

The Jail and Prison Ministry Conference Returns to Greater Salem Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

 
The Outreach Jail and Prison Ministry of Greater Salem Baptist Church is hosting a conference on Saturday, March 15th, which will focus on the "how to's" and aftercare of prison ministry.
The conference will begin at 8:00 am and conclude around 3:30 pm. A continental breakfast and lunch will be served. Advance registration is $25.00 per church or $5.00 per individual which needs to be received by February 27. After this date, the cost will be $35.00 per church and $10.00 per individual.
The main speaker will be Dr. Bishop E. Carter III, Moderator-Consolidated Baptist District Association, and author of Little Fish in a Big Pond. He will have copies on hand for $12.00 each.
Other presenters will be:
  • Bro. Dan Hittepole - Chaplain, Little Sandy Correctional Complex
  • Father Todd Boyce - Chaplain, Eastern Correctional Complex
  • Rev. Sam Whitlow & Min. Nina Wilson - Metro Corrections
  • Min. Angela Lee Price, Jesus Saves Ministries / Gisela Nelson, New Legacy Re-entry Corp, with Aftercare

Your registration fee should be mailed to the church, Attention: Outreach Jail/Prison Ministry, Greater Salem Baptist Church, 1009 West Chestnut Street, Louisville, KY 40203; Phone: 587-8869 or 502-587-8860
If you need add'l info., contact:
Rev. Michael George - 502-291-3767
Betty Garrison - 502-778-8516
Church Office - 502-587-8869

Longsuffering, the Will of God, Then the Promise

We have been praying to be in God's will in 2014. This might require that we take an honest assessment of ourselves, particularly in how we are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ. Black History Month reminds us that Christians come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. This can make it difficult for us, as Rodney King once said, to all get along. For some of us, to do God's will and receive what God has for us will require that we first grow, or cultivate the fruit of longsuffering (Galatians 5:22). The word, "longsuffering" is not used very much in everyday, contemporary 21st century language. It is often translated "patience" in newer versions of the Bible.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul addressed people who were not getting along. The church in Galatia had some serious problems… one, there were false teachers called Judiazers who were trying to sway the people back to a works-based religion; secondly, there were people in the church that couldn’t get along. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:15, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” There were people in that church who were engaged in back biting and talking about one another. They might not have done this to each others’ faces. More likely they did behind one another’s backs. The O’Jays once sang, “Smiling in your face; all the time they want to take your place…oh, backstabbers!” Paul wrote: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-14).


God is patient with you and me. If He weren’t patient with us, none of us would literally have a prayer. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because God loves us and is patient with us He forgives us - even though we have sinned. As a matter of fact, the Bible states that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Because Christ is patient, we have to be patient with one another. There are going to be people in your life who rub you the wrong way, who get under your skin, and on your last nerve; and who only speak to you when they have something negative to say. The Bible says we can't profess to love God whom we've never seen if we don't love our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we see every day.
Now the problem is patience DOESN’T come naturally or easily to most of us. Galatians says that true patience comes by allowing the Spirit of God to control us. Galatians 5:25 tells us “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:22 & 25. Don't fight fire with fire. Fight fire with love. Fight fire with prayer. Kill them with kindness. You may have to suffer long. Be patient. Know that these tests and trials only come to make you strong. The black and white picture above is of students peacefully protesting in front of Blue Boar Cafeteria in Louisville in 1961. I was one of the pictures on exhibit at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage on February 1st It is just one of thousands examples of African Americans exhibiting the fruit of longsuffering during the Civil Rights Movement with non-violent civil disobedience. I was able to eat in Blue Boar in the 1970's and '80s without any problems or discrimination because of the efforts of my forefathers to change American for the better.
The Bible says “But we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
“For you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36).
Long Suffering or patience is something we all have need of. There is no getting around it. It is the Spirit-given quality that helps us fit everyone together into a unified church that glorifies God.

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