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The Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul

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Saturdays in May at 11 p.m.

Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul, hosted by Cece Winans, is a four part documentary series illustrating the influence of Black gospel on early rock and soul music.

May 9 – The first program begins and ends with Sam Cooke in 1955 singing in what would be one his last performances as a gospel musician before crossing over to pop music. The hour examines the history and foundation of Black gospel from spirituals and how those songs informed the gospel music of the great gospel quartets including The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Pilgrim Travelers, The Golden Gates, The Caravans, and The Soul Stirrers featuring Sam Cooke. The episode ends with the story of Sam Cooke’s ascent into the pop world.

May 16 – How did rock, soul and R&B grow out of the roots of Gospel? By the mid-20th century, gospel music was a force in America. It was capturing the attention of record companies and audiences across the nation. Sam Cooke’s emergence as a soul singer epitomized this moment. Sister Rosetta Tharpe defined what it meant to be a rock star and influenced some of the early rock and rollers. Chess Records’ singer Mitty Collier tasted the highs of the pop life before she became a Pastor and The Edwin Hawkins Singers solidified gospel music’s place alongside pop music with their mainstream hit song, “Oh Happy Day.”

May 23 - This hour tells the stories of Elvis Presley’s gospel music influences and how he brought gospel to White audiences, the role of gospel music in the civil rights movement with Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples, and the bridging of pop and gospel music with Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye.

May 30 - This episode features music from Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers, Aretha Franklin, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Rance Allen, Al Green, Mahalia Jackson, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Swan Silvertones, and live performances from The Fairfeld Four, Dixie Hummingbirds, and The McCrary Sisters.