Pathfinders: paving the way
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Those who paved the way in music Turpin came from Savannah, Georgia, and was the first black composer with a published Rag, and the first St Louis Rag time composer. Lucky Roberts was published by two publishing houses which released his first piece ‘Junk Man’ in two arrangements. He was thus the first Pianist/composer to be published from the Harlem School of Pianist/Composer. These men created the legacy of Ragtime throughout the social and economic reconstruction era. In later years gospel was reverted to, becoming in the late 1950’s the ‘Golden Era of Gospel’. Thomas Dorsey considered the ‘Father of gospel music’ composed religious music in 1921 while a member of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, Chicago. By 1941 gospel became accepted nationally, singers like Sister Rosetta Tharp, Mahalia Jackson made many recording throughout the 1940’s. These recording and the prolific growth of travelling groups of gospel singers such as the Kings of Harmony and Thrasher Wonders contributed to the rapid growth of gospel music. Mahalia Jackson’s fame for her concerts throughout Europe and the United States although long a familiar voice to black audiences was exposed to her critics when introduced to Marshal Sterns at special sessions of the Newport Jazz Festival. She went on to become gospels music leading performing star and artist of international stature. She was billed as ‘The Worlds Greatest Gospel Singer’, her first gospel recording ‘Move Up a Little Higher’, sold over eight million copies when released in 1953. In this period of time it was ‘a declaration of black selfhood which is expressed through the very personal medium of music’ commented Pearl William Jones, gospel singer and historian. The 1960’s and 1970’s a series of former church choir members Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Al Green, Roberta Flack, Solomon Burk, James Brown, and Dionne Warwick, a singer who’s career spanned 40 years. The benefit of these combinations of styles of gospel and rhythm and blues with rock ‘n’ role influences gave birth to heavy metal, hard rock, punk and fusion jazz which evolved into acid jazz. The era was also a time of urban discontent leading to political and social unrest in the black community. The music reflected the mood and the feelings of the time. Marvin Gaye’s album ‘What’s Going On’ highlighted the problems and promoted public awareness. The vexing issue of the lack of black identity became a major issue in 1960’s and 70’s. No black history taught in school, no recognition of any black contribution made by the black people to the development of the United States. The feeling grew that it was time the subject of black history should be taught in school to instil a sense of pride for blacks. James Brown’s hit, ‘Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud’, became an anthem not just for the blacks in the USA but for black communities internationally. Music it had clearly shown in the black context was an integral part of the black emancipation struggle evolving with the situation of and taking its cue from moods, attitudes and resistance of the black community.