Gospel music had a big influence on Rock And Roll. In fact, the words "rocking" and "rolling" have been used in prayer meetings for over 100 years. That's where the term "Holy Rollers" came from! Religious chanting is hundreds of years old, but Gospel music as we know it today probably got started in the late 1800's. This music ranges from slow church hymns to wild uptempo black spirituals, and both of these forms had an impact on early Rock And Roll.
Ray Charles got into trouble when he "borrowed" the tune of a well-known Gospel song called It Must Be Jesus, adding new lyrics to create his first big hit, I've Got A Woman. Here's the actual song he copied, done by the Southern Tones on Duke 205 from 1954!
Listen to this early recording of an actual prayer meeting and see if you can tell how these rhythms evolved into Rock And Roll. This is from a 1916 recording on the Little Wonder label, a record company known for producing children's records! The artists are identified only as Male Quartette and the title on the record was simply The Camp Meeting Jubilee. A little warning, by the way, some of the lyrics in this are NOT considered Politically Correct these days!
There's another Gospel record that I'd like you to hear called Pains Of Life by Elijah Fair And The Sensational Gladys Davis Trio. This appeared on Feron 108 in 1967, a full year before Aretha Franklin belted out her big 1968 hit, Chain Of Fools. Of course, Chain Of Fools was written by Don Covay and produced by Jerry Wexler on Atlantic Records. Some people claim that Don Covay ripped off this earlier recording without giving any credit to the original author! Take a listen and you'll clearly hear the similarity. Aretha Franklin, by the way, was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. She was raised in Buffalo, New York, and then moved with her family to Detroit, Michigan. She was the daugther of Reverend Cecil L. Franklin, pastor of the Bethel Church in Detroit. She was taught to sing gospel at age nine by Reverend James Cleveland. Clearly, she'd heard and sung a lot of Gospel music in her lifetime.
Speaking of Aretha, her cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water is a very nice Gospel treatment of the Simon And Garfunkel hit. Obviously, Gospel and Rock And Roll music are tightly woven together.
Of course, you'll hear all these recordings, and MUCH more, on MusicMaster Oldies!
I was in Philadelphia for the past few days, but now I'm back with a whole bunch of fresh ideas for future posts. Stay tuned!