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People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0826417527
ISBN-10: 0826417523
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People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music + Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia (Book) + An Illustrated History of Gospel
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Editorial Reviews


“Darden reaches back to Africa to establish a foundation for his cogent discussion of matter relevant to a historical study of religion and sacred music, and he makes these matters seem like part of the complete fabric rather than vignettes.… The approach is scholarly throughout, but the narrative is as lucid and flowing as any lay reader might wish.…the book covers a broad range and merits serious consideration. Highly recommended.” –Choice, 5/05 (CHOICE)

Mentioned. –Dallas Morning News!, Article: Rhythm & Pews, 4/1/05 (CHOICE)

“…a meticulously researched but living, breathing story…Darden’s book is especially valuable in detailing how much effort, debate and study have gone into finding gospel’s origins and into recording authentic examples that have long fascinated researchers. Indeed, his 25-page, A to Z discography stretched in time and scope from Afro-American Spirituals, Work Song, and Ballads, early samples from the Library of Congress, to Vickie Winans by Vickie Winans.” –AOL Black Voices. May 2005

“This meticulously researched book traces the way in which Negro spirituals evolved into contemporary African-American gospel songs…Ultimately, this is the story of the intense and often painful experiences of black Americans and the inspirational music which they have poured out in response.” –The Tablet, May 2005

'Reminds us that when slaves first arrived from Africa the only thing they could bring with them was their tradition of singing.' Methodist Recorder

Mentioned. –Dallas Morning News!, Article: Rhythm & Pews, 4/1/05 (CHOICE)

About the Author

Robert Darden is Assistant Professor of English at Baylor University, and Senior Editor of The Door Magazine. He was gospel music editor for Billboard magazine for 10 years and has written about religious music for most of his adult life. He lives in Waco.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (October 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417527
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tamara Jaffe-Notier on June 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
People Get Ready! is an excellent read for anyone interested in the history of Christian music in the U.S. Darden takes time to explore how primary sources support or refute several competing theories about who influenced whom in the evolution of gospel music. He does a fascinating analysis of how frontier revivals and clandestine religious services held by slaves contributed to the integration of English lyrics with African music. He humbly approaches music history with passion for his subject, respect for his sources, and documented gratitude for the many archivists and researchers in Africa and North America who have laid the groundwork for this fascinating book. Darden shows that gospel music is the bridge linking the histories of Africa and North America.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alvin Speegle Jr. on November 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"To truly understand American music, you must first attempt to understand the spirituals and gospel music," says former gospel music editor of Billboard magazine and author Robert Darden. "And it begins where it all began-Africa, a thousand years ago."

Darden, an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Baylor University has done his homework.* His research is extensive. People Get Ready! is informative and cites multiple sources.

"The aim of African music has always been to translate the experiences of life

and of the spiritual worlds into sound, enhancing and celebrating life."

Samuel Floyd

"Praise songs, songs of insult, boasting songs, litigation songs, mourning songs,

topical songs, story songs, love songs, heroic songs and religious songs, and the

repertoire of drum language constitute an important part of literature of African

peoples created, developed, maintained and transmitted through music."

J.H.Nketia, "The Musical Languages of Subsaharan Africa."

Work songs, also known as hollers, cries or whoops, contained rhythmic quality making work seem easier, be it rowing, picking cotton, or laying railroad ties. Many were performed as the "call and response".

Then there were the `spirituals' and plantation hymns with the master's whip keeping


Eventually, America became fascinated with African-American music, which spread

because of the exodus of blacks from the deep South to Chicago.

From the spirituals came ragtime, followed by the blues, then jazz.

Some time during the migration, jubilee music, using quartets sang spirituals in

harmonized verse chorus arrangements.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Gersztyn on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a reprint of a review Published in the December 19 issue of Blueswax, the worlds biggest blues publication at [...] It is reprinted with permission.

By: Bob Gersztyn

In People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music, Robert Darden traces the evolution of America's Black music from the first spirituals that were created by the displaced African slaves to the Gospel music industry as it exists at the beginning of the twenty-first century. He demonstrates how the songs, which expressed a codified secret language, survived because they were essential to the race's continued existence.

The author further demonstrates how the displaced Black race kept the essential elements for their survival in the form of a complex mythology that replaced their own native symbols. They used their new white masters' religion because it provided them with the only form of freedom available to them for nearly four hundred years. The resulting version of Christianity that they created was nearly identical to the original first century model, not because of fashion, but necessity. They understood one of the core messages of Christianity, that of freedom in the midst of injustice and oppression. Christianity not only provided all the theological elements necessary for their survival, but also included archetypal images like David and Goliath, and Moses leading the children of Israel out of captivity, which then provided the stories that fueled their spirituals. The messages of these songs were compatible with their oppressors' worldview, while providing hope where none could be seen.

The author demonstrates how the spirituals spawned both the jubilee singers and minstrelsy after the Civil War.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. Buisman on May 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of Sam Cooke I started to listen to his earlier gospel music as a member of the Soul Stirrers and was very impressed. In classes and through reading more the story of spirituals and gospel became a great interest, though sometimes fragmented or too short.

But now I've read the excellent "People Get Ready!" and this book will tell you everything you need to know from the earliest beginnings in Africa to contemporary times.

He paints a picture from the Western African tribes and their styles of music, right through the coded ways of singing to elude the white slave masters. The most interesting part of the books ends for me somewhere in the 1960's.

You don't have to be religious (I'm not) to enjoy the music and the book. It is very clearly shown through Mr. Darden's writing that the influence of gospel on rock and roll, soul etc is great, a lot greater than many people think.

"People Get Ready" will teach you everything you need to know on the history of gospel, and through that also a large part of the history of rock and roll in America.
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