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The Story of Gospel Music (2005)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe , James Cleveland  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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The Story of Gospel Music + Rejoice and Shout + Mahalia Jackson - The Power and the Glory: The Life and Music of the World's Greatest Gospel Singer
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Product Details

  • Actors: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Cleveland
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00064AMDU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,233 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From Mahalia Jackson to Aretha Franklin to Shirley Caesar, these performances offer a fascinating look into the origins of gospel music. Vintage recordings and modern performances highlight this song-filled history of an American art form.

The Good News is abundant throughout The Story of Gospel Music, an absorbing, BBC-produced look at the past and present of this vibrant black American music. Gospel, a joyous sound that's both viscerally and spiritually uplifting, has been around for centuries, so it's no easy task to provide an overview in a mere 90 minutes; indeed, many of the artists featured here are deserving of (and some, in fact, have) entire documentaries of their own. But the producers of The Story of Gospel Music have done a creditable job of it, by way of the usual parade of talking heads (many are highly entertaining and informative, but oddly, and annoyingly, nary a one of them is identified), music excerpts, and film clips. A reasonably thorough history is offered, including gospel's African and English origins, the development of the call and response tradition (still readily apparent in rap music today), the inevitable co-opting and dilution of the music by whites, etc. There are also segments devoted to various gospel legends, including Thomas Dorsey, Rev, James Cleveland, and the amazing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a superb guitarist who, like others before and since (cf. Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin), played music that was both sanctified and "satanic" (i.e., jazz and blues) throughout her career. As is the case with so many products of this kind, the brevity of the musical performances is disappointing. However, this one has a saving grace, so to speak, in the form of two lengthy performances found in the bonus material, one a recital by the great Mahalia Jackson (from '64), and the other a British television appearance by Shirley Caesar (from '84). --Sam Graham

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but..... June 13, 2006
I enjoyed this DVD myself. The other posters and the opening review have given a good idea of what it's all about. The Mahalia Jackson and Shirely Ceasar performances (both recorded in England, the former in 1984 and the latter in 1964) are almost worth the price of admission as both are quite powerful.

The narrators, by the way, are identified during the proceedings. They include Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, one of Dr. King;s associates, and Dr. Horace Boyer, a scholar of gospel music who I've had the pleasure of meeting and having heard speak at a local college once.

However, you want to smash the DVD when the editors STUPIDLY cut up an extremely rare clip of the Edwin Hawkins Singers singing one of the greatest gospel records of all time, "Oh Happy Day" (this is the DVD age-no reason why an entire perfromance cannot appear as an extra). The beloved Clara Ward and her singers are shown as they are warming up to perform a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and the clip is cut just as Miss Ward and co. are raring to cook! A number of other tunes are presented in their intirety. Who was the IDIOT that edited this thing?

That aside, it's wonderful. You will surely play it more than once.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone gets a swing at it (almost). June 19, 2008
Overall, a good balance of information and inspiration. Some of the "talking heads" are overused, others underused. The same goes for the performers. Some is familiar footage (especially Mahalia); some less so (Rosetta Tharpe). The film gives the viewer just enough of the Pentecostal, "Sanctified" tradition of gospel music-making to bring credibility and color to the words of the consulted authorities. Too much emphasis on emotive, collective singing would have worn thin just as quickly as too much intellectualizing. Perhaps there's excessive recitation of familiar history by formally attired expert-types, familiar ground about oppression and its positive outcomes (in story and song), though the film does manage to single out some of the key igniters and keepers of the flame.

The biggest disappointment is the failure to identify speakers and, in some instances, even performers and arresting performances! (What were the filmmakers thinking?) Most will have no trouble recognizing Mahalia, James Cleveland, Sister Rosetta, Shirley Caesar, but it can become frustrating having to backtrack (in vain) to identify certain individuals. The story could have used better titling and more provocative questions (Gospel's relation to pop music? To the evolution of jazz? Its drift away from clear elocution and close harmonies? Its increasing reliance on synthesizers, hard funk, glitz and glitter, and the often surreal confluence of the sacred and secular, the ultra modern and primitive, the spiritual and sexual).

Nevertheless, it's an overview and a start, with some occasionally surprising, delightful moments of spontaneity and originality. The "authorities"--theologians, historians, sociologists, ministers of music, etc.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative but could be more so January 10, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Considering it's 90 minute length, a lot of interesting information is shared. However, none of the experts interviewed are identified- not by onscreen text, not verbally, and not even in the credits. It's frustrating to not know who these experts are and from whence they speak!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the Beef? Great info, but too brainy. December 4, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This documentary from BBC was excellent and thorough in terms of research, especially the history of music during the slave days, but the parade of talking heads (who seem to finish each other's line of dialogue ...was this pre-scripted?) got old and dry. I don't even remember that they noted who the experts were.

Some of the experts were musicians and church folks, but none spoke with the fire contained in the music. The music selections were way too short, and just when I'd start to be inspired, they moved along to another segment. The most moving parts contained some clips from "Say Amen Somebody," the tribute to Thomas Dorsey, but even here they snipped them short. If you want to crawl under the skin of this music and those who pioneered it, get "Say Amen Somebody." If you love this music, view SAS, then this documentary, then run back to view "Say Amen Somebody."
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A very great documentation of black gospelmusic with a very rare Mahalia Jackson concert from 1964 in London which was never available on video before.Also the Shirley Ceasar concert part is wonderful, highly recommended!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of Gospel Music May 23, 2012
By cruiser
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this gospel music story...Thomas Dorsey helped change the deliverance and message in gospel music,thank you Mr Dorsey for such inspiring and anointed songs...I especially liked AMAZING GRACE song by Tramaine Hawkins...that song really is the Negro national anthem and the song AIN'T BUT ME ONE is just too cute... hearing the song SENDING UP MY TIMBER gave me chills... good history and information...good dvd
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Gospel Music January 9, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I found this DVD very entertaining as well as educational. It gave me in depth knowledge about music that I have been enjoying all of my life but had no idea of its origin. Simply wonderful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed September 12, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I had expected more music and less conversation. If you are seeking a good "listening" album pass this one by.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 days ago by KEM
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by MICHAEL
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Christine Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Keep for My Library
Black Gospel music has a very rich history. It is the story of a culture who survived so many obstacles and kept their faith and traditions.
Published 13 months ago by tg meyers
5.0 out of 5 stars I am so glad I purchased this again.
This is my second time ordering this DVD. I let someone borrow the first and they never returned it. The item arrived in excellent condition and ahead of expected time.
Published 17 months ago by Dorothy Heath
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to Shout About
Nothing informative as to the musics actual roots. The performance value was mediocre at best. Again. I am somewhat disappointed.
Published 17 months ago by Melvin Stewart
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift
Was told by receiver of gift that there was not a lot about Sister Rosetta Thorpe as stated; for that reason I can't give this a high rating.

God Bless!
Published 18 months ago by trej24
5.0 out of 5 stars The Music in Me
I saw a PBS Special about her and wanted to learn more. Excellent purchase.

It's good to know the history.

I bought a used-very good copy.
Published 18 months ago by Tina
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story it is
Im a "music nerd". I get into the history and details and the "behind the scenes" stuff. I learn something new everytime I watch it. I love it very much.
Published 21 months ago by r.d.foster
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