Slavery Couldn’t Silence Christian Music

By: Anne Rinaudo

The black American experience of slavery is a key factor in the development of popular music. African slaves in America’s southern states were subject to incalculable injustice and oppression. However, that shameful period in history was the source of many music genres.

Gospel, blues, Jazz, zydeco, cajun, folk, rock n’ roll, country and western, so many music styles trace back to the Mississippi River. From New Orleans to Memphis there are iconic locations that played critical roles in the history of music.

The most important factor was black Christian churches where people could sing out and raise their voices in praise of the Lord. The call and response work songs black slaves recited in the fields became the distinct preaching style and music of the southern black churches. In those churches great music talents like Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples learnt to sing as part of Christian worship.

Glenn A Baker was famously named by the BBC as the “Rock Brain of the Universe”. He is leading a riverboat tour which will explore the musical heritage of the Mississippi. Glenn says the tour will go from from New Orleans to Memphis and Nashville. It will take in every aspect of what he dubs the “Cradle of Music Creativity”.

He says even the “hip swivelling” bad boy Elvis Presley, was respected for his renditions of Christian music like ‘How Great Thou Art’.

In fact, says Glenn, with his usual grasp of every musical fact, Elvis was never honuored with a Grammy Award for his music, except for that song!

Listen: Glenn A Baker in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty

Article supplied with thanks to Open House.

About the author: Anne is the Producer of Open House – a weekly three-hour live talkback radio show exploring life, faith and Hope from a Christian perspective.