I Love Gospel Music
I hate religion. Lord have mercy do I hate it.
In my lighter moments, imaginary friend believers calling history’s longest game of telephone the word of God often gives me a bemused chuckle. Moments that I imagine people who deal with the mentally ill feel when a patient, at the height of mania, says something so marvelously absurd, so deliciously hysterical, that they can’t help but to laugh.
I know it’s not funny to find amusement in the mentally ill, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
After all, I’m only human.
Then I read the paper or talk to someone wants to save my soul. That’s when the humor stops and the hate kicks in.
If there is something sick and evil going down in the world, someone’s cherished superstition is usually involved. The pages of history are soaked in the blood of non-believers whose death sentence was secured because they didn’t have the same imaginary friend as their oppressors.
Time and time again, hands that have committed the most sadistic of acts have been driven by fanatical religious belief.
I simply believe that there has been far too much evil perpetrated in the name of whomever people want to call God to get us, all of us, to the proverbial Promised Land.
It’s time to evolve people. Leave your baggage at the door.
Having said that, I love gospel music. To be specific, what I love with every fiber of my being is southern black jubilee gospel music made during the first half of the 20th century.
That music, as far as I’m concerned, is as good as life gets.
We had been up all night and, when we parted ways, I stumbled into Barky’s on Broad Street in Richmond to look through their records.
Judging by the looks I got pushing open the door, I think it was painfully obvious to everyone present that I wasn’t your typical church going type (not helping matters was that I was sporting my beloved NOMEANSNO t-shirt that exclaims in bold red type, “KILL EVERYONE NOW”).
After looking through their wide selection of 45’s, LP’s and tapes, I wondered over to their CD rack and found the first recording that would spark my continuing obsession with gospel music.
The Soul Stirrers Featuring R.H. Harris: “Shine On Me”.
From the opening notes of, “By and By”, I was transfixed.
I had never had goose bumps run up and down my arm like that before or since. I’ve had goose bumps listening to Minor Threat, Charles Mingus and The Band, but nothing on the scale of what 6 black guys singing a Capella in 1950 were doing to me. They hit with a soulful resonance that can’t be accurately described by mere language. The rich harmonies, the impassioned performances and the pure spiritually of their songs made me unconsciously raise my fist in the air like I was at an AC/DC concert. My ratty old, Sony boombox never sounded so good. By the time their rendition of, “Jesus Hits Like The Atom Bomb” came out the speakers, I was in a state of bliss.
Then I fell asleep. It had been a long day’s night.
From that point on, I immersed myself in jubilee and what it would later evolve into, hard gospel.
From there I discovered Berkeley, Virginia’s own Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet whose unique blend of jazz rhythms, blazing vocal dexterity and syncopated melodies found its way into my CD player on a daily basis.
Their early signature tune, “Golden Gate Gospel Train” got put on every single mixed tape I made at the time.
I have yet to find a single recording from the group’s heyday from the early 30’s to just after World War 2 that I wouldn’t deem as anything but essential.
Keeping the spirit of that music alive is Tidewater, Virginia group, The Paschall Brothers.
Singing the songs their father Reverend Frank Paschall, Sr. taught them, his sons and friends, lead by Tarrence Paschall, perform regularly up and down the east coast even when a proud rootless cosmopolitan such as myself is promoting the show.
Booking them was one of my proudest moments as a promoter.
They performed with such infectious spirit and pride that they had a room full of drunken infidels singing and carrying on as if they were in Sunday church.
It’s night I will never forget.
Check it out.
Chris Bopst 2018.