by Jen Eide
Well, I enjoyed a previous throwdown featuring Jimmy Outler fronting the Soul Stirrers so much that I decided to do it again. This performance is not as raw and frenzied, but demonstrates what a remarkably soulful singer Outler was. I believe that's Leroy Crume on guitar. This is a 1963 performance of "Listen to the Angels Sing."
You may be wondering by now just where this footage is coming from. Back in the early to mid-sixties there was a weekly series called TV Gospel Time, which was remarkable not only for its performances, but also because each episode was broadcast from a different city! This allows us to dig deep into the scenes of different regions and preserves the performances of some really obscure world class singers.
In his book Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music, J. Jerome Zolten provides us with a bit of information about this historic footage: "The show, a syndicated program aimed at African American viewers, was attracting fans outside that demographic who appreciated the music more as folk tradition than religious expression. In a special gospel issue, Billboard reported that by the mid-1960s, TV Gospel Time, 'seen in 50 markets across the country,...pointedly has no preacher nor does it display religious symbols' and is 'viewed as entertainment in the most positive sense,' demonstrating that 'the broad mass of Americans, both Negro and white, can appreciate each other's cultural heritage and contributions.'"
I've always used music--and art, film and fiction--like this. It's a joy (and sometimes a great relief) to step outside of yourself, walk a mile in someone else's shoes, explore a culture that is quite different from your own. Whether it's punk rock, hip-hop, deep soul or gospel, music can provide us with the opportunity to stop fearing our fellow human beings or seeing them as other. A change is gonna come. And if we can get rowdy, out of our heads, or really feel embodied, well, damn, that's just a bonus.