Gospel Music’s Impact on Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Focus of New Radio Documentary to Air During Black History Month


CeCe Winans

A new radio documentary that explores the history of black gospel music and illustrates its significant influence on the formation of rock and soul music will be broadcast by KRCU Public Radio in February, during Black History Month.

Hosted by GRAMMY award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” is produced by Philadelphia public radio station WXPN and distributed by NPR. The special will air Fridays at noon, beginning Feb. 1 and continue through the end of the month. A repeat of the show will air Sunday evenings at 6 p.m.

Through in-depth interviews with artists and dozens of songs (including many archival selections), the four-hour documentary illuminates the profound impact that gospel music has made on popular music. It is the culmination of WXPN’s year-long project of the same name, that featured prominent gospel and contemporary music artists, historians, and experts contributing their research and insights to a media-rich website (xpngospelroots.org), and a series of sold-out gospel music concerts, film screenings, and panel discussions. The project and radio documentary are supported by a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Host CeCe Winans said, “Gospel music’s influence on early R&B, soul, and rock and roll is significant, and the stories we tell and share in the documentary wonderfully illustrate that. It was a pleasure working on the documentary — there is so much richness, detail and respect for the history that went into the making of it. As a gospel musician myself, it’s important for music fans and listeners to learn how much gospel music serves as the foundation for so many other music genres.”

The Dixie Hummingbirds

The “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” documentary consists of four one-hour segments, and starts with the history and foundation of black gospel from spirituals, and how those songs informed the music of the great gospel quartets. In examining how rock, soul and R&B grew from the roots of gospel, it highlights such highly influential artists as Sam Cooke, who transitioned from gospel to secular music; Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her early rock stylings; and Elvis Presley, who helped expose white audiences to gospel music. Examples of some of the most beloved contemporary pop music of the last ’60 years from artists such as Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon and Ray Charles illustrate gospel music’s influence. “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” also features exclusive live performances recorded by WXPN within the last year from gospel groups The Fairfield Four, The McCrary Sisters and The Dixie Hummingbirds.

For more information about “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul,” visit http://xpngospelroots.org. For more information about 90.9FM, KRCU Public Radio, visit www.krcu.org.

KRCU is a National Public Radio member station and is located on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University and broadcasts on 90.9 FM, KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and 88.9 FM, KSEF in Ste. Genevieve and Farmington, Missouri. KRCU can be heard anywhere in the world at www.krcu.org.