Robert Darden

Host of Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments

 

Robert F. Darden is the author of two dozen books, most recently: Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-In to Resurrection City (Penn State University Press, 2016); Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement(Penn State University Press, 2014); Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor(Abingdon Press, 2008), Reluctant Prophets and Clueless Disciples: Understanding the Bible by Telling Its Stories(Abingdon Press, 2006); and People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music(Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2004).

He is the founder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor University, the world’s largest initiative to identify, acquire, digitize, categorize and eventually make accessible fast-vanishing vinyl of gospel music from gospel’s Golden Age (1945-1970). The BGMRP provides the gospel music for the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture. www.baylor.edu/lib/gospel

At Baylor, Darden has won virtually every major teaching and research award, including The Cornelia Marschall Smith Award as Outstanding Professor (2011); the first Baylor University Diversity Award (2010) and received the honor again in 2017 as the founder and member of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project team; the Outstanding Research Professor, College of Arts & Sciences (2008); Outstanding Teaching Professor, College of Arts & Sciences (2018); and the Baylor Centennial Award (2008).

He is a popular speaker and has been the keynote speaker at a host of seminars, conferences, and stand-alone events at the University Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, the Ralph Bunche Library of the Department of State’s American Author Lecture Series, Princeton University, Yale University, the Texas Book Festival, the Louisiana Book Festival and many others.

Darden’s articles and essays have appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times to the Oxford American. He has been featured in hundreds of radio and television programs, including Fresh Air with Terri Gross(NPR), 1A with Joshua Johnson, All Things Considered(NPR), CSPAN, BBC World Service, BBC Outlook, Austrian Public Broadcasting, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

He has also been published in The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, the World Book Encyclopedia, the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress and is a frequent contributor toHuffington Post and Christianity Today Online.

Additionally, Darden spent twenty years as the Senior Editor forThe Wittenburg Door and another fifteen years as Gospel Music Editor forBillboard Magazine. In 2016, he created the radio insert “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” for KWBU-FM Waco. Darden researches, writes, and records the weekly show, which (as of July 2019) now appears on a dozen NPR stations, including KERA-FM Dallas.

Darden is married to Dr. Mary Landon Darden, CEO of the education consulting firm Higher Education Innovation, Inc. and the author of Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America(American Council on Education/Rowman & Littlefield, 2009). The couple live in Waco, Texas, and have three children and four grandchildren. They are active in Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco.

Philadelphia's Davis Sisters recorded a host of hits for Savoy Records, including "Shine on Me," "I'm Tired," "He's My Precious King" and this rock and roll-flavor number, "Earnestly Praying."


With "Any Stars in My Crown," Jeanette Harris proved that jubilee could sound as emotional as "hard" gospel. Jeanette's rough and raspy voice was the ideal vehicle to convey the urgency and conviction of the very best of gospel music.


Clara Hudmon, better known as the Georgia Peach, was a master of the old-school singing style known as jubilee, which combined a cappella singing with the lyrics often taken directly from the spirituals.


The Jackson Southernaires have released at least 30 stellar gospel albums and had a number of hits, including the seven-minute sermon and song "Too Late," performed by the late, great Willie Banks. 

R. H. Harris, co-founder of the Soul Stirrers in 1935, was one of the legends of gospel music - and all of that history can be heard in one of his recordings with the Christland Singers in "I'm Willing to Run."


Blind Willie Johnson provides a link between the spirituals and modern gospel. This brilliant steel-guitar player was a street musician in Texas in the 1930s and '40s and only recorded two dozen incredibly rare 78s and yet he is considered one of the greatese of all American musicians. 

On "Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go," Marion Williams is accompanied by the best studio musicians Atlantic Records has to offer - and the resulting 45 is one of the classics of gospel music. 


The popular Skyways, led by W.C. Johnson, toured heavily in the 1960s and '70s as one of the vanguard artists of the new contemporarary gospel sound. 


With mighty voiced Liz Dargan as the lead vocalist, the Gospelettes released a number of memorable singles in the early '70s, including a fiery version of "Lord, You've Been Good to Me."

The Mighty Superiors, known from only a couple of obscure 45s on the Song Bird label, prove that in gospel music an artist doesn't have to be famous to be good. 


With the Gospel Keynotes, Willie Neal Johnson released a string of memorable, soulful LPs for Nashboro and Malaco beginning in the late '70s. 

With the Pentecostal Mass Choir of Chicago, Charles Watkins was a gospel music innovator, bringing new textures, rhythms and instrumentations to gospel music. 


This nifty self-produced live LP features several great gospel songs on the A side and the powerful, expressive sermon The Ball Game of Life on the B side. 

Chicago's Kelly Brothers bounced around gospel music for a while, cutting great songs,  but never catching a break before moving to King Records in 1963 to record the R&B hit "It Won't Be This Way Always" as the Kingpins  - the year before thr King label went out of business. 

Legendary gospel producer,  Rev. Lawrence C Roberts, produced most of the Savoy/ Gospel label's hits during the 1950s and '60s - usually featuring his own backup singers, the multi-talented Lawrence Roberts Singers. 

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