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.

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.

Anita Butler’s towering “Every Day of My Life” is one of several highlights from the otherwise unknown Richburgh Record label.

Click the title above to read along.
Hear the full SHOUT! segment here. 

Listen to this week's featured song here:

You’ll hear echoes of Mahalia Jackson in Georgia Louis’ version of “Move on Up a Little Higher.”

Click the title above to read along.
Hear the full SHOUT! segment here. 

Listen to this week's featured song here:


Guitar great Benny Turner got his start with the Kindly Shepherds on this wonderful gospel tune, “Every Year Carries a Number.”

Click the title above to read along.
Hear the full SHOUT! segment here. 

Listen to this week's featured song here:

Anita Butler’s towering “Every Day of My Life” is one of several highlights from the otherwise unknown Richburgh Record label.

Click the title above to read along.
Hear the full SHOUT! segment here. 

Listen to this week's featured song here:


The Pilgrim Travelers ruled the gospel highway in the 1950s with songs like this arrangement of the old spiritual, "Troubled in Mind.

Hear the full song here.

The Jordanairs' "Down on My Knees and Pry" is one of the most manic, most frantic gospel songs ever cut to vinyl.

Hear the full "Down on My Knees and Pray" by the Jordanairs, 45, here.

Robert Darden is host of the weekly SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments on KWBU.  He is also a master teacher and professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University.

Following a recent hospital stay Darden wrote a short essay that was published in the Dallas Morning News.  Here he is, in his own words with this commentary.

Nurses see us at our worst, and they still accept us unconditionally into their care.

I have spent my professional career researching and writing about the spirituals, gospel songs and freedom songs of the African American experience. They also provide much of the soundtrack of my life.

But two weeks ago, when I found myself in a crowded Waco hospital undergoing knee replacement surgery, it wasn’t a classic spiritual that sustained me. It was Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now.” “Mercy Now” was hailed as an instant classic upon its release in 2005, a simple, haunting plea that sounds older than the oldest spirituals, like it was somehow summoned from divine ether rather than composed in the vulgar present.

My father could use a little mercy now

The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground

His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around

I love my father, he could use some mercy now

Like most American hospitals, Waco’s Ascension Providence could use a little mercy now. I was told that the hospital was completely full, mostly with suffering COVID-19 patients, and had only

Echoes of Heaven from 1953 features Austin's Bells of Joe and their original line-up at their very best.

Listen to the full music track , Echoes of Heaven from the Bells of Joy, here.

You probably haven't heard many songs performed faster than "Don't You Know Me, Thomas?" by Rev. H.B. Crum and the Mighty Golden Keys.

The Travelers of Faith take listeners on an unexpected journey in the musical netherworld between jubilee and hard gospel. 

The Gospel Emeralds are best known today for the martial beat and cadences of "We're On Our Way" - one of the Rev. James Cleveland's favorite songs. 

The Heavenly Dew Drops were one of many first-rate artists to release music through Detroit's legendary HOB Records label. 

"Lord, I'm the True Vine" is one of the earliest recorded precursors of gospel music, recorded in 1930 by the otherwise unknown Eddie Head & Family. 

Sister Lucille Pope and the Pearly Gates never had much luck in gospel music - but that didn't keep them from releasing a host of killer gospel songs. 

Gladys McFadden and The Loving Sisters were both civil rights heroes and gospel music innovators.