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.

Over the years, several groups have performed and recorded under the name "The Gospelaires." But Shout! host Bob Darden's favorite group is The Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio. But not much is known about the group that performed roughly from 1954 - 1980. 


The Blind Boys of Alabama have been around since 1939, when a group of 9 year olds started singing spirituals at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. The group was originally called the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. And today, they're a Grammy-award winning group. 


In this week's episode of Shout! host Bob Darden looks at the career of Bessie Griffin, a marvelous singer who could never bring herself to sing the blues, which - in some gospel circles - was called the "devil's music." 


From 1937 to 1989, the Rev. William Holmes Borders Sr. was the pastor for the Wheat Street Baptist Church, which has served Atlanta for nearly 150 years. Rev. Borders had a reputation for knowing and loving good gospel music, which became clear with the songs the choir recorded.


The Black Gospel Restoration Project works to preserve America's fast-vanishing vinyl legacy of gospel music's golden age. Some of the records they receive and preserve are by well-known (and well-documented) artists. Others, however, are obscure artists with little known about them. One such group: The Friendly Four.


Billy Preston's "Gospel in My Soul" -- a song filled with a sanctified beat and a screaming Hammond organ -- has all the makings of a gospel classic. (And close listeners would recognize it as the theme song for Shout!). In this episode, Robert Darden looks at the life and times of Billy Preston.


The title of gospel's first super-group belongs to the Roberta Martin Singers. In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden tells us at one point in the late 1940s and 50s, every major gospel artist came through the group.


Not all gospel songs are strictly religious, some addressed civil rights and current affairs. One event that saw gospel tributes was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In this episode we listen to the Dixie Hummingbirds' tribute "My Prayer for Peace".


In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden looks at the life and times of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a masterful guitarist and gospel's first true star in the 1930s and 40s. 


"Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is often considered a spiritual, but this Christmastime song isn't actually a spiritual at all. In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden tells us about the song, and we hear The Harmonizing Four's rendition of it. 


Some of the most well-known spirituals revolve around Christmas. These songs - like "Mary, Whatcha Gonna Call That Pretty Little Baby" -- were featured in the 1961 off-broadway premiere of Black Nativity. 


In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden takes us to Birmingham, Alabama, where we hear the sounds of one of the area's greatest gospel quartets, Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes. 


Most everybody admires Aretha Franklin, but who does the music icon look to for inspiration? In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden talks about The Davis Sisters, a group who specialized in "hard gospel".


Remember Doo-Wop? In this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden takes a look at jubilee, a gospel music styling that could be the root of Doo-Wop, the popular 1950s genre. 


On this episode of Shout! host Robert Darden talks about vinyl. Most every audiophile knows the two most common sizes were the seven-inch 35 rpm and the 12-inch 45 rpm. But there's another, lesser-know size: the 16 inch. 


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