Then Sings My Soul
The Culture of Southern Gospel Music
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
In some ways, I have been preparing to write this book all my life. Consequently, there is a lifetime’s worth of influence, indebtedness, gratitude, and generosity to acknowledge. I learned to love music in the rural Baptist churches of my childhood and was lucky to have musical parents who encouraged my early interest in music...
Introduction: A Native Informant’s Report from the Field
In July 2000, New York Times writer R. W. Apple Jr. went to Nashville to write about his experience there in a travel piece for the newspaper. For the scholar of culture, the report is perhaps most interesting for a moment of acute discomfort Apple had while attending a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. He and his travel companion...
1. Glory Bumps; or, The Psychodynamics of the Southern Gospel Experience
Approaching southern gospel for the first time, listeners often comment on the apparent lyrical and intellectual poverty of the music. Indeed, for someone who has never been rendered speechless by the beauty of a gospel melody or heard—really felt—the “sound of light” pouring from a stage, this music can seem astoundingly shallow...
2. Nostalgia, Modernity, and the Reconstruction Roots of Southern Gospel
By the time Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House in early April 1865, Aldine S. Kieffer had been a Confederate prisoner of war at Fort Delaware for almost a year.1 For ordinary Confederate conscripts, Lee’s surrender was a humiliating defeat. For most POWs, it was also effectively an additional sentence of anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Throughout April and...
3. The Rise of “Southern” Gospel Music and the Compensations of History
Within current scholarship about southern gospel music, popular writing about the tradition, and the industry’s own representations of itself and its past, no single figure enjoys the prominence and veneration accorded to James D. Vaughan. A songwriter and publisher, Vaughan studied at Ruebush-Kieffer’s Virginia Normal School...
4. The Gaitherization of Contemporary Southern Gospel
Within the overlapping worlds of gospel music, contemporary Christian entertainment, and multimedia televangelism in America, the long-standing success of the Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming Friends franchise has been a fact of professional life for almost a generation—a ubiquitous presence to compete with, admire, envy...
5. Southern Gospel in the Key of Queer
In most quarters of the southern gospel music industry, it is axiomatic that behind every gospel song, there is a gay man somewhere. But then again, I would say that. I am, after all, what I have come to think and write about as a southern gospel sissy: a gay man who loves gospel music not despite the fact that he is gay but, as I argue...
Epilogue: The Soul’s Best Song
Throughout this book, I have treated southern gospel music as a tool for implicitly but meaningfully expressing unorthodox experience within an orthodox culture. Encounters with this music create a safe space in which to try to reconcile the evangelical identity to those aspects of the self that orthodoxy stigmatizes as variant, subversive...
Appendix A: Songs Referenced
Appendix B: Methods and Preliminary Findings of a Survey of Attitudes and Beliefs about Southern Go