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Then Sings My Soul

The Culture of Southern Gospel Music

Douglas Harrison

Publication Year: 2012

In this ambitious book on southern gospel music, Douglas Harrison reexamines the music's historical emergence and its function as a modern cultural phenomenon. Rather than seeing the music as a single rhetoric focusing on the afterlife as compensation for worldly sacrifice, Harrison presents southern gospel as a network of interconnected messages that evangelical Christians use to make individual sense of both Protestant theological doctrines and their own lived experiences. Harrison explores how listeners and consumers of southern gospel integrate its lyrics and music into their own religious experience, building up individual--and potentially subversive--meanings beneath a surface of evangelical consensus._x000B__x000B_Reassessing the contributions of such figures as Aldine Kieffer, James D. Vaughan, and Bill and Gloria Gaither, Then Sings My Soul traces an alternative history of southern gospel in the twentieth century, one that emphasizes the music's interaction with broader shifts in American life beyond the narrow confines of southern gospel's borders. Harrison's discussion includes the "gay-gospel paradox"--the experience of non-heterosexuals in gospel music--as emblematic of fundamentalism's conflict with the postmodern world.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-13

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...

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Introduction: A Native Informant’s Report from the Field

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pp. 1-24

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...

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1. Glory Bumps; or, The Psychodynamics of the Southern Gospel Experience

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pp. 25-49

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...

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2. Nostalgia, Modernity, and the Reconstruction Roots of Southern Gospel

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pp. 50-79

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...

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3. The Rise of “Southern” Gospel Music and the Compensations of History

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pp. 80-109

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...

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4. The Gaitherization of Contemporary Southern Gospel

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pp. 110-136

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...

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5. Southern Gospel in the Key of Queer

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pp. 137-162

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...

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Epilogue: The Soul’s Best Song

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pp. 163-170

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

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pp. 171-174

Appendix B: Methods and Preliminary Findings of a Survey of Attitudes and Beliefs about Southern Go

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pp. 175-180


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pp. 181-216


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pp. 217-235

back cover

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p. 250-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094095
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036972

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Music in American Life