Radio & Podcasts

Alvin Hall

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The Gospel Truth

BBC Radio 4

January – February 2016

Gospel's uplifting and rejoicing sound is world famous, a multi million-dollar music genre that in many ways has ended up the beating heart of American popular music. But can gospel be gospel if it entertains, makes money and praises the Lord at the same time? Financial educator Alvin Hall explores how this American religious music genre has been affected by both commercialisation and secularisation.

Episode 1: Alvin examines gospel's journey from the church to the charts through the music of Thomas Dorsey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke. Now considered some of gospel's greatest artists, these early singers all met with strong criticism from the church as they took their songs from the sacred world into the secular. Alvin also reveals how other gospel performers in the first half of the 20th century struggled fulfilling their religious obligations whilst battling with the temptations of life on the road.


Episode 2: Alvin explains how gospel became a global force in popular music. He reveals how Aretha Franklin's marriage of pop to gospel sold millions of records, introducing gospel to a world audience in the process. He looks at the rise of the gospel choir in the 1970s and 80s and discovers how it increasingly became a money-making industry. He also meets leading gospel stars Kirk Franklin and Donnie McClurkin to ask whether they think today's gospel stars have been affected by money and celebrity.


Online-only feature: Moving on up
Alvn asked some of the contributors he met in the process of making this series what song they would like to have at their funeral.
Bil Carpenter, journalist and author of the Gospel Encyclopaedia
Professor Guthrie Ramsey, author of Race Music and professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania
Caleb Collins, gospel singer
Pastor Donnie McClurkin, gospel singer
Kirk Franklin, gospel singer