Results for - Dancing As Unto The Lord?: Gospel Club Music

2,173 voters participated in this survey

Nothing grabs me like the combination of disco'y beats and passionate voices singing lyrics declaring love and need for the Almighty. Such music was going to be the subject of my Master's degree thesis, so forgive me if this may be a bit long for the points you'll get out of it. I hope you at least encounter some music you like before you go on to the next survey (or you can check out later).

1. Though the merger of gospel and disco has its deepest root, as does so much of US popular music, in the rhythmic, percussion-heavy music in many African-American churches, the genres' fusion came about more immediately because the same producers worked on r&b and gospel records issued by the same companies. The Mighty Clouds of Joy, a soul gospel male vocal group formed in the late 1950's, were among the first acts to consciously explore the sonic commonality between disco's decadence and gospel's reverence; they scored a #1 US club play hit in 1976 with "Mighty High." From what I've read and heard from people involved in black church culture at the time, this wasn't a little controversial. Can you see how it would be?

486 votes
427 votes
Undecided/Not my call to make
1,187 votes

2. To my reckonning, the only piece of gospel disco to crack the US pop top 40 in disco's golden age (1974-79) was "He's a Friend" by former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks, also in '76. Oddly to me, this and other gospel material he recorded at that time, such as "Goin' Up In Smoke" (later remade by house music trio Ten City), was thought significant enough to mention in the episode of Unsung, a TV show covering under-heralded r&b acts and trends, dedicaetd to Kendricks. To my recollection, he didn't have another sizable pop hit after "Friend." Do you think recording gospel lyrics had anything to do with Kendricks' subsequent commercial dry spell?

237 votes
541 votes
Unsure/Don't care
1,322 votes

3. After disco, one path danceable African-American music took in the US was what's come to be known among record collectors, dancers and others as boogie, a less ostentatious and frenetic sound. A highlight of it for me is Alicia Myers' 1982 hit, "I Want To Thank You." I don't know whether this song got soul gospel radio play at the time of its release, but I once heard it on an AM gospel station in the '90's. Could you imagine hearing such a song as this as both hymn and a floor filler?

484 votes
492 votes
Uncertain/I can't really be part of that conversation.
1,124 votes

4. In 1985, Tramaine Hawkins, an already established soul gospel singer and then-wife of choir director Walter Hawkins, was signed to A&M Records with the explicit aim of making her a church-to-club crossover act, going by only her first name. It worked for a while, as her "Fall Down (Spirit Of Love)" was a club play chart topper, before she signed to another label as strictly a gospel singer again. The aforementioned number is the what got me into gospelly dance music, but maybe working both the church and club scenes was too stressful for Tramaine. Can you see where working both sides of that kind of cultural divide could be difficult to maintain?

I can.
621 votes
I can't.
319 votes
I'm undecided or otherwise uninvested in the matter.
1,160 votes

5. The same year as Tramaine's club breakthrough, a curious phenomenon occurred with a New York City choir. In the late 1970's, Walter Gibbons, the NYC discotheque DJ enlisted to remix the first-ever commercially-issued 12" disco single in '76, apparetnly had a Christian conversion. Whatever occurred, he started collecting gospel records and only playing them in his DJ sets. That didn't sit well with much of his audience, but at least one sacred song Gibbons favored struck a chord. Originally attributed to the Celestial Choir on an LP of choirs at a Baptist church in Crown Heights, "Stand On The Word" also caught the attention of Gibbons' fellow club DJ/post-producer, Larry Levan, who remixed the original. The 12" single of the remix was was credited to The Joubert Singers, named for Celestial director Phyliss Joubert, and became an underground smash. Can you hear how the original recording linked here could be transfiormed into a club banger?

Oh, yes!
452 votes
Nuh uh!
425 votes
Didn't and/or couldn't listen and/or care to do so
1,223 votes

6. Also in the mid-'80's, the electronic bass drum-based sound of house music was spreading from Chicago to clubs worldwide. An early adapter among veteran vocalists was Candi Staton, who had found pop success with r&b and disco in the '70's but turned to gospel in the '80's. The gospel house number she recorded with a group called the Source, "You Got The Love," didn't do much in its original version in 1986. But in 1997 a remix, for which Staton received no royalties, became a Top Five UK pop hit. That version was also featured in the final episode of premium cable series Sex And The City (I've never watched the show, much less that episode). Have you ever heard a song, sacred or otherwise, that you heard in a frame of reference alien to its original intention and wondered about how anyone thought how its new context was a good idea?

Yes, at least once
404 votes
No, not to my reciollection
1,618 votes
Other (please specify)
78 votes

7. One big gospel house club hits was recorded by, go figure, a college choir. Sounds of Blackness, originating from St. Paul, MN's Macalster College, were the first act signed to Perspective Records, the label founded by jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, former members of Prince-affiliated band the Time who went on to become top r&b producers in the '80's and '90s. The second single from their first album for Perspective, "The Pressure (Pt. 1)." was a #1 club hit in 1991, but not many years later the act would relegate its energies solely to the gospel market. Have you ever been surprised by the source of music you enjoy?

Yes, at least once
479 votes
No, not to speak of
771 votes
Undecided/I never really considered the possibility in relation to music I enjoy.
850 votes

8. From what I can glean, Donna Summer never broached the topic of her Christian faith in any of her uptempo dance music. But the disco queen who predated Summer, Gloria Gaynor, has sung of her same belief some in danceable form. Among those instances is her '90's remake of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy's "Mighty High" with "Disco Inferno" group the Trammps. Decide for yourself whether it matches the heights of the 1974 remake of the Jackson Five's "Never Can Say Goodbye" that earned Gaynor the crown or her '79 ode to perseverance that arguably had her snatching it back from Summer for a spell, "I Will Survive," but I'm glad Gaynor is musically open about her Christianity. Do you appreciate it when performers whose work you enjoy convey their most cherished beliefs in their artistry?

All or most of the time, yes
457 votes
No, I'd rather they not.
305 votes
It depends on any number of circumstances.
568 votes
I don't pay attention to the beliefs of performers whose work I enjoy.
770 votes
05/19/2019 Music 2173 52 By: jlrake


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By: jlrake