Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul

WXPN, University of Pennsylvania



The Campbell Brothers. Photo courtesy of the artist.


Grammy Award-winning gospel group The Fairfield Four. Photo courtesy of the artist.


Guitarist Luther Dickinson. Photo courtesy of the artist.


The McCrary Sisters–Ann, Deborah, Regina, and Alfreda. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Through live performances, a radio documentary series, and a media-rich website, WXPN will explore the roots of gospel and its influence on secular popular music. Gospel’s stylistic elements—including soaring vocals, rich harmonies, and syncopated rhythms—have long been fused into secular popular musical genres, such as rock and roll, R&B, soul, and hip-hop. The project’s series of performances will honor gospel’s origins in African American spirituals, illustrate gospel’s impact on contemporary music, and demonstrate how the genre lives in Philadelphia’s music scene and churches today. Featured artists will include the iconic gospel quartet Dixie Hummingbirds, the contemporary R&B and soul-influenced McCrary Sisters, the 18-voice a cappella ensemble the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and the St. Thomas Gospel Choir of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. A radio documentary for regional and national broadcast, by award-winning radio producer Alex Lewis, will include performance recordings, interviews with artists, and conversations with music historians, and a project website will offer performance videos, interviews, and written recollections.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.