Genre: Crime, Drama, War
Anyone who loves soul music or rhythm & blues probably knows that it all springs from the roots of gospel music. This 1982 documentary by director George T. Nierenberg breaks it all down beautifully as he examines the lives and careers of a handful of since-departed gospel stars, who helped create the genre from which so many other forms of music flowed. Focusing on the aging but still vigorous "Professor" Thomas A. Dorsey and "Mother" Willie Mae Ford, he also offers musical moments by such gospel stalwarts as Sallie Martin and the Barrett Sisters. Live performances are mixed with telling, sometimes touching reminiscences by these pioneers of a musical style, all leading to several striking points: principally, that this energetic music took time to be accepted by the conservatives in the church, and that the music itself has a surprising power to raise spirits and confirm faith. Yet it's all done in a way that is spiritual without being preachy. A truly joyful film. --Marshall Fine

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