Jerry Zolten - Great God A' Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds

Monday 1st September 2003
Jerry Zolten - Great God A' Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds
Jerry Zolten - Great God A' Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds

RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Oxford ISBN0195152727
FORMAT: Book General book

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

Back in the 1970s when I was researching the gospel chapter for a book I wrote called The Sound Of Philadelphia it became obvious to me that the Dixie Hummingbirds warranted a whole book in their own right. Here it is. The 'Birds have seen the whole rise of gospel, from the cool lugubrious harmony sounds of pre-war jubilee music to the church-wrecking histrionics of the hard gospel quarters and on, in the '70s, to the pop music big time ( with their work with Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder). There is no indication in this detailed history that the author is a Christian. But through extensive interviews and meticulous research, he succeeds in telling the whole complex story of a group from their founding in 1928 in Greenville, South Carolina through to their heyday when their stunning vocal licks and exhibitionistic stage act were copied by dozens of R&B acts. Particularly fascinating is the chapter detailing their residency at Café Society, the hip Greenwich Village nightclub. It's a shame the last decade of the amazing gospel veterans was telescoped into few pages and it's also a shame that the possible link between black gospel and white Southern gospel is not explored here. But for devotees of the classic quartet sound, this is still an essential read.

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