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KASU to Air ‘Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul’ Documentary During Black History Month


JONESBORO – Hosted by 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” will be broadcast by KASU-FM, Saturdays, Feb. 9, 16, 23 and March 2, at 9 p.m. The radio documentary that explores the history of black gospel music and illustrates its significant influence on the formation of rock and soul music will be broadcast as part of Black History Month.

“Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” is produced by Philadelphia public radio station WXPN-FM and distributed by National Public Radio (NPR).

Through in-depth interviews with artists and dozens of songs (including many archival selections), the four-hour documentary illuminates the profound impact that gospel music has made on popular music. It is the culmination of WXPN’s year-long project of the same name that features prominent gospel and contemporary music artists, historians and experts contributing their research and insights to a media-rich website Xpngospelroots.org, and a series of sold-out gospel music concerts, film screenings and panel discussions. The project and radio documentary are supported by a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Winans said, “Gospel music’s influence on early R&B, soul and rock and roll is significant, and the stories we tell and share in the documentary wonderfully illustrate that. It was a pleasure working on the documentary. There is so much richness, detail and respect for the history that went into the making of it. As a gospel musician myself, it’s important for music fans and listeners to learn how much gospel music serves as the foundation for so many other music genres.”

KASU station manager Mark Smith added, “We at KASU are excited to bring this outstanding documentary to our listeners as part of our efforts to honor Black History month.”

The documentary consists of four one-hour segments and starts with the history and foundation of black gospel from spirituals and how those songs informed the music of the great gospel quartets. In examining how rock, soul and R&B grew from the roots of gospel, it highlights such highly influential artists as Sam Cooke who transitioned from gospel to secular music, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her early rock stylings, and Elvis Presley, who helped expose white audiences to gospel music.

Examples of some of the most beloved contemporary pop music of the last 60 years from artists including Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon and Ray Charles illustrate gospel music’s influence.

“Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” also features exclusive live performances recorded by WXPN within the last year from gospel groups The Fairfield Four, The McCrary Sisters and The Dixie Hummingbirds. The McCrary Sisters will be performing at Fowler Center’s Riceland Hall, Friday, Feb. 15, from 7:30-9 p.m.  Go to Fowler.AState.edu/event/the-mccrary-sisters-02-15-2019/  to find more information.

Executive producers of “Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul” are WXPN general manager Roger LaMay and assistant general manager for programming Bruce Warren. It is produced by Alex Lewis, an award-winning independent radio producer and musician whose projects include “Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio,” among others.

KASU, 91.9 FM, is the 100,000-watt public broadcasting service of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.  For more information, contact KASU program director Marty Scarbrough at mscarbro@AState.edu  or call KASU at 870-972-2200. For more information about KASU, visit kasu.org.

CeCe Winans 2018
CeCe Winans, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer and host of "Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul."