State of Sound
Spiritual/Empowerment



The sonic description of Gospel music is a harvest of all that comes from the heart: love, pain, memory, and hope. The voice is the vessel to deliver the news. The voice can be solo or it can create rainbows in a choir. Like a centerpiece on an heirloom table, this declaration is surrounded by instrumentation that ranges from an earth-shaking guitar to a cresting organ.

The Gospel sound is precious and timeless. It bends notes and walks the mainline. The most deliberate hymn can contain a wide range of expression. All Gospel music contains unparalleled devotion.

Its eye is always on the sparrow.

Featured Artist:
Curtis Mayfield

Play the Biography

 Biography Transcript

Curtis Mayfield

At 16 years old Cabrini Green Housing projects resident Curtis Mayfield joined the Chicago soul group The Impressions as a backup singer.

As an original creator of the Chicago Soul sound, it wasn’t long before Curtis was recognized not only for his harmonizing and vocal abilities but also his songwriting and Latin infused guitar lines. With Mayfield on lead vocal and guitar, the Impressions had over a dozen Top 40 hits in the 1960’s.

During the next decade, he explored psychedelic rock and funk—eventually producing the movie soundtrack Super Fly. Curtis Mayfield was one of the first, if not the first artist to speak and eventually incorporate into his song writing the struggles and pride of African Americans.

After limited success in the eighties, Mayfield became paralyzed from the neck down after a lighting rig fell on him at a concert in 1990. Curtis Mayfield is held in enormous regard by his peers. Sadly, we lost him in 1999 at the age of 57.

Artists of the Sound

Mahalia Jackson
The Staple Singers
Oscar Brown Jr.
Thomas A. Dorsey
The Soul Stirrers
Jerry Butler Jr.

Collection

MAHALIA JACKSON FIRST DECCA RECORD, 1937

Mahalia Jackson recorded "God's Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares" at Decca Records' Chicago studio in 1937. This record did not sell well, and Decca tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to record secular music. Jackson waited a decade before signing another record contract, which garnered her huge successes.

Courtesy of Robert M. Marovich

MAHALIA JACKSON 1957 PERFORMANCE CONTRACT

By 1957, Mahalia Jackson stood at the pinnacle of her career as the country’s top gospel singer and was now on Columbia Records. This contract to perform at New York City’s prestigious Town Hall in 1957 provides a glimpse into Jackson’s famed business acumen, as she notes to increase her performance fees.

Courtesy of Robert M. Marovich

SOUL STIRRERS FEATURING SAM COOKE 78 RPM RECORD

Specialty Records released “Touch the Hem of His Garment,” co-written and performed by Soul Stirrer member Sam Cooke, in 1956. Cooke’s silky voice and good looks brought new, young, female fans to the established group, launching it into a new era. 

Courtesy of Robert M. Marovich

CURTIS MAYFIELD PERFORMANCE MUSIC SCORE OF “IT’S ALRIGHT”

Curtis Mayfield regularly included his 1963 Impressions hit, “It’s Alright,” in his live shows. This is a marked-up performance “Rhythm” score for the song, which has been covered by Etta James, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, Bruce Springsteen, and was recently featured in the Disney movie Soul.

Courtesy of the Curtis Mayfield Estate

STAPLE SINGERS 7” SINGLE ACETATE TEST PRESSING

Recorded at Chicago’s Universal Recording Studios in 1961, this acetate of “Sit Down Servant” featured Mavis Staples and her father “Pops” Roebuck for Vee-Jay Records. Acetates like this decay faster than records, but they could also be manufactured quickly, making them ideal for getting music to DJs.

Courtesy of Robert M. Marovich 


Like what you heard?
Check out:

The State of Sound Playlist

Listen to our curated playlists of the music from Illinois on Spotify.

Listen Here


Social Links