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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
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Summer 2004
Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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Archivist John Vallier and Professor Jacqueline DjeDje
Archivist John Vallier and Professor
Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje of the
UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive

In the early 1930s, bluesman Thomas Dorsey, who went by the name "Georgia Tom," suffered a great tragedy when his wife and new baby both died in childbirth. Long feeling the tug between playing in the clubs of Chicago and playing in the Christian church where he had his first musical experiences, Dorsey found solace in his piano and in composing sacred music. Among the most famous of his more than 400 compositions was "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."

Dorsey would go on to coin the term "gospel music," a style that blends church music, jazz and blues. He is credited with crystallizing gospel as an art form, and his adopted home city, Chicago, is renowned as one of gospel's early centers. As African Americans in Chicago who were influenced by Dorsey and the musicians who followed him migrated west, particularly in the 1940s, L.A. burgeoned into one of gospel's most important hubs.

The city's status as a global center of gospel music, however, is seldom recognized. But a yearlong partnership between the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive and the Heritage Music Foundation (HMF) aims to reinforce Los Angeles' standing as the place for gospel. The Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles (GALA) project — supported by a $38,000 grant — pairs the archive's resources and expertise with HMF's reputation in the gospel-music community to document and celebrate the city's rich gospel history.

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