Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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Archivist John Vallier and
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.