Rejoice and Shout: The Definitive History of Gospel Music


“If we really heard the voice of God, we would be reduced to juice.  The vibration of His voice would reduce us to liquid. . . So He has to use other people to speak his word.”

–Pastor Andraé Crouch

Perhaps the most intense and emotional music one can ever hear is the best of African-American Gospel music.

Packed with evocative photos, rare audio recordings, stirring film appearances and TV performances, REJOICE AND SHOUT covers the 200 year musical history of African-American Christianity.  Culled from hundreds of hours of music, REJOICE AND SHOUT features the crème de la crème of Gospel music.

REJOICE AND SHOUT traces the evolution of Gospel through its many musical styles – spirituals and early hymns, four-part harmony-based quartets, the integration of blues and swing into Gospel, the emergence of Soul, and the blending of Rap and Hip Hop elements.

REJOICE AND SHOUT:The Definitive History Of Gospel Music

Gospel music also walked in step with the story of African-American culture – from slavery, hardscrabble rural existence and plantation work, the exodus to major cities, the Depression, World War II, to the civil rights movement and empowerment. REJOICE AND SHOUT connects the history of African-American culture with Gospel as it first impacted popular culture at large – and continues to do.

Years in the making, REJOICE AND SHOUT captures so much of what is special about this music and African-American Christianity – the sermonizing, the heartfelt testimonials, getting “slain in the spirit,” the hard hollerin’, and of course the inspiring music.

Rejoice and Shout The Gospel Music DocumnetaryGospel music.  The very words evoke images of powerful voices singing skyward, of tearful shouts of joy and praise.  Of African-American men, women and children, exhilarated by the freedom of expression of their faith, shouting aloud in joy or laid low by the humility the music instills in them, releasing the hardness of their lives into the hands of their Lord.

Gospel has been around in America since the days of slavery, as slaves sought to lighten their load each day in the fields, turning to the source of their lives in response to their dreary existence.  And that music has remained a source of strength and direction in the African-American community ever since.

The story of this music is one that producer Joe Lauro has been wanting to tell for some time. “I’ve always focused on trying to find some of the great Gospel that I knew had to exist on film,” he explains.  “I’ve slowly, for 10 years or so, been acquiring material for representation, looking up the old producers or finding shows that were long-defunct, to try and find prints.”  The search resulted in over 10,000 hours of amazing material – as can be seen in REJOICE AND SHOUT.

Though Lauro himself did not grow up hearing Gospel music in his own Sunday church experience, it nonetheless, like for many white Americans, had a tremendous impact.  “It really is a minority music, truly, in so many ways.  White folks really don’t understand the importance of it and the power of it.  It’s the bond in the African-American church community.  But it’s beyond just singing at church.  The music is so moving and riveting and visceral.  And I’d never seen anything that really got into the story of this music.”

Filmmaker Don McGlynn decided fairly early on, for the most part, to play performance clips in their entirety.  “I think it’s really important that you see the music numbers play out – because they’re music films,” he says.  “I think it’s kind of strange when you see movies about music where there barely is any, just musicians talking.”

Indeed, the director soon realized that it was important to provide viewers a context to understand the music and its history.  “There’s always the challenge of, ‘How do you balance this?  How do you set off each of the individual numbers, so they have the maximum impact?’  You don’t do that by just lining them up and playing them.  You have to contextualize them.  We’re telling a musical story, but we’re also coming at it from an historical, social, cultural and personal level at the same time.”

In order to provide SHOUT  AND REJOICE that context, three eminent Gospel music historians provide perspective.  Anthony Heilbut is well-known for his definitive book on the genre, “The Gospel Sound,” written in 1968.  Lauro says, “Tony’s life has been devoted to this music.  He has single-handedly helped keep the community organized and get records out there.  He’s championed some of the older performers.  And he’s an expert.”

Two other experts, both from the Washington, DC, area – author Bill Carpenter and radio host Jacquie Gales-Webb – also provide great context, often offering a perspective on the personal histories of the artists.  “They know where everybody is in the community, and they understand it well,” Lauro notes.

Ira Tucker and Dixie HummingbirdsOne of the last great elder statesmen of Gospel, The Dixie Hummingbirds’ Ira Tucker – who died in 2008, before the release of the film – appears, alongside his son, Ira, Jr., and Willa Ward, of The Ward Singers, as does Marie Knight (who has also since passed), another performer from the classic era, offering the kind of perspective only those who lived through this history can provide.

“When you see Ira early in the film, you just see this wonderful old gentleman in his cap,” notes Lauro.  “But once he begins telling stories, it allows you to somehow beam yourself into his memory and become part of the places and the things that he did.  That’s part of what drives me, as a filmmaker and as a historian, to fantasize about being there.”  McGlynn agrees.  “These people actually witnessed a lot of the events that we’re describing in the movie.  So when they say something about it, you have the benefit of seeing things from a personal point of view.  So we have personal reminiscences of things from the late 20s and early 30s, which is remarkable.”

Offering a more contemporary perspective are R & B greats Smokey Robinson and Mavis Staples.  Though known to secular audiences in the 1970s for rhythm and blues, Mavis, since her childhood, was, alongside her siblings and father, “Pops” Staples, part of The Staple Singers, well-known for their Gospel music long before their days in the pop world.

Smokey Robinson‘s appearance in the film is not simply one of a musician offering an appreciation.  “Look at Smokey and The Miracles in 1964-65, and what he’s singing,” Lauro says.  “They all come from the Gospel church.  When you see them perform ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ on The Tami Show in 1964, if you look at TV Gospel Time from the same year, with some of the other quartets and quintets, it’s the same stuff.  Just the lyric is a little different.”

Smokey Robinson and The Miracles- “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”

Even more important to McGlynn was Robinson’s spiritual perspective.  “He talks about a lot of things, like about his belief in God and how he spends so much time throughout his day praising God and asking for guidance,” McGlynn says.  “I realized that was something that was essential to a movie like this.

REJOICE AND SHOUT, in fact, spends its first 15 minutes exploring this very topic – laying the spiritual groundwork for what is to follow.  “In so many of these types of historical documentaries, they usually say why the thing’s important and why you’re watching it in the first two or three minutes, and then they cut to the baby picture,” the director explains.  “In this case, I thought, ‘This is about Gospel music.  What’s the most important thing about it?’  The number one thing you need to know before anything else is you really have to see what these people feel about God and how they express it in the music.”

REJOICE AND SHOUT is loaded with rare audio and film clips, from the Historic Films archive and other sources, dating back to the beginning of the last century.  “We’re very proud of the archival material, some of which hasn’t seen the light of day since the day it was filmed,” says Lauro.

The very first African-American vocal group to make a phonograph recording is represented in a rare 78 rpm disc from the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet – “Gabriel’s Trumpet” from 1902.  “Black artists, such as the Dinwiddie Quartet, traveled around the United States, playing tent shows and in black vaudeville, which was still at its very beginning,” explains Joe Lauro.  This disc, from Lauro’s personal collection, was recorded by Monarch Records, a precursor to RCA Victor.  “This is about as close as you can get to the way it sounded during slavery days.”

The disc is significant for another reason, McGlynn notes.  “This record precedes by almost two decades the secular blues and jazz, which started getting recorded around 1921, 1922.  I guess because this was God’s music, they thought it was more important to document.  It’s just sort of an accident that they happen to have been recorded, and they happened to make history.”

REJOICE AND SHOUT opems in New York on June 3rd and in a limited number of cities throughout the U.S. on June 10th.  Start today calling your local theaters to bring REJOICE AND SHOUT to your town.  Every music fan needs to see this movie.  Everyone interested in cultural developments of the past 200 years needs to see this movie.

Check in with us next week when for our review of REJOICE AND SHOUT. We will provide you our biased insight and more details on how the movie takes you through the history of Gospel music.  REJOICE AND SHOUT is a real American treasure that every reader of this site needs to see.

American Idol Season 8- Top 10 Results Wrap-up

It is 11:00 and I am just sitting down to watch the results show.   For Valentine’s, I gave my wife tickets to the one year anniversary of Austin’s performing arts center.  The party was highlighted by a concert with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote “The Way We Were” and A Chorus Line, and great, great singer Linda Eder.  A wonderful evening with my wife caused this article to be late.

American Idol’s Motown performance show was a disappointment for me (see our American Idol performance wrap-up).  Adam Lambert gave his first sensitive performance of American Idol Season 8 and Allison Iraheta blew everyone away with her version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”.  Christian music performers Danny Gokey and Kris Allen also delivered, but everyone else disappointed.

I think Michael Sarver, Scott MacIntyre and Meagan Joy will be in the bottom 3.  I predicted, unfortunately, Michael Sarver will go home tonight.

So I am watching this live three hours later, compliments of  DVR technology.  The American Idol guest performances have a chance to be great tonight with Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson singing a duet, Reuben Studdard singing and Stevie Wonder performing.   According to Ryan, 36 million votes were called in, the most in American Idol Top 10 history.  Will there be a surprise?

The Top 10 group performance looked like it was taped.  Yep, no audience. Everyone sang better than they did last night.  This is a nice medley arrangement, interspersed with classic photos of Motown greats.  It looked like Lil got a big chunk of the solos in this number.  The Ford commercial was more  lame than usual.

Reuben Studdard strolled up to the mic a little too slowly and had to lunge to hit his opening.  I am not a Reuben Studdard fan and I did not enjoy this.  Everyone else liked it.  Why was he sweating like he played four quarters of basketball?

I know why I don’t live blog the American Idol results shows.  So much fill.

Wow, Adam Lambert was the first to safety.  What a shocker!

But, Matt Giraud in the bottom 3?  That was a true shocker.  Michael Sarver and  Scott MacIntyre joined Matt in the bottom 3.  Scott was immediately sent back to the safe couch.  Matt Giraud looked ticked off.

Others safe: Lil Rounds, Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta, Anoop Desai, Danny Gokey, Meagan Joy (concentration of voting constituencies saved her)

Time out.  I am giddy, Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson singing together.  Unfortunately, I fall on my giddy sword.  What a terrible song.  American Idol should have turned their mic’s up?  Why were they whispering?  Boring, disappointed!

Two disappointing guest performances were followed by a Motown medley performed by Stevie Wonder.  They show Meagan Joy trying to dance to Stevie Wonder and she can’t dance.  Stevie delivered as usual.  Is he great or what?

Why did they make Michael Sarver and Matt Giraud sit over by themselves during the Stevie Wonder performance?  They are in the bottom 2 but did they need to be in timeout?

michael_sarverSo we come to the elimination of Michael Sarver.  Did we really need to do the save ritual?  They pretty much told him last night.   Goodbye Michael, we have enjoyed your presence on this year’s American Idol.  We appreciate the sincerity and integrity you brought to American Idol. We are proud of your commitment to your community (see our article on Michael Sarver).  God’s blessing on your future music career and see you on the American Idol tour.

Check out Michael’s journey and all of the other performances by clicking on the iTunes logo below.

Apple iTunes

Look for my power rankings on Monday, my Top 9 performance preview on Tuesday morning and then my live blog on Tuesday night.

American Idol Season 8- Motown Performance Wrap-up

Before we talk about the past, let’s look to the future with anticipation.  Smokey Robinson and Joss Stone, Reuben Studdard and Stevie Wonder, American Idol tomorrow night could be “blazin hot”, “dope” and “da bomb” all rolled into one.

I must say that tonight’s American Idol performances were more disappointing than exciting for me.  See our live thoughts at the Motown live blog. There were more bad performances than any show since the Wild Card, there were two great performances and I had two major shockers.  To the shockers first:

  • Matt Giraud, we have been promoting you as a Christian music artist and, based on what I have read, you are quite open about your faith.  What are you doing singing “Let’s Get It On”? I am disappointed in your judgement.
  • Lil Rounds, you may be able to sing the phone book but evidently you cannot sing “Heatwave”.   I never, ever thought I would hear Lil Rounds struggle singing a song.  I am flabbergasted.

I guess these Motown songs are harder to sing than they sound on the surface.  Several of the American Idol singers struggled to live up to the originals.  Is anyone surprised that no one sang “Midnight Train to Georgia” or “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”?

It was cool having Smokey Robinson as the mentor.  I am not sure how much he helped.  We would have all appreciated him throwing his body in front of Meagan Joy to stop her.  Danny Gokey ignored Smokey’s advice.  It was cool that Lil Rounds understood the Motown’s place in the civil rights movement and expressed her gratitude for the trails that have been blazed for her.

Now to the performance ratings:

  1. Allison Iraheta tore down the house.  She has no business singing a song with as much emotional depth as “Pappa Was A Rolling Stone”.  Not only did she sing it, she drove it down to the Stax Studios in Memphis, dipped it in a little Aretha Franklin brew, turned up the smoke and even threw in a little mid song rap.  And the note she hit at the end.  Forget the night, I think this was the best performance of the season.
  2. Adam Lambert really did a masterful job tonight. His interpretation of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My tears” was outstanding.  The singing was almost perfect. with a beautiful falsetto.  His interpretation of the song was revelatory without destroying the song.  He updated the song yet still left room for the beautiful, innocent message of that song.
  3. Danny Gokey delivered another brilliant, fun performance, even though he did not implement Smokey Robinson’s suggestion that would have made it even better. Great phrasing, wonderful arrangement and the dancing.  Oh, my. Once again Danny Gokey stands at or near the top.
  4. Kris Allen continues to assert himself as a contender.  He sang Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is”.  He delivered a cool, smooth vocal, but he once again demonstrated stellar interpretative skills.  The judges were right when they said he created a new version of the song.The performances really drop off after this so I had to put a space here.

  5. Matt Giraud delivered a wonderful performance of a song he had no business performing.  His arrangment was stellar.  The change of pace brought the song to life.  His pacing brought uniqueness to the song.  His falsetto was outstanding.
  6. Anoop Desai’s interpretation of Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby”  showed-off his skills as a singer.  It also showed that he is not as good a singer as Smokey.  Anoop just did not bring anything to the song.  It was boring.
  7. Boring is better than Lil Rounds did with Martha Reeve’s “Heatwave”.  Lil’s Achilles heal is that she does not possess the music background to create interesting arrangements, but I never thought I would hear her sing badly.  What has happened to her?  It seems that the last two weeks she was overwhelmed by the import of the institutions she would be representing.  Just sing Lil.  That will bring honor to the Grand Ole’ Opry and to Motown.
  8. Michael Sarver is beginning to fall behind the competitions, but I do love this guy.  After being absolutely filleted by the judges he expressed gratitude for being in the Top10.  I would like to be Michael’s friend.  I thought Simon’s body language was amazing tonight.  Simon looked truly pained to deliver his bad news to Michael, but his performance of The Temptation’s “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” just was not up to par.  Randy was right.  Michael wants to be an R&B singer and he doesn’t  really have R&B chops.
  9. Scott MacIntyre tried to sing “Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes and it was pretty bad. His tempo was rushed, he missed a lot of notes and the song did not seem to fit him.  The thing is, I don’t want Scott to be a pop singer.  I want to listen to him play some jazz piano.  I would have liked a jazz arrangement of this song better than what we heard tonight.
  10. Meagan Joy brought me no joy tonight.  Her version of Stevie Wonder’s “Once In My Life” was just awful.  She needs to quit trying to squeeze every song into her quirky style.  I suspect that she could have done this song straight up and performed it better.  It was off key, off rhythm, off everything.  She tried to make it unique and she made me want to forget it.

Overall I was disappointed in the night.  I think Meagan, Michael and Lil could have done better with different songs.  While Danny and Kris were great, I was hoping for more.  Here are my predictions:

Bottom Three: Meagan Joy. Scott MacIntyre and Michael Sarver.

Voted off: Michael Sarver

I don’t see any surprises from the top 7 in my performance rankings making into the Bottom 3.  If Allison Iraheta’s performance tonight does not keep her out of the Bottom 3, I will be outraged. I think the judges could use their “save” if Allison is voted off tonight.

Meagan Joy should have enough votes from Vote for The Worst to make it back another week and I think Scot MacIntyre has enough of a fan base to survive one more week.   I will be disappointed to see Michael go.

I will also be disappointed to miss the results show live tomorrow night.  Is DVR the greatest inventions since television? I am taking my wife to see Linda Eder, so my analysis of the results show will be late.

Don’t forget to download all of the American Idol performances at iTunes:

Apple iTunes

American Idol Season 8- Motown Performance Live Blog

Woo Hoo! Motown night on American Idol.  Smokey Robinson in the house as well.  Mr. Robinson is one of America’s greatest songwriters.  He should be good at this mentoring thing.  Heaven knows he has done it with hundreds of aspiring soul singers at Motown.

We are live, blogging the American Idol Season 8 Top 10 performances.  At One21music we are covering the six Christian music artists competing in Season 8: Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, Kris Allen and Michael Sarver.   That’s right, six of the final 10 contestants on American Idol Season 8 are Christian music performers.

Check out my preview of tonight’s American Idol show at our Motown Preview.  It should be a great show.  All of these performers can sing these songs well, so the performances should be entertaining.  The competition is building and should be fierce tonight.  I think everyone, other than Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds and Kris Allen, is at risk of going home with a bad performance.  Check out our power rankings at American Idol Top 10 Power Rankings.

As we start. the American Idol Top Ten have their mean faces on.  Come on!, these are happy songs.  Paula wants the Idols to challenges their artistic integrity.  Simon calls Motown some of the best in the world.  Lil has gone all ’60′s go-go girl.

The Motown history lesson downplays the historical significance of Hitsville.  Barry Gordy tells the Idol’s that they should appreciate the great platform they have to introduce their talent.  Thank you Lil Rounds for giving Barry Gordy his props as a difference maker.

Smokey thinks this crew of American Idols are special, let’s see.

Matt Giraud starts off with “Let’s Get It On”.  Wow, Matt did you really have to do this song?  I am not too keen on the message.  Back at at his piano he lets loose at the beginning and hits a great falsetto right off the bat.  Maybe those tight pants are helping.  He is singing it great and even Simon is smiling.  It was a great move from the piano to dancing.

Randy starts off really happy.  He thinks Matt is challenging for the top spot.  Great job Paula, explaining why his riffing worked.

Kris Allen is up next.  I have high hopes for him tonight.  He is singing another Marvin Gaye song, “How Sweet It Is” and Smokey was laughing with joy during the mentoring session.  He starts it off a little slow and then picks up the pace.  He sounds great but the interpretation is a little smooth for my taste.  Kris is starting to perform with the confidence of a front runner.  He hit it.

Kara agrees, she loves his artistry with different phrasing and rhythms.   Paula was amazed at his brilliant note at the end.  Simon likes his performance and is coaching him on his swagger.  Paula is giving good commentary tonight.

They are moving the baby grand out for Scott MacIntyre.  He needs a really good performance tonight.  The American Idol contestants are pushing the dress limits tonight.  Pink pants, paisley shirt and brown stripped jacket?  He is singing Diana Ross’s “Can’t Hurry Love”.  Does Smokey love everyone?  The trend is to start slow and quiet tonight then grab the groove after a verse.  This is just okay for me.  I just don’t think he has the soul for this.  I would rather hear him play the piano.

Paula thinks the back-up singers brought new life to his performance, but Simon hated it. I agree with Simon that it was the wrong song.  Randy agrees.  Kara dinged him on execution but she liked the song choice.  The judges are arguing about Scott for the second week in a row and Paul pulls out crayons and a coloring book for the child, Simon Cowell.

Meagan Joy sings a Stevie Wonder song next.  Please don’t let it be “Superstition”.  Yeah, she is singing “Once In My Life” and I already hate her version.  Yes, Smokey likes everyone.  This is pretty bad.  She is all over the pitch.  Stop dancing please.  I know she can sing, but she is shouting this song.  Hated it.  I think she will be in trouble.

Randy gives it his hateful laugh.  I agree with Randy it was a train wreck. Yes, Kara she did hit bad notes and was dominated by the song.  The judges are unanimous that they hated it.  I agree with Simon, it was horrible.  Smokey, what were you thinking?  You are supposed to help these guys.

I told you in my preview post that someone would chose the wrong song and then say, “I love that song”.  Hello, Meagan.

Anoop Desai is doing Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby” and Smokey gives him the story of how the song was born.  My thing with Anoop is that his versions of these songs pale in comparison to the originals and he doesn’t bring anything that makes me forget the original.  These are pretty covers but not much else.  Ho hum.

Kara’s up first and she talks about the song and only thinks he did okay.  Paula said all nice things with no enthusiasm.  Simon thinks the showmanship was lacking.  The judges like him but were lukewarm.

Okay Michael Sarver, you are on the ropes so you better bring it.  Michael looks sharp.  He is singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” from The Temptations, I don’t know, that ain’t him.  Smokey wants him to use his big voice, he wants more power from Michael.  Can he do it?  He is singing it way too happy.  It is pretty good.  He hits some good notes, except at the end when he fell a little flat.  It was enthusiastic, for sure.

Paula hated it as a Vegas lounge version.  Simon almost seems sad to deliver his news.  He tells Michael that he has no hope of winning.  Kara is right in saying he needs to find his artistry.  Sorry, Michael.  I love Michael Sarver, he takes their criticism and is grateful for what he has accomplished.

Okay, Lil Rounds let’s see you get back on your game.  Lil is doing “Heatwave” by Martha Reeves, perfect.  Lil was moved by her Motown experience.  She understands the history of Motown in black culture.  Time to sing.  What is this?  A bad vocal from Lil Rounds.  She sounds out of breath and occasionally off key and a little shouty.  This is her worst performance for me.  Wow, I am shocked.

Randy is up first and he has the nervous laughter.  The first of the song was rushed and off.  I agree.  Kara hates it as well and she heard the screams I heard.  Paula thinks her vocals were fresh.  Simon thinks the song choice caused her to miss her chance to blow us away.

Ryan is promising a new Adam Lambert.  As we break away for commercials we see Adam looking like a member of Sha Na Na.  Is that Olivia Newton John?  Adam is singing Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” and Smokey says he is keeping it soft and tender throughout. Adam with a guitar buddy, stand-up bass and a box player.  A soft quiet performance from Adam Lambert.  This is pretty nice. Good job Adam and standing ovation from Smokey Robinson with tears in his eyes.

Kara gives him a standing ovation.  Simon loves it as original and relevant.  All the judges loved it.  Adam had his moment tonight.

Danny Gokey without glasses?  Can that happen?   Nope he he puts them on to sing. Danny is singing The Temptations “Get Ready” and Smokey changes his arrangement for the better.  Unlike Lil, he works this song, changes it and belts it out and even dances with the back-up singers.   Another great job from Danny Gokey.

Paula is right he gives consistently great performances.  Simon hates it,Randy thinks it was good and Kara thinks it was not great.

We end the evening with Alison Iraheta.  I think she has something to prove tonight.  She is singing The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”.  Smokey was either tired or lukewarm on her rehearsal.   She is singing it as a smokey soul song with a little rap.  This is good.  Allison once again proves she has the voice and the soul.  Dang!  She slams a huge note at the end.

Yes Randy that was blazing hot.  Kara is begging America to vote for her.  Simon is enjoying Paula’s  mustache and Simon says she has come back into the competition.

Download thes eerformances at iTunes

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I had hoped  for a better show tonight, but there were some very good performances and one amazing one.  I will be back over night with my analysis of the show.  See ya!

American Idol Season 8- Motown Preview

On Wednesday night (not Tuesday), American Idol will perform the music of Motown.  We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown this year.  We look back at Hitsville, USA and think about the nice soul classics by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more.  We have lost the historical significance of a black-owned, black-run business achieving true cross over success in 60′s America.  Motown was more than just a hit making machine, it was a revolution making “black” music accessible to middle class white America.  Maybe only Barry Gordy could have imagined the success and impact Motown would have when he started it in 1958.

The Motown Family

The Motown Family

Smokey Robinson will mentor the American Idol performers.  Along with Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson must be considered one of the greatest songwriters of the ’60′s.  In addition

Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

Smokey Robinson & Barry Gordy

to his own hits “Tears of A Clown”, “Oh Baby, Baby” and “Tracks of My Tears”, he also penned many of the great Motown hits such as “Get Ready”, “My Guy” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do”.  He has nearly 4,000 songs to his credit.  Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “America’s greatest living  poet”. The American Idol performers visited Motown this week in a highly publicized trip.  I would have been thrilled to make that trip.  Given the R&B leanings of all the American Idol performers (except rocker Allison Iraheta and hair metal guy Adam Lambert), this should be a very good week. I am sure every one of the American Idol performers has a Motown favorite.  The trick is to see if that favorite song is the best one for them to perform.  I am pretty sure we will see the American Idol judges skewer one of the contestants for song selection only to have them respond, “this has been my favorite song forever and I just had to perform it.” Song Selections If it is on the list, I am sure someone will perform Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”.  I hope this song, probably the best in all of the Motown catalogue falls into the hands of Kris Allen or Danny Gokey.  I would like to see their interpretation of this surprisingly timeless piece (check out the remake of that entire album by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band The Dirty Dozen Brass Band featuring G. Love - What's Going On).  The one who does not sing “What’s Going On” should take on one of The Temptation classics like “Get Ready”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “(I Know) I’m Losing You”.  There are so many songs in the Motown catalogue, who knows what American Idol will have for them to chose from. Here are my wished for song selection:

  • Kris Allen can turn “What’s Going On” into a modern, relevant song of substance.
  • Danny Gokey should take the chance to show off his riffing skills with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”
  • Lil Rounds needs to perform one of the bigger songs in the Motown collection, like Martha Reeve’s “Dancing in The Streets”.
  • Scott MacIntyre needs an easy ballad, like Lionel Richie’s “Hello” ,to pour himself into.
  • Matt Giraud must use this opportunity to flex his R&B skills with something like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed and Delivered”.
  • Michael Sarver should grab Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of The Brokenhearted”.  I can just see the television falling in love with him again as he sings “I’m know I’ve got  to find some kind of  peace of mind”
  • Look for Adam Lambert to grab some rave-up like The Temptations “Psychedelic Shack”, Edwin Starr’s “War” or, the best yet, Rick James’s “Super Freak”
  • Allison Iraheta needs to show her other side with a ballad like Smokey Robinson’s “Oh Baby Baby” . She will probably grab something like the Vanilla Fudge arrangement of The Supreme’s “You Keep Me Hanging On”
  • Anoop Dedsai can do anything from the catalogue but he needs to right his funky self so I suggest he grab Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.  Please Anoop, don’t try anything from Rick James, no “Super Freak” or “Dance Wit U” .  You funk is not as funky as you think.
  • Finally, Meagan Joy needs to show her singing chops by taking on the Gladys Knight classic “Midnight Train to Georgia.”  No funny stuff, just sing it straight up so we can see what you got.

Of course, none of them will probably sing these songs. As far as Wednesday night goes anyone, but Danny, Kris and Lil , could go home based on a bad performance.  The Motown catalogue is fun and it fits the American Idol Season 8 performers like a glove.  It should be a good show. Join me as we live blog the American Idol Season 8 Top 10 performances. Be sure to grab the live performance videos or the American Idol studio recordings of these songs by clicking through to iTunes below

Apple iTunes

American Idol Season 8- Top 10 Power Rankings

American Idol Season 8 Top 10

American Idol Season 8 Top 10

Congratulations to the American Idol Season 8 Top Ten.  You have earned as spot on the American Idol tour, a nice contract to finish out the year and even more chances to present yourself as an artist to the industry.  American

Idol’s Christian music performers: Kris Allen, Matt Giraud, Danny Gokey, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and Michael Sarver will be joined by Anoop Desai, Allison Iraheta, Meagan Joy and Adam Lambert in extending their dreams through the rest of the year.  Good job to all, this is the most talented group since I have started watching American Idol, so this is a real accomplishment.

American Idol Season 8 power rankings change every week based on last week’s performance.  Matt Giraud made a big move this week; Kris Allen continues to move up each week and Scott MacIntyre continues to move down.  These are not my predictions for how they will finish on American Idol Season 8 (see below) but my biased opinion of them as performers I would like to see.

  • Danny Gokey has been one of the top two performers each week.  He has been consistent and has raised his game every week.  He needs to be careful to keep his “fun factor” at maximum., but I have yet to see him flinch under the “front runner” pressure.
  • Kris Allen has quietly dominated every week’s performance.  He is not flashy but he is funky.  He is a great song interpreter and last week’s complete re-work of a Garth Brooks song was masterful.
  • Lil Rounds weakness as a song arranger showed through last week, but she is a super singer.  This should be a good week for her.
  • Matt Giraud performed beautifully last week but he still has not shown me enough to think he can make it to the final three.
  • Meagan Joy (Corkery) needs to demonstrate her singing abilities and, for one week, cut the cutesy song arrangements.  It makes her fun and quirky but she has yet to demonstrate the skills that will make her anything other than a novelty act.  I think she can go far in the competition but she still has something to prove.
  • Allison Iraheta is probably the best singer in American Idol Season 8.  I lover her stage presence and her moxie.  She needs to sing a “blow it out da’ box” ballad to demonstrate some range.
  • Scott MacIntyre,is just not a great singer and he tends to reduce every song to a soft rock anthem.  The country loves him but I think we are nearing the end of his American Idol run.  Maybe he can then get back to making the really great music he was creating before American Idol.
  • Michael Sarver seems to have some magic on television and I am thrilled he made it to the Top Ten, but I think the competition is surpassing him.
  • Anoop Desai made a little comeback last week but I don’t think he is as good as the judges seem to think.  I still have not seen one performance from him that is good as any of the other performer’s best and he certainly has the worst performance of the remaining group.
  • Adam Lambert will probably be the American Idol performer for which the judges use their “save”.  I just don’t get his over-the-top screaming performances.  This is what I said last week and I have decided that he is my least favorite performer of the last three seasons.  My only hope is that he never ruins another song that is in my all time favorites list, like “Ring of Fire.”

I don’t have predictions for who will win but I do think that there are some characteristics among the performers that could cause the famous “American Idol voting surprises”.  Kris & Danny are starting to call on the same pool of voters.   Matt & Anoop will start to split votes unless Matt begins to demonstrate his superior musical skills.  Allison, Megan and Adam need to show some versatility in the next few weeks or America will begin to look at them as novelties.  I think the charm that Michael and Scott have displayed will start to run out on them.  With all of that said, it looks like Lil Rounds has the best shot to make it to the American Idol Season 8 Top 3.

American Idol will air on Wednesday rather than Tuesday and they will be celebrating “50 Years of Motown” with legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson serving as guest mentor.  The American Idol performers will, of course sing the songs of Motown.  See my article tomorrow where I talk more about Motown and expresses some hopes about song selection.

Check out all of the American Idol’s performances so far by clicking on the iTunes link below

Apple iTunes