A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music



In A City Called Heaven, gospel announcer and music historian Robert Marovich shines a light on the humble origins of a majestic genre and its indispensable bond to the city where it found its voice: Chicago.

Marovich follows gospel music from early hymns and camp meetings through the Great Migration that brought it to Chicago. In time, the music grew into the sanctified soundtrack of the city's mainline black Protestant churches. In addition to drawing on print media and ephemera, Marovich mines hours of interviews with nearly fifty artists, ministers, and historians--as well as discussions with relatives and friends of past gospel pioneers--to recover many forgotten singers, musicians, songwriters, and industry leaders. He also examines how a lack of economic opportunity bred an entrepreneurial spirit that fueled gospel music's rise to popularity and opened a gate to social mobility for a number of its practitioners. As Marovich shows, gospel music expressed a yearning for freedom from earthly pains, racial prejudice, and life's hardships. In the end, it proved to be a sound too mighty and too joyous for even church walls to hold.

Product Details

University of Illinois Press
Publish Date
March 03, 2015
6.1 X 1.3 X 9.0 inches | 1.7 pounds

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About the Author

Robert Marovich hosts Gospel Memories on Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM and is founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Gospel Music, www.journalofgospelmusic.com.



"A City Called Heaven is a valuable resource that points to the many voices that were important to the success of gospel music. With his text, Marovich extends an invitation to readers and gospel music lovers to celebrate the beautiful and spirit-filled contributions of those who paved the gospel highway from Chicago to heaven and back."--Black Grooves

"Opens a window on an important part of 20th-century Americana that has been little explored heretofore."--Library Journal

"Robert Marovich's magisterial account explores how the encounter with urban life infused gospel music with blues and jazz, without displacing old habits of ecstatic worship brought from African and baptized by encountering Christianity."--Milwaukee Shepherd Express

"[An] exhaustively researched history of this important Chicago musical export. . . . Here, in Marovich's important work, are the lesser-known stories of the originators who created a wholly original sound of holiness in Chicago that reverberates today"--Chicago Tribune

"An impressive, comprehensive combination history, anthology and analysis of black gospel music.A City Called Heaven -- Chicago And The Birth Of Gospel Music blends interviews, character studies, rare photographs and numerous magnificent stories and encounters to provide readers with a wide-ranging look at this vital, constantly evolving idiom."-Nashville Scene