A reader comments:
What’s up with “white gospel?” I’ve never heard SG referred to that way. Maybe that’s the way those brainy academics can diminish it.
A good point, and one I probably should have addressed already, since I’m bandying the term about so much lately.
I can see how someone long familiar with sg might see the phrase as an unnecessary term invented for the purposes of reproach. But really it’s meant as a way to let people unfamiliar not just with the genre but also with Christian music more broadly know that “southern gospel” doesn’t refer to some variety of black gospel. Academics are very accustomed to seeing scholarly writing about black gospel music, so much so that almost any use of the word “gospel” in relation to music usually is assumed to mean black music. Here’s a conversation I’ve had a schmillion times with a few variations in syntax and setting.
RANDOM OTHER ACADEMIC IN THE ELEVATOR AT A CONFERENCE: So what do you work on?
ME: I’m writing a book about southern gospel.
ROAITEAAC: Oh really! When I was in graduate school, The Clark Sisters sang at an event on campus … it was really great.
So, I can’t speak for those brainy academics my commenter mentions (and the stereotype of the sneering academic didn’t come from nowhere so I can’t swear “white gospel” has never been or will never be used deprecatingly), but for me the term is just a useful way to head off confusion.
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