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Through live performances, a radio documentary series, and content-rich website, WXPN will explore the roots of gospel and its influence on secular popular music

PHILADELPHIA (FEBRUARY 15, 2018): Gospel music’s significant influence on American popular music will be explored in Philadelphia and beyond through Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul, a new multi-platform project from Philadelphia public radio station WXPN that launches today on air and online. The project is supported with a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and will extend through early 2019.

WXPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul project will offer free events and performances, and local and national radio broadcasts, including a national radio documentary. Online, Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul provides an in-depth, interactive experience with interviews, music, videos, and other ongoing, exclusive contributions from some of the most acclaimed and authoritative voices in gospel and popular music.

“Our aim is to illuminate and educate, as well as to celebrate gospel music and its impact on secular music, as Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul brings together those who may be new to gospel music with faith-based audiences,” said WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay. “Listeners of WXPN and our nationally-syndicated music program World Cafe will embrace the gospel roots found in much of the pop, rock and soul music they have long enjoyed, while fans of gospel music will appreciate its wide-ranging influence on popular music.” LaMay and Bruce Warren, WXPN’s Associate General Manager for Programming, are the project’s executive producers.

These Gospel Roots events are scheduled, with more to be announced:

On February 25 at Prince Theater in Philadelphia (1412 Chestnut St.), the first Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul event will be a free screening of the new documentary film about gospel music’s role in the birth of rock and roll, How They Got Over, featuring a talk by Robert Clem, the film’s writer and director. The project’s first gospel music concert will take place on March 8 at First Unitarian Church (2125 Chestnut St.), featuring the church’s heralded choir. On March 29, the Fisk University Jubilee Singers will perform their historically significant songs of faith and hope at World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St.). The a capella singers Fairfield Four and the American Sacred Steel gospel group Campbell Brothers will perform at World Cafe Live on June 9.

“Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul will draw upon and highlight Philly's deep gospel history, contributions, and talented voices,” said Warren, who led a team that conducted extensive field work and research for the project. Future events will also showcase some of the most recognized gospel artists performing today, including Dixie Hummingbirds and The McCrary Sisters, as well as contemporary artists whose music is deeply influenced by gospel music, such as Luther Dickinson and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded WXPN two previous grants for similarly deep musical investigations: one for the Mississippi Blues Project (2013), a series of Philadelphia-based live concerts featuring Delta blues artists, and Zydeco Crossroads (2015) a year-long musical project that included live performances, a radio series, a website, and a documentary film, Zydeco Crossroads: A Tale of Two Cities. Like these projects, Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul supports WXPN’s mission to connect artists with audiences, and to expand the capacity, reach and value of its services to an increasingly diverse community.

More information will be released about Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul concerts and activities through early 2019. For more information, visit its website ( and