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Author Topic: Georgia Tom in Say Amen, Somebody  (Read 1487 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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Georgia Tom in Say Amen, Somebody
« on: May 17, 2009, 12:34:32 PM »
   This movie has been mentioned here before but, having just seen it, I want to enthusiastically recommend Say Amen, Somebody. It is about gospel music but a major part of it is blues singer Georgia Tom, who rechristened himself Thomas A. Dorsey when he became the Father of Gospel Music.
   The reasons you ought to run right out and get it from your library or video store:
1. If you dig Georgia Tom ? and you should ? then here he is. Yes, he is past his prime and yes he has switched from blues to gospel. But he sings, walks, talks, cries, interacts with people, conducts?it?s just the best-quality, longest, most-detailed, most-interesting footage of any major prewar blues artist. And he still has that vocal style and personality that comes through so strong on his early recordings! There even is a scene of him listening and reacting to one of his old blues records. Priceless. His unsung collaborator/manager, Sallie Martin, also appears here, including a great scene of the two of them together.
2. There is a lot of good music on here, from several terrific gospel acts (Willie Mae Ford Smith, the Barrett Sisters and the O?Neal Twins). If you get the 25th anniversary special edition (the movie first came out in 1982), it includes an audio CD and a nice little hardcover book besides the DVD.
3. It clearly shows that gospel music totally derives from the work of a great bluesman. When someone tries to tell you that blues comes from gospel, have him watch this movie.
4. It?s just a great documentary. Not only the music scenes, but the domestic squabbles...I don't want to ruin the movie by describing them, but let's just say the filmmakers gain the total trust of the subjects and capture some terrific stuff.
As Roger Ebert puts it: ?Say Amen, Somebody is one of the most joyful movies I've ever seen.  It is also one of the best musicals and one of the most interesting documentaries. And it's a terrific good time. The movie is about gospel music, and it's filled with gospel music. It's sung by some of the pioneers of modern gospel, who are now in their seventies and eighties, and it's sung by some of the rising younger stars, and it's sung by choirs of kids.  It's sung in churches and around the dining room table; with orchestras and a capella; by an old man named Thomas A. Dorsey in front of thousands of people; and by Dorsey standing all by himself in his own backyard. The music in Say Amen, Somebody is as exciting and uplifting as any music I've ever heard on film."

Offline Stuart

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Re: Georgia Tom in Say Amen, Somebody
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2009, 03:29:40 PM »
Thanks for revisiting the topic, Steve. I'll second your recommendations. There is also the book:

The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church by Michael W. Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) ISBN: 0195090578

http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Gospel-Blues-Thomas-Andrew/dp/0195090578

The book is based in part on his diss:

THE ADVENT OF GOSPEL BLUES IN BLACK OLD-LINE CHURCHES IN CHICAGO, 1932-33 AS SEEN THROUGH THE LIFE AND MIND OF THOMAS ANDREW DORSEY, Harvard University, 1982.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Georgia Tom in Say Amen, Somebody
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2009, 12:10:13 PM »
FWIW it was given a screening on BBC TV, Saturday 4th February 1984. The broadcast received such good press that later the same year the National Film Theatre, London did one showing an evening for five days.

 


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