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Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music

with Robert Marovich
A gospel choir will perform
Tuesday,January 12, 2016, at 6 p.m.
Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago

Free and open to the public. No reservation required.

Gospel music historian and radio host Robert Marovich will discuss his book A City Called Heaven (University of Illinois Press, 2015), which charts the humble origins of a majestic musical genre—and its close ties to the city where it found its voice.

In the beginning, 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 joyous for church walls to hold.

In his new book A City Called Heaven (University of Illinois Press, 2015), Robert 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 50 artists, ministers, and historians—as well as 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.

Robert Marovich
Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author and radio host. “Gospel Memories,” a radio program of classic gospel, spiritual, and jubilee music, airs on Chicago’s WLUW-FM and throughout the week on Internet, low-power FM, and terrestrial radio stations.

Bob writes about classic and contemporary gospel music as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gospel Music ( The website, formerly known as The Black Gospel Blog, was nominated for a Rhythm of Gospel Award in 2013.

Formerly second vice president of the Chicago Area Gospel Announcers Guild (Gospel Music Workshop of America), Bob is on the board of the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum, the Rhythm of Gospel Awards, and the Tree House Humane Society. He is a member of the Stellar Awards Gospel Music Academy, the National Independent Gospel Music Association, the Recording Academy, the Center for Black Music Research, and the Association of Recorded Sound Collections.

Marovich’s collection of gospel sound recordings has been cited as one of the nation’s most comprehensive. It includes more than 5,600 records and thousands of CDs and cassettes representing tens of thousands of individual selections.

Contact Greg Borzo: (312) 636-8968;