Say Amen, Somebody!

I enthusiastically recommend Say Amen, Somebody. It is a movie 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, a blues fan, 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, interacts with people, conducts…it’s just the best-quality, longest, most-detailed, most-interesting footage of any 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. 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.”

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