A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music (Music in American Life) (Paperback)

A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music (Music in American Life) By Robert M. Marovich Cover Image
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In A City Called Heaven, Robert M. Marovich follows gospel music from early hymns and camp meetings through its growth into the sanctified soundtrack of the city's mainline black Protestant churches. Marovich mines print media, ephemera, and hours of interviews with artists, ministers, and historians--as well as relatives and friends of gospel pioneers--to recover forgotten singers, musicians, songwriters, and industry leaders. He also examines the entrepreneurial spirit that fueled gospel music's rise to popularity and granted social mobility to a number of its practitioners. As Marovich shows, the music expressed a yearning for freedom from earthly pains, racial prejudice, and life's hardships. Yet it also helped give voice to a people--and lift a nation.

A City Called Heaven celebrates a sound too mighty and too joyous for even church walls to hold.

About the Author

Robert M. Marovich hosts "Gospel Memories" on Chicago's WLUW 88.7 FM and is founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Gospel Music, www.journalofgospelmusic.com.

Praise For…

Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in Recorded Blues, Gospel, Soul, or R&B, Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), 2016.


"Opens a window on an important part of 20th-century Americana that has been little explored heretofore."--Library Journal

“[An] exhaustively researched history of this important Chicago musical export. . . . Here, in Marovich's important work, are the lesser-known stories of the originators who created a wholly original sound of holiness in Chicago that reverberates today”—Chicago Tribune


"A City Called Heaven is a valuable resource that points to the many voices that were important to the success of gospel music.  With his text, Marovich extends an invitation to readers and gospel music lovers to celebrate the beautiful and spirit-filled contributions of those who paved the gospel highway from Chicago to heaven and back."--Black Grooves

"Robert Marovich's magisterial account explores how the encounter with urban life infused gospel music with blues and jazz, without displacing old habits of ecstatic worship brought from African and baptized by encountering Christianity."--Milwaukee Shepherd Express

“An impressive, comprehensive combination history, anthology and analysis of black gospel music.A City Called Heaven — Chicago And The Birth Of Gospel Music  blends interviews, character studies, rare photographs and numerous magnificent stories and encounters to provide readers with a wide-ranging look at this vital, constantly evolving idiom.”-Nashville Scene

"A truly major contribution to the history of African-American music."--Blues and Rhythm

"A labor of love. . . . Marovich's book is indispensable music knowledge and a welcome statement on Chicago's cultural legacy."--Popmatters

"A thoroughly researched, dynamic account of gospel music's history in Chicago over five decades. . . . A riveting narrative."--Newcity

"No American metropolis played as mammoth of a role in the development of African-American gospel music as Chicago. And no book has ever examined that complicated movement in such an expansive manner as A City Called Heaven. There's an incredible amount of information packed into its pages; by the time you finish this work, you'll possess extensive insight into the Windy City's sacred music history that simply wasn't available prior to this under one binding."--ARSC Journal

"In A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music Bob Marovich ploughs deep and wide to connect all of Gospel's variant threads from the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries. . . . Its beauty and practicality as a definitive reference source on Gospel music lies in the book's additional depth, in the attention also given to the unique contributions of countless small and medium-sized players and their accompanying details. . . . A City Called Heaven is a Bible of where Gospel and has been, where it's going, and who's been at the wheel in a century of melding and shaping. An essential new reference."--Chicago Book Review

"In A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music, Robert M. Marovich offers a discerning look at the role of this city on the genre's development. . . . For recovering rich insight from these sources, Marovich deserves great praise for this timely study. . . . An impressive achievement, and is most worthy of a detailed reading."--Journal of Folklore Research

"A thoroughly and richly drawn history. . . . Marovich has produced an important work that will reward both fans of and serious researchers of gospel music."--Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

"Marovich uses gospel music in Chicago to show how genre and urban historiography can be combined with one another because the needs and constraints of life in the city ultimately led to the development of a music as a spiritual counterbalance."--Jazzinstitut

Product Details
ISBN: 9780252080692
ISBN-10: 0252080696
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015
Pages: 488
Language: English
Series: Music in American Life