Elaine Richardson, Ohio State University
Arizona Dranes Unbridled
Crucial elements of the folk spiritual notwithstanding – call-response providing a structure of leader-chorus, allowing for vocal, textual and rhythmic variation – three forms of what Burnim refers to as transitional gospel music emerged during the period from 1900 to 1930: “the gospel hymn style pioneered by Charles Albert Tindley in Philadelphia, (2) the rural gospel style that served as a sacred counterpart of the rural blues, and (3) the Holiness-Pentecostal style that first rose to prominence in the Church of God in Christ.” An unsung pioneer of the latter has recently been hailed as the “Forgotten Mother of the Gospel Beat”: Arizona Dranes, a blind and classically trained pianist, is the person to whom we can trace the origins of the drive in gospel music. Her commanding style of piano playing, incorporating percussive ragtime, and her singing featuring shouted but controlled vocals are yet characteristics of Pentecostal worship. They became defining elements of gospel along with “instruments, dancing, and polyrhythmic handclaps . in the era of assimilation.” Though she continued to share her gift in churches until she died in the early 1960s, Dranes’ recording career and stardom were halted in 1930 by the Depression. This presentation will focus on vocal stylings of Arizona Dranes as they reflect characteristics of folk spiritual singing as well as her own unique vocal styling and its impact on greats such as Rosetta Tharpe.
Burnim, M. African American Music: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2006. 51–77.
Prof. Dr. Elaine Richardson is Professor of Literacy Studies at Ohio State University. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Cleveland State University, and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Her research interests include language, literacy, and discourse practices of Afro diasporic cultures, sociolinguistics, critical discourse studies, the education and literacy of Afro diasporic people. She belongs to a network of scholars interested in Hiphop and education.