Joe Carter — The Spirituals | WBEZ
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On Being

Joe Carter — The Spirituals

“Magic, shining songs.” Reaching back to the ancestors. How do we survive when the worst happens? Transcendence and code: “Steal Away,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Music as a secret door. The roots of gospel, jazz, hip-hop, the blues.

An exuberant experience of conversation and singing. There are nearly 5,000 spirituals in existence. Their organizing concept is not the melody of Europe, but the rhythm of Africa. They were composed by slaves, bards whose names we will never know, and yet gave rise to gospel, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. Joe Carter lived and breathed the universal appeal and hidden stories, meanings, and hope in what were originally called “sorrow songs.” This was one of our first weekly shows, and it’s still one of our most beloved.

Joe Carter was a singer, performer, teacher, and traveling humanitarian. He performed for more than 25 years in opera and musical theater, portrayed Paul Robeson in a one-man musical, and introduced people around the world to the spiritual. He died of leukemia at age 57, on June 26, 2006.

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