Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Library & Archives

AMS and Rock Hall Lecture Series with Tammy Kernodle

Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 7:00pm

“Hope for a New Tomorrow: Transcendence and Resistance in the Gospel Blues of Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples and Roberta Flack.”


Thursday, October 19th 7p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.)


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Library and Archives, 2809 Woodland Ave, Cleveland OH 


This event is FREE with a reservation. Rock Hall members can RSVP starting at 10am on Monday, September 25. Non-members can RSVP starting at 10am on Tuesday, September 26. To RSVP, visit


Kernodle describes her talk as follows: "Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, and Roberta Flack emerged in the late 1960s as voices that used musical performances to mediate audiences through one of America’s most chaotic and violent periods.  Songs such as Mavis Staples’ 'I’ll Take You There' and Aretha Franklin’s 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' served as the intermediary between the warring political ideologies of non-violence, Black Nationalism and black militancy. They also channeled the pain generated by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the destruction of urban cities through riots, and the violence associated with the Anti-war Movement (e.g. Kent State, Jackson State). Music scholarship from this period has privileged the voices of black male musicians, most notably James Brown and Sly Stone, as examples of how these events shaped the lyrical context of late sixties/early seventies black popular music.  I argue that the privileging of black male musicians has narrowed our sonic awareness of how blackness and the themes of resistance and transcendence were framed in popular music during this period. Brown and Stone situated their expressions of sonic blackness in the genre of funk, which was scripted as 'masculine,' 'transgressive,' and 'black.' However, Simone, Franklin, Flack, and Staples advanced a different type of sonic blackness that was a synthesis of black sacred music, jazz and blues. It too was transgressive in sound and at times antithetical to public use of the term 'soul.'"

Through an analysis of Nina Simone’s 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,' Aretha Franklin’s 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters,' Mavis Staples' 'I’ll Take You There,' and Roberta Flack’s 'Trying Times,' this presentation will explore how these performances interweaved ideologies associated with the Civil Rights campaigns of the 1960s (e.g. equality, self-empowerment, black nationalism) and the experiences of black women in America to expand the musical and sociological context of black popular music.The 'gospel blues' aesthetic advanced in these performances extended the sacred-secular interchange in black popular music. More importantly they utilize the black religious practices of 'sermonizing' and 'testifying' to transfer knowledge as well as create the context of a communal or shared experience between performer and listener. This discussion illuminates how black women musicians created sonic contexts through which listeners could interpret, contextualize and transcend the violence of the late 1960s and early 1970s."


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the American Musicological Society lecture series consists of two events each year that feature members of the Society presenting engaging lectures on topics relevant to the mission of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the holdings of its Library and Archives.  The series brings scholarly work on rock and roll and popular music to a broader audience and showcases the musicological work of top scholars in the field.  For more information about these events, visit


Tammy L. Kernodle, a specialist in African American Music and gender studies in music, is Professor of Musicology at Miami University (Ohio).  Her teaching and research has focused on many different genres of African American music and has appeared in a number of anthologies and journals, including Journal of the Society for American Music, Black Music Research Journal, American Studies Journal, U.S. Catholic Historian, and Musical Quarterly.  Her book Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams is the most current full length biography on the jazz pianist/arranger. In 2011 she served as co-editor of the three-volume Encyclopedia of African American Music (ABC-CLIO), which is the first work of this genre to address all forms of African American music from 1619 until 2010.  She also served as Senior Editor in the area of African American music for the revision of New Grove Dictionary of American Music (2013).


The Rock Hall’s Library & Archives is located at 2809 Woodland Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. The facility is at the corner of Woodland Avenue and East 30th Street, in a shared building with the Gill and Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts of Tri-C. This is approximately two miles southeast of the Museum.


Free parking will be available in Lots 5 and 6 of the parking garage.  Metered parking spaces are also available on the street in front of the building or around the block.  Signage will be posted directing visitors to the event.