Samson and Delilah: From Pulpits to Pop Stars

Billy Stevens demonstrates the impact of Negro spirituals on American popular music with a fascinating journey spanning a century of American history. Using archival recordings of two songs based on the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, “My Soul is a Witness,” and “If I Had My Way,” Stevens describes how spiritual songs contributed to American popular music while transforming African American culture into the mainstream. In the process, audiences are introduced to some of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century: black preachers and congregations, jubilee singers, itinerant bluesmen, folk musicians of the 1960s, and rock bands of the 1980s. Their shared vocabulary of religious symbolism, along with their message of freedom and equality, creates a common bond spanning genres and generations.

Lectern (Mr. Stevens brings his own sound system)