By JC Maraddón
Much has been said about the importance of church choirs and groupings in the evolution of twentieth-century African American music and, through their influence, how that which was sung in temples reappears in pop music as per magic art. To the notable number of interpreters who made their first weapons in music within these formations, the transcendence of genres such as spiritual black and gospel is added, without whose expansion several of the styles that accompany us would not have existed to this day.
However, there has been another imprint that was not so powerful in terms of sound, although it did inspire some rock and roll pioneers in terms of how to stand on stage in front of the public. The pastors of the Pentecostal cult, in their quest to increase the faith of their faithful, did not hesitate to perform real performances during the ceremonies, which included verbal arguments accompanied by jerky body movements. Microphone in hand, they sang praises with the choirs and harangued people, in a style similar to that of television entertainers, but also similar to that of a pop star at a concert.
History remarks that in their messages from the pulpit, they syndicated rock and roll as demonic music and did everything possible to turn believers away from it, through boycott campaigns that aimed to sabotage anyone who approached that repertoire. However, in their ways of captivating the audience it is easy to detect some of the resources that the musical idols themselves began to use in public, to which they imposed an irresistible erotic component, precisely the no minor detail that caused fright among the evangelical flock. .
One of those ministers, who even went on to make a career as a singer, was the Reverend Archie Dennis Jr., born in 1935 in Pittsburgh, who by 1958 transcended the borders of the religious community to join various vocal formations. The filming of his passionate intervention during a ceremony, in which he preaches backed by a choir, looks like an excellent example of how much these expressions of faith had in common with the pagan rituals that revolved around an artist who performed from the stage. his songs before a crowd of followers who worshiped him as if he were a deity.
That archie scene of Archie Dennis Jr. is part of the documentary series “Elvis Presley: The Searcher,” which premiered on HBO in 2018 and is now available on the Netflix platform. In a convincing way, the image shows how much the King of Rock learned from those nocturnal escapades in which he sneaked into churches to soak up a musicality that was not typical of his race; and to adopt certain gestural tools that facilitated the preaching of the shepherds and that later he was going to apply to unleash the hysteria of his fanatics when the situation warranted it.
Under the curatorship of his widow Priscilla and the direction of Thom Zimny, “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” takes as its starting point a television special that the singer starred in in 1968 after years of absence on camera, to go back and review his the beginning. And to individualize the components of that successful formula that catapulted him to world fame in just three years. To the well-known merits that are given to his ability to combine elements of country and blues, this documentary brings other surprising details, such as that link with a Pentecostalism that was later to crucify him as diabolical.