You wrote the definitive overview of gospel music, The Gospel Soundin But back then, [being gay] was really considered shameful. But the music pieces are the most provocative, and after reading his stories about the giants of gospel like Clara Ward, Marion Williams and Charles Campbell, many of whom he knew and worked with, I wanted more. And in fact, the little stuff I said about it in The Gospel Sound probably got more attention than anything else in the book! A conservative ex-gay blogger called unreformed gays in the church a cancer and claimed I was simply some writer trying to make a fast buck.
To outsiders it might seem so [but] virtually all the mega-churches, which have memberships of 10 to 50, have not shifted.
Gospel's Secrets Come Into The Light
But I'm gonna stay a gospel girl. She made blues and gospel the same on those records, and I think that's a huge achievement. You shaped the official story, and the book's still considered something of a standard text. What has the response to your essay been from church leaders and churchgoers? I guess ultimately I'm talking about another kind of emotion — it's like love and it's like sex and I try to show the parallels.
You say in ways the erasure has gotten worse in recent years, and blame it on certain Pentacostal leaders and the mega-churches. I've had friends, gay people, warn me: Oh, Heilbut knows the music he writes about like the avid listener he clearly is, but he ain't preaching to the choir. Since then [along with the deaths of many performers who were gay or bisexual], we have seen the rise of all these people, in and out of the mega-churches, saying AIDS was God's punishment. I saw Jackie Wilson there, and maybe James Brown. It was overpowering the content of the book.