Sept. 2, 2008
Harrisburg, PA —The legendary Dixie Hummingbirds will open HACC’s 2008-09 Live at Rose Lehrman season with their inspiring soulful gospel music at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
The Dixie Hummingbirds have stood the test of time. They are an American institution and the quintessential group by which gospel music is defined. While they have always remained deeply rooted in the gospel tradition, their influence has made itself known far and wide in American popular music. This electrifying gospel group is credited with inspiring such entertainers as James Brown, Jackie Wilson and the Temptations.
Formed in 1928 in Greenville, S.C. and now calling Philadelphia home, the “Birds” have been performing uninterrupted for 80 years.
The late Ira Tucker joined the Hummingbirds in 1938, a decade after the group's founding, and helped cement its reputation for dazzling harmonies and elaborate dance moves borrowed from spirited church services. In 1984 Tucker stepped in as leader and continued until his passing June 2008.
The Dixie Hummingbirds - a sextet that included an electric guitar for much of its life - were regarded as one of the most venerable of the pop-gospel entertainment partnerships of the past century. Long called simply the “Birds,” the group became the subject of a documentary and a biography, and the recipient of many professional awards highlighting its influence on sacred and secular music.
Within the next few years, the group went back to religious music and settled on a core of performers that consisted of Tucker, James Davis, William Bobo, Beachey Thompson and James Walker, with Howard Carroll on electric guitar.
A career highlight that brought national attention to the “Birds” was backing up singer-songwriter Paul Simon on his 1973 hit “Loves Me Like a Rock.” This recording, among the group’s rare secular offerings, was among the top pop and adult contemporary songs of the year. Through their work with Paul Simon, the Dixie Hummingbirds became one of the few black gospel groups to break through to the American pop mainstream. In 1973 they won a Grammy Award for best soul gospel performance for its own recording of the song. They were awarded the 2000 NEA National Heritage Award and the 2006 Pennsylvania Governor’s Award.
Pre-show events include a free pre-show lecture at 7 p.m. featuring Jerry Zolten, biographer of the Dixie Hummingbirds’; “Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds.” Zolten provides interviews with Hank Ballard, Otis Williams and other artists who worked with the Hummingbirds, as well as with members Davis, Tucker and Carroll.
Show media sponsors are WITF-FM 89.5 and Urban Connection. This tour engagement of The Dixie Hummingbirds is funded through the American Masterpieces program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, a major initiative to acquaint Americans with the best of their culture and artistic legacy. This project is partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by The Heinz Endowments; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and The Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
Ticket prices for the show are $32 adult, $31 senior and $24 student. For more information, call 231-ROSE (7673) or go to www.LiveatRoseLehrman.org.
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