Religion & Beliefs

There’s soul, and then there’s soul…

If I were to run across a Joshua Nelson CD in a record store, I’d take one look at his yarmulke and the word “gospel” and I’d assume he was a devout Christian obsessed with the Jewish roots of Jesus… … Read More

By / December 6, 2006

If I were to run across a Joshua Nelson CD in a record store, I’d take one look at his yarmulke and the word “gospel” and I’d assume he was a devout Christian obsessed with the Jewish roots of Jesus… (because I once, long ago, dated an evangelical Christian who appreciated Jewish music for that reason)  Now, that kind of stuff gives me the creepy-crawlies.  Christians who say “Shalom” in a super-loving voice with a weird smile?  No thanks.

But Joshua Nelson is NOT a Christian.  He’s an observant Jew who happened to grow up loving Torah and Mahalia Jackson with equal reverence.  So he combined his religious training with his musical gifts and developed an amazing blend of gospel music and traditional Hebrew melodies. 

He calls it “Kosher Gospel” and it makes a kind of sense—a music derived from oppression, in diaspora and in slavery. A music of hope and inspiration.  He’s got a true gospel voice, strong and physical, with a passion and an energy altogether different from anything you’ve ever heard in Hebrew.  But he sings the Hebrew words with conviction, with meaning.  And this ain’t your grandpa’s Adon Olam.

I was lucky enough o see him here, in Atlanta, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church (Martin Luther King’s church) and it was CRAZY!  Everyone jumping up and down, chanting in Hebrew and English, dancing through the church. Passion and excitement and clapping and crying. All kinds of people sharing this experience.  Seriously.

You can check him out this month at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, or you can buy his CD.  I promise, it’ll be one of those things  you play for people when they come over. 

“Hey, listen to this!  You’ve never heard anything like it!”