Oral history interview with Linda Tillery, 1999
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Linda Tillery recounts remembrances of growing up in a family environment imbued with African American music. In spite of this early exposure, however, it was not until she was 41 years old, after her parents died in 1990, that her interest in understanding African American folk music and spirituals deepened. At this time she embarked on an oral history project to study spirituals by researching written and recorded sources found in key U.S. archives and by interviewing primarily older African Americans whom she considered to be the "elders of folk music". While already established as a jazz and blues singer, she changed direction to pursue the quest of understanding and performing the African American art form of spirituals. She discusses how passing the spiritual from generation to generation attains preservation of this music, and believes that the senior members of the African American community who learned it as children from their parents play an important role in the education and preservation of African American folk music. She contends that concertized spirituals, if performed authentically by maintaining their original simplicity, metered hymns, and much of the music performed by quartets, are also in the same vein as spirituals.