International Film Festival Rotterdam

Robert Clem – How They Got Over #IFFR2018

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13 min. and 28 sec.

The amazing gospel quartets of the 40’s and 50’s.

Play Podcast
13 min. and 28 sec.

PODCAST| Matt Micucci interviews Robert Clem, director of the documentary How They Got Over.

To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture

Director Robert Clem presented his documentary, How They Got Over, at the 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands, where it had its European Premiere. The film examines quite a few of the mostly unknown gospel quartets who were around in the 40’s and 50’s and the influence they had on subsequent music. Clem shares with us some of the history of the music and talks a bit about the various aspects he examines in depth on the road, such as the hardships the bands experienced on the road, the interesting ways in which gospel music evolved from spiritual to secular, the controversy of the introduction of instruments in the music, and more. Clem began working on How They Got Over about twelve years ago and the film features contributions from artists and performers of the time who have since died. It also features some rare footage of the rarely documented performances by the gospel bands. In this interview, the director talks about all these various challenges he had to overcome in the making of his documentary, his own interest in the music and some of his favourite bands, and more.

How They Got Over: Legendary musicians like James Brown got their ideas from the impressive, dramatic performances of Afro-American gospel quartets that played in churches, on local radio stations and, later, at concert halls starting in the 1930s. The music documentary How They Got Over about the evolution of these quartets illustrates how this often originally religious harmony singing developed into more secular songs with instruments, multiple vocalists, passion and sold-out shows. These singing men and women were musical precursors to famous genres such as doo-wop, rhythm and blues, soul, Motown and rock ‘n’ roll. A number of octogenarian singers regale us with tales of their road trips across the South of the United States when they played for peanuts to make their names. Their stories and those of other genre lovers are augmented by seldom-seen archival footage of concerts by the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and many others.

  • Reporter
    Matt Micucci
  • Guest
    Robert Clem
  • Interviewee role
  • Film title
    How They Got Over
  • Festival section
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