Christian Quarterly Magazine Review
Reviewed by Pamela R. Jeffers
In his book, I Remember Gospel: And I Keep On Singing, Gene Viale gives an eloquent account of his life as a white singer (in complexion only, since he is of Italian/French/Mexican/Puerto Rican descent) with among the Black Gospel greats of the past. From singing in his home church as a young boy to a career spanning some 40 years in gospel music; readers are taken through a journey that tells of this experience, both career and spiritual. As expressed in his forward, Mr. Viale hopes that by reading his book, readers will come to recognize that God has His hand on all of us.
Early on, the reader will realize that there aren't any chapters. There was so much detail of the 40 some years that was covered in Mr. Viale's story, having chapters would have been a welcomed relief, as at times the adventure was rather exhausting. But this is purely, from a point of view of personal taste; other readers may not mind.
As I read Mr. Viale's accounts of his admiring from afar, the gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, Albertina Walker & Shirley Ceasar to their actual introductions and eventual collaborations, I was moved by his sincere love for Gospel music and his ability to convey his emotions to the reader. He tells of how strange it was for him to travel throughout the south with these artists during the racially charged 60's. He expresses his appreciation of how he was accepted and protected by them as he was often the youngest in the group. I particularly enjoyed reading of his experience with meeting and then singing for the Queen of Gospel, Ms. Mahalia Jackson and the Father of Gospel, Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey.He credits the anointing of the Holy Spirit for his ability to move the crowds where he was called to minister, and expresses his disappointment on how he was not compensated fairly during some of these engagements.
Mr. Viale writes about battling insecurity and a deep need to be accepted stemming way back from childhood. He doesn't inform the reader as to why he thinks this was. He does state that along the way he realized that he was always trying to be forgiven, grateful and then failing again; until he discovered that he should please God because of who He is and not because he was going to be punished.
It was amazing how Mr. Viale is very descriptive and expounding in his recollections of past events. Most autobiographical books are a collection of summarized events that loosely tell its story. As vividly candid Mr. Viale is at telling some of his story, one can discern that there is much that he isn't telling. However, the reader will enjoy reading about the early days of Gospel music and how the Gospel greats of old, paid the price and paved the way for today's Gospel artists.
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