Home Video StoreShopping Cart
How They Got Over
A documentary by Robert Clem

87 minutes, color, 2021

Regular Price: $24.95
Your Price: $17.47
You Save: 30%!
Watch on Apple TV



How They Got Over tells the story of how Black gospel quartet music became a primary source for what we would call rock and roll, and in the process helped to break down racial walls in 1950s America.

Beginning in the 1920s, Black singers across the country took to the highways as the new technology of radio and records made it possible to reach a wider audience. Intense competition brought new ways to entertain, first with guitars, later with full bands, then with a performance style that would inspire Mick Jagger and a host of other rock and rollers. Their music was infectious, wrecking many a house on the chitlin’ circuit, then graduating to the Apollo and other major auditoriums across the country. The success of gospel quartets inspired record labels to form doo-wop groups that enticed gospel singers like Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Wilson Pickett to cross over to greater fame.

How They Got Over features classic performance footage of the Soul Stirrers, Dixie Hummingbirds, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Boys of Mississippi, Sensational Nightingales, the Davis Sisters and many more. Some of the greatest names in quartet music are interviewed in the film, giving vivid accounts of how they “got over” in their performances: shouting, bending over backwards, dancing, jumping off the stage: what came to be known as “gospel drama” – and a huge influence on future rock 'n' rollers.

Watch the Trailer


"Smile-Inducing! How They Got Over traces the music from its exquisite jubilee-style harmonies to tugging 'smooth gospel.' With a trove of archival performance footage and the wisdom to let those images breathe, the film leans into the maxim about showing not telling." -Lisa Kennedy, The New York Times

"How They Got Over is a revealing and inspiring look at the massive contribution of gospel music to the spirit and vitality of rock 'n' roll: an invaluable documentary which combines historical scholarship with thrilling glimpses of gospel singers, both superstars of the genre and some you'll probably be experiencing for the first time."
-Robert Hilburn, former pop critic of the Los Angeles Times

"The essential story of the cross-fertilization between gospel music and rock ‘n' roll."
-Billy Price, R&B/Soul singer

"If you love music and want to know about the origins of rock and roll, you must see this film!" -Terre Roche, The Roche Sisters

DVD Bonus Features
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe hosts TV Gospel Time and performs Down by the Riverside
  • The Barrett Sisters of Chicago sing Jesus Loves Me on TV Gospel Time
  • The Blind Boys of Mississippi host TV Gospel Time with a hard gospel rendition of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms



Rotten Tomatoes


More about this film's theatrical run

Educational Inquiries

You Might Also Like