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This Week in Nashville: Literary Songs For The Library, Excello and Aretha

Marshall Chapman, Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith and Matraca Berg

Spring brings with it a rush of music-themed events, and these jumped out at us as not-to-be missed shots of creativity, philanthropy and history.

On Thursday, April 11, Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre will host “An Evening of Stories and Songs” with southern novelists Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle holding down the literary side and songwriters Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg anchoring the evening’s songwriting. Ticket proceeds benefit the Friends of Vanderbilt’s Libraries.

The group of individually acclaimed writers and musicians began their lasting friendship through collaboration on the musical Good Ol’ Girls, which premiered in 2000. The production was based on the writings of Smith and McCorkle and contained songs written by Chapman and Berg. As the title of their upcoming performance suggests, the group will infuse their catalogue of songs with storytelling from the two authors through the night.

The money contributed to the benefit performance will go toward raising awareness and funds for Vanderbilt University’s Jean and Alexander Heard library. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and tickets for the event can be found here.

Shake Your Hips

This weekend – Saturday April 6 to be exact - The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has partnered with the National Museum of African American Music for a panel discussion moderated by author and WXNA host Randy Fox on his new book titled “Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story.”

Fox will lead a panel discussion about Excello’s role in the explosion of R&B and black gospel coming out of Nashville from the 1950s through the 70s. The event will also feature musical performances from Jimmy Church, The McCrary Sisters, Swamp Dogg and The Valentines. The event is included with admission to the museum and will begin at 3 p.m.

Aretha’s Amazing Grace

Want to know what it was like to witness the live enchantment of an Aretha Franklin concert in her prime? The National Museum of African American Music has chosen the Belcourt Theatre to present the first public screening of “Amazing Grace,” a documentary film of Aretha’s 1972 gospel concert next Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m.

This anticipated screening is free to the public and will be followed by a panel discussion led by Dr. Dina Bennett, senior curator of NMAAM. “The documentary allows audiences to experience the soulful influences of Aretha Franklin, who grew up immersed in the African American church,” Bennet says. “In returning to her spiritual roots, Aretha is at her best in establishing a communal relationship with viewers and in demonstrating the all-consuming, compelling force of gospel music.”