Talking to Margaret Douroux is sooo reminiscent of hanging out and talking to my grandma as a kid. I literally had flashbacks of conversations with her as Margaret and I discussed church and old school Gospel music. When I arrived at Margaret’s beautiful home, she was busy in the kitchen cooking and baking. The aroma drifted from the kitchen of her baked chicken and put my stomach in throwback mode. When our interview was over, she wanted me to join her and her husband for dinner. When I couldn’t she made me a to-go plate, including a slice of lemon meringue pie! Now if that wasn’t my grandmother’s modus operandi I don’t know what is. :-)
One thing I noticed immediately is that you feel like you’re in the presence of great wisdom when Margaret speaks. Actually she IS a graduate of USC with degrees in Educational Psychology and Education. AND she minored in Music. But education and wisdom are separate entities and Margaret has both. She is just a laid back, humble sage whose intelligence doesn’t wear out its welcome.
For those who may not know, Margaret Douroux is a legendary Gospel musician and songwriter. She has penned a Gospel music catalog that spans six decades. Many of her songs have become standards in Gospel music. They have been recorded and re-recorded by Gospel legends and contemporary artists alike. She is also a veritable walking encyclopedia of Gospel music.
Dr. Douroux's "If It Had Not Been" performed by Jennifer Holiday
featuring Donald Vails/piano and Billy Preston/organ
It’s only fitting that Margaret is the founder of Heritage Music Foundation (www.hmfgospel.com). HMF is a national organization whose mission is to support and preserve Gospel music. HMF supports that Gospel music has a historical, cultural and educational value that should be presented and preserved as a major contribution to the world. HMF hosts a yearly convention in Los Angeles with seminars, workshops and featured performances by Gospel celebrities and songwriters. Heritage Music Foundation sponsors scholarships for student members through annual oratorical and essay competitions. Through this work, Margaret’s vision is to preserve and nurture Gospel music as a viable fine art form. Another major goal of HMF is the creation of Gospel House. HMF is working toward creation of a permanent complex in Southern California that would house a Gospel Music Museum and a repository for Gospel research, technology and history. Gospel House will also contain a state or the art performing arts theater, concert hall and lecture facilities. In anyone else’s hands this would sound like a lofty pipe dream, too grandiose for fruition. Trust that if it can be done (and it can), Margaret Douroux will make it happen.
PBI: This is probably obvious but… are you from a Gospel background?
MD: Oh yes. I was raised in the church and always surrounded by Gospel music. My Dad was a well-known singer. He traveled and sang with Mahalia Jackson. My mom was a pianist. Even my grandma was a singer. Through associations with my dad, all of the great singers of the 50s and 60s that were icons in Gospel came through our church. Thurston G. Frazier was our Minister of Music and helped guide me musically in the early stages. My father built Mt. Moriah Baptist Church on Figueroa in Los Angeles, my brother is a pastor in Inglewood. (Laughing) It’s safe to say I come from a Gospel background.
PBI: Your personal music catalog is humongous. Do you have a song that is a favorite or inspires a special memory for you?
MD: Well, the first song I actually gained recognition for was “Give Me A Clean Heart”. My dad gave me the young adult choir to work with in his church and I wrote and taught them ‘Give Me a Clean Heart’. I didn’t realize there would be any impact or, at least, not the kind of impact that it had. Thurston G. Frazier heard the song and he just encouraged me by performing it all over the country. He did the song at the Gospel Music Workshop one year. This was before my dad was allowing me to travel so I wasn’t there. And it’s been the highlight of my career. It’s in all the hymn books.
Margaret Douroux and Lacresia Campbell minister"Lord Give Me A Clean Heart"
PBI: What was your impetus for creating and Heritage Music Foundation?
MD: Well it comes from identifying erosion in the acknowledgement of black worth and culture. Black families used to have a real powerful energy in the community. We used to have. I remember my daddy took his shirts to a black cleaners, his shoes to a black shoeshine parlor, etc. We had black car washes. We got to a point where we were building churches without loans. We don’t own anything now. Talk about the Gospel Music Workshop convention (an earlier conversation)... we got to a point where we had a 2,500 voice mass choir and thousands of people in attendance, but we don’t own a microphone, we don’t own a truck, a concert hall… we own absolutely nothing. The Gospel Music Workshop, the Thomas Dorsey and the Hawkins were the three major conventions and I don’t know if anybody owned anything. It breaks my spirit to know that the Grand Ole Opry exists with their own recording studios and their videos are played and we don’t own a thing. Why don’t we own anything? God has invested so much in Black America. But we don’t present it as important. We actually created black music that has the most unique sound and texture and message and impact. Others are trying to copy us and we don’t really consider it worth nurturing and preserving it. It just burdens me that we haven’t taken seriously what we should be doing with the gifts we have been blessed with. Somebody’s got to catch on to the vision of making an impact in America with black music. We ought to have a platform. We ought to be able to say this is what represents us and this is not. My heart says to document. Put something in the view of America that says we contributed. That this came from us.
PBI: So what’s the next step in establishing the Gospel House facility?
MD: We have done a feasibility study and pinpointed a couple of possible locations for the site of Gospel House but this is not something I want to undertake without the funding to see it through. We have raised substantial funding through our annual convention and through Heritage Music Foundation members but we still have some work to do. We’re now looking to take our message public to appeal to Black business owners, celebrities and all who have come up in the Black church to support this honorable mission we have set out to complete. We’d be hard pressed to find Black folks that didn’t come up in church of some denomination. This is part of our individual and collective roots and we owe it to ourselves and our culture to invest in a cornerstone of our national community. It is not just a religious statement but a cultural one. This entity does not exist anywhere in the country. While Black Gospel music has been around since slavery. It is our duty to take ownership of our heritage and not have someone else establish it and lease it back to us.There is nothing more powerful than a strong, intelligent Black woman.