A collection of more than 30,000 “sweet soul” records, widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, has been loaned to Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Black Music Research and will be made available to the college, scholars, and the general public.
The collection, which was created by the late Bob Abrahamian and loaned to Columbia in July by the Abrahamian family, includes approximately 33,000 45s and 1,250 LPs, plus photographs, album covers, recorded interviews with soul group members, several local high school yearbooks, and other items relating to soul artists and record restoration. Many of the records are rare, with fewer than a hundred copies known to exist, and, in some cases, the collection holds the only known copies.
“Because of my brother’s passion for honoring soul artists and getting out their stories, and for making this music accessible to a large audience, we wanted to make his collection available to the general public,” Jenny Abrahamian said. “We preserve his memory by making a long-term loan of his collection in his honor to the Center for Black Music Research, an internationally recognized institution where it can be accessible to the general public interested in this important part of Chicago’s cultural history.
Bob Abrahamian, who passed away in 2014, is described by Rob Sevier, the founder of the prominent soul reissue label Numero Group, as “the preeminent group soul collector in the world.”
Abrahamian became interested in Chicago “sweet soul” harmony records when he was involved in the university radio station as a student at the University of Chicago. He programmed several different radio shows during his nineteen-year tenure at the station, including “Sitting in the Park,” a soul harmony show that he launched in 2002 and hosted until his death. He posted his shows and interviews on his website: www.sittinginthepark.com.
Abrahamian originally found most of his records in small record stores in Chicago and in private homes. He often met with the original artists at their homes or in restaurants and interviewed many artists on his programs.
The record collection, as a whole, consists of doo wop, R&B, deep soul, sweet soul, midtempo (crossover), funk, Northern soul and modern soul. Scholars and music lovers alike can trace the sounds, the artists, and the record business through the years, beginning with the tight vocal harmonies of doo wop, following the collection’s strength in the smooth, lush love stories of “sweet soul,” and including later developments in the genre on local, national, and international labels.
The collection is expected to be available on a special request basis starting in January 2019, with additional access provided as inventorying proceeds.
Both curiosity and in-depth research can be satisfied with the wealth of related materials available in the library and archives collections at the CBMR, including materials on Chicago soul music and the record business collected by WGES personality and popular DJ, Richard Stamz. In addition, photojournalist Sue Cassidy Clark, who photographed and interviewed musicians performing in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, enhance and overlap with the Abrahamian collection.
Reference staff is available to help at the CBMR Monday through Thursday from 10a to 4p, and Fridays from 10a to 1p. Make an appointment on calendly.com/cbmrccc to come and listen to the music, work on a project or course assignment, or develop ways to use the collection, with related archival and library materials, in your classroom.
Check in to see what’s available, starting in January, and watch for updates here and on social media. See you soon!
About Columbia College Chicago
Columbia College Chicago is a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens.
For more information, visit colum.edu
About the Center for Black Music Research
Founded in 1983 by the late Dr. Samuel A. Floyd Jr., the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) is an independent research unit of Columbia College Chicago devoted to the documentation, research, preservation, and dissemination of information about the history and current expressions of black music on a global scale. Its past and current mission is to serve as a hub for the discovery and dissemination of new scholarship and understanding of black music throughout the African Diaspora, in a context of wider, dynamic cultural and musicological viewpoints and phenomena. Open to the public, the CBMR serves the learning, teaching, performing, and programming needs of students, faculty, enthusiasts, media, and musicians from the Columbia, Chicago, national, and international communities.
Find us on Facebook, Twitter @cbmrccc, or about.colum.edu/cbmr.