From the archive: The Chicago preacher and gospel musician who ran a pyramid scheme | Bleader

Monday, January 22, 2018

From the archive: The Chicago preacher and gospel musician who ran a pyramid scheme

Posted By on 01.22.18 at 09:00 AM

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Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds

In 2016, Reader contributor Steve Krakow explored the backstory of local preacher and gospel-funk musician Pastor T.L. Barrett for the Secret History of Chicago Music. Krakow's account ends with Barrett's conviction for operating a pyramid scheme that defrauded thousands. That wasn't the first time the preacher's crimes landed in the pages of the Reader. In August 1989 Nicolette Modaber dove into Barrett's backstory as his case went to court; Modaber had been a congregant at Barrett's Life Center Church of Universal Awareness for more than two years before the Reader published her story, and her experience lends her narrative a lived-in intimacy.

As Krakow noted, Barrett is still alive, and his old music keeps finding new life. His prized 1971 album, Like a Ship. . . (Without a Sail), which is credited to Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir, has received the reissue treatment a few times this decade: Light in the Attic first re-released it in 2010 (with liner notes by Reader music writer Peter Margasak), and Chicago label Numero Group put out the latest one last year. A couple months ago Numero also dropped Barrett's Do Not Pass Me By Vol. II. The first Do Not Pass Me By LP included "Father I Stretch My Hands," which Kanye West sampled for his self-styled gospel album, 2016's The Life of Pablo. I doubt Barrett imagined his song about religious fealty would have been used as a base for Kanye to rap about anal sex, but none of us can control the way people interpret our work.


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