Rhythm and Blues
Gospel music is the genre that encompasses musical forms with religious – particularly Christian – themes, usually composed and performed to give praise, worship, and give thanks to God, as well as express personal or communal beliefs regarding Christian life. The genre is commonly associated with a type of African-American religious music that is based on folk music melodies, but with the addition of traditional elements from jazz, Christian hymns, and negro spirituals. Since its beginning, Gospel music has evolved to include such subgenres as urban contemporary Gospel, southern Gospel, Gospel blues, and Christian country music. Top Gospel music artists and groups include Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, Dorothy Love Coates, James Cleveland, Thomas Dorsey, Larry Norman, Edwin Hawkins, Kirk Franklin, Sam Cooke, Yolanda Adams, Andrae Crouch, Amy Grant, and Sandi Patti.
What Does Gospel Music Sound Like?While Gospel music can be a broad term, one can identify common musical characteristics from the various songs and styles included in the genre. Gospel records typically make use of dominant vocals and harmonies, religiously themed lyrics, and instruments such as electric guitar, drums, piano, Hammond organ, horns, and bass guitars. Gospel music also fuses traditions from African-American spirituals or Christian hymns and melodies with jazz, folk or blues -derived musical elements.
A Brief History of Gospel MusicMany say that Gospel music sprung from African-American Southern gospel choirs and spirituals in the early part of the 20th century, and spread through song publishing, concerts, recordings, and radio and TV broadcasts of religious services from the Great Depression days. Its first incarnations, however, were found in earlier forms such as work songs, jubilees, and social Gospel songs, all of which drew imagery from the Bible to serve as inspiration and as sources of hope, freedom, and religious fervor.
Former blues artist Thomas Dorsey, considered by historians as the “Father of Gospel music”, wrote some of the earliest and most enduring parts of Gospel music. He was inspired to blend sacred and secular and create an intense spiritual quality in his music; Dorsey, in turn, inspired Gospel artists and singers as Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, and James Cleveland to propagate his music and spread Gospel around the country. Also included in the list of Gospel musicians who contributed to the genre’s rich heritage are: Sam Cooke, Dorothy Love Coates, The Caravans, The Dixie Hummingbirds, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and The Edwin Hawkins Singers, most of whom made their name during the civil rights era – a period that has come to be known as the Black Gospel period. Moreover, rock and roll artists such as Little Richard, Ray Charles, and Elvis Presley managed to incorporate the sounds of early Gospel in their “secular” brand of music.
The Evolution of Gospel MusicFrom the 1960s onwards, the popular sounds of disco, rap, funk, country, Rhythm and Blues and other mainstream genres influenced further the evolution of Gospel music, such that subgenres began to take shape. Gospel’s musical families – such as The Clark Sisters, The Hawkins, and The Winans – rose to prominence, as did crossover Gospel artists like Sounds of Blackness, Helen Baylor, and BeBe and CeCe Winans. Today, there are various subgenres of Gospel music that have come up, such as urban contemporary, Christian country music, Southern Gospel, progressive Southern Gospel, Bluegrass Gospel, Gospel blues, even Gospel rap and Christian rock.
Today’s best-selling Gospel artists, composers, and musicians include Bishop Paul S. Morton, Luther Barnes, Kirk Franklin, Youthful Praise, Amy Grant, Yolanda Adams, Andrae Crouch, Jars of Clay, dc Talk, and Golden Gate Quartet, among many others.
Gospel Music Record LabelsRecord labels known for producing Gospel music include: GIA, which features works by Marty Haugen, Michael Joncas, and Lori True; Lamon, which releases Gospel records and albums by The Imperials, David Roach, and Margo Smith; and ”AIR” Gospel, which include Gospel music by Luther Barnes, Timothy Wright, and The Christianaires.
Gospel Records and Gospel CDsSing and listen to songs of praise and enjoy the spiritual and secular sounds of Gospel Music. Here at Music Stack, Mahalia Jackson CDs, Clara Ward CDs, Dorothy Love Coates CDs, James Cleveland CDs, Thomas Dorsey CDs, Larry Norman CDs, Edwin Hawkins CDs, Kirk Franklin CDs, Sam Cooke CDs, Yolanda Adams CDs, Andrae Crouch CDs, Amy Grant CDs, Bishop Paul S. Morton CDs, Luther Barnes CDs, Youthful Praise CDs, Andrae Crouch CDs, and Jars of Clay CDs, among other Gospel albums, records, and CDs, are all available, as are Gospel vinyl LPs.
Popular Gospel Artists