The most prominent gospel soloists were women, including Sallie Martin and Mahalia Jackson.
A short time later, Tharpe signed a contract with Decca Records, becoming the first gospel singer to record for a major label. The Dixie Hummingbirds, popular during the s, featured the gifted lead baritone Ira Tucker. Getty Images During the s and early s several female gospel groups organized. In Gertrude Ward — established the Ward Singers, which featured the lead singing of her daughter Clara Ward — Pianist, composer, and singer Roberta Martin founded the Roberta Martin Singers in as a male gospel ensemble but added female voices in the early s.
Golden Age of Gospel MusicThe period from the mids to the late s constituted the golden age of gospel music. Many leading gospel soloists established their reputations in the postwar years. The greatest of these was Mahalia Jackson, who combined a powerful voice with matchless control. Jackson was a sensitive interpreter of lyrics who could distill the emotion of a piece through her use of dynamics, vibrato, and a jazz-influenced rhythmic sense.
Although Jackson and such gospel singers as Marion Williams and Dorothy Love Coates are most often regarded strictly as gospel singers, they were gifted improvisers who rank among America's finest jazz vocalists. In the late s Williams won acclaim when she joined Clara Ward as a lead vocalist with the Ward Singers. Williams developed into one of gospel music's foremost lyric sopranos. She made particularly effective use of the upper part of her soprano range for improvised cries, a technique that influenced the singing style of rock and roll innovator Little Richard. Coates, featured with the Original Gospel Harmonettes from to and to , was a galvanic singer; her harsh timbre and intensely rhythmic delivery mimicked sanctified preaching.
The Caravans, a small female choir established in by contralto Albertina Walker, introduced more prominent soloists than any other gospel group, including Bessie Griffin, Inez Andrews, Cassietta George, the dynamic soprano Shirley Caesar, and James Cleveland, who served as the group's accompanist and arranger during the mids. There were also important male gospel singers. Arguably, the greatest of these was Brother Joe May. Thereafter he toured widely, often together with such vocal groups as the Soul Stirrers or the Pilgrim Travelers, a gospel quartet formed in the early s.
Like May, Alex Bradford and James Cleveland were formidable male vocalists, but their reputations rest less on their singing than on their compositions, arrangements, and choir directing. In he joined Marion Williams as the leads in Langston Hughes's gospel musical Black Nativity, which had a two-year run on Broadway. The world of gospel music has many giants, but few of them compare to Mahalia Jackson , who became her art form's most recognized and celebrated performer.
Library of Congress. From to he accompanied the Caravans, and during the s he made a series of gritty and spontaneous-sounding recordings with choirs, including the voice Angelic Choir of Nutley, New Jersey. Cleveland's recordings helped make large choirs, rather than gospel quartets or small groups, the most popular format for gospel music during the s.
Gospel quartets achieved their greatest popularity during the late s and early s. In the post-World War II years, some groups—including the Harmonizing Four and the Dixie Hummingbirds—continued the sweet harmonies of traditional quartet singing. Other quartets embraced a harder-edged, harsher style of singing known as hard gospel, which had been foreshadowed before the war by the Famous Blue Jay Singers. The Soul Stirrers—through the powerful singing of Rebert H.
Harris, the Soul Stirrers' lead vocalist from to —became the leading exponent of the hard gospel style.
Quartets that featured two leads commonly juxtaposed a mellow-voiced tenor with a tenor or baritone who had a harsher, raspier sound. Influence of Gospel Music on American Popular CultureGospel music had its greatest impact on American popular music in the s and s. Some gospel quartets turned to performing secular music. During the s the Staple Singers, a family-based group, shifted from gospel to folk music and, later, to Soul Music. Vocal groups such as the Orioles and the Moonglows adopted the lead-switching techniques and the hard gospel sound that were pioneered by the Soul Stirrers.
Murray's Encyclopedia of Southern Gospel Music
For example, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, organized in Los Angeles in the mids, became the first gospel quartet to use electric keyboards, electric bass, and drums—in place of the usual accompanying guitarist. In addition, many individual gospel singers shifted from sacred to secular music. One of the earliest to do so was Sam Cooke, who between and had taken R. Harris's place as lead singer for the Soul Stirrers. During the s and s gospel music had a powerful impact on American culture because it spoke directly to the hopes and aspirations of African Americans.
It was intimately bound up with the Civil Rights Movement. Hawkins's recording introduced a softer, smoother style, which the music industry has labeled Contemporary Gospel. Unlike the rough-edged, impassioned singing of such earlier gospel stars as James Cleveland or Dorothy Love Coates, Contemporary Gospel recordings utilize sophisticated production techniques and emphasize lighter pop-music textures. In vocal harmony music, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Take 6 have furthered the tradition of gospel quartets and small choral groups. In singer and civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon formed the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, a female vocal ensemble that performs an eclectic mix of political music, folk songs, spirituals, and gospel.
Take 6, a male ensemble of six devout Seventh Day Adventists, evolved from a quartet formed in the early s by students at Oakwood College, a Seventh Day Adventist college in Alabama. The group's primarily a cappella music has updated the swinging style and instrumental mimicry of the Golden Gate Quartet. Large ensembles such as Sounds of Blackness have used the conventions of rap music to reinvent sacred songs, and some gospel quartets, such as the Williams Brothers, have employed synthesizers and percussion overdubs.
The Williams Brothers included rap vocals on one selection of their album Hand in Hand Such innovations have inspired considerable controversy among those devoted to more traditional gospel styles. ConclusionOnce little heard beyond African American places of worship, gospel music now reaches an audience of millions, white as well as black. It emerged from dowdy storefront churches and camp meeting revivals and went on to transform American popular music.
Gospel lyrics reflect the influence of late-nineteenth-century white evangelicalism, but blues-based harmonies, first popularized by Thomas A. Dorsey, distinguish traditional black gospel music. The gospel singing style—improvisational, impassioned, and jubilant—is an expression of African American culture no less profound than jazz or the blues. It is likewise particularly suited to spiritual uplift and religious transformation. By the s gospel music was the dominant form of African American religious music, whether sung by self-accompanied solo musicians, smoothly harmonizing vocal quartets, energetic gospel choirs, or full congregations.
The two decades after World War II — were gospel music's golden age. Gospel music was heard not only in black churches, but also in stylish supper clubs, major jazz festivals, and formal concert halls. It became an important part of the American music business, with major record companies seeking to record gospel performers.
Prominent gospel singers—such as Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, the Swan Silvertones, and the Dixie Hummingbirds—gained unprecedented visibility in American popular culture, and several gospel performers crossed over and found pop-music success. Moreover, for African Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement, gospel music helped catalyze political as well as religious transformation. In the s, however, many younger performers abandoned traditional gospel in favor of the lighter, pop-oriented sound of Contemporary Gospel.
Contemporary Gospel ranges from the smooth, jazz-inspired harmonies of Take 6 to the smooth, pop-inspired stylings of Andrae Crouch. Several gospel writers have criticized this new genre of gospel music. Song of Love , Impact, A Thing Called Love , Vista, Live , Impact, Follow the Man with the Music , Impact, No Shortage , Impact, Sail On , Dayspring, Live , Dayspring, Heed the Call , Dayspring, One More song for you , Dayspring, Christmas with the Imperials , Word, Priority , Dayspring, Very Best of , Dayspring, Stand By the Power , Dayspring, Side By Side , Dayspring, Imperials Side BySide , Dayspring, Let the Wind Blow , Myrrh, Free the Fire , Myrrh, Big God , StarSong, Stir It Up , StarSong, Treasures , StarSong, Legacy , Word, Songs of Christmas , Big God, Hall of Fame Series , Benson, Scripps Company.
Pride endured much open racism early in his career. Many television audiences were shocked to realize that the songs they enjoyed were performed by a black man. Pride became the second black member of the Grand Ole Opry in he had declined an invitation to join in He is considered a major influence on traditionalists today. African-American influences in Country Music can be documented at least as far back as the s.
Whites and blacks in rural communities in the South played in stringbands. The Black Country Music Association, headed by Frankie Staton, and located in Nashville, provides a forum for and gives visibility to credible black artists. By assembling a network and building an infrastructure previously lacking, it gives African-American performers a place to turn to for advice and education in the music business.
The Black Experience: From Where I Stand, is an album that presents 52 black artists' contributions to country music and includes not only African-American artists primarily known for their contributions to the blues, but those such as Charley Pride and Cleve Francis, who identified themselves solely as country artists. Foster chronicles African-American involvement in Country Music from its humble beginnings. He was the first African-American member of the Grand Ole Opry, a tenure that lasted from to Herb Jeffries sang and yodeled his way across the Silver Screen as the first and only Black Singing Movie Cowboy, starring in four feature length All-Black cast Westerns during the s.
His self-penned "I'm A Happy Cowboy" was his movie theme song. His father Newt Craig was a fiddler who played mountain square dance music and his mother, Conna McDonald Craig was a piano player who played everything from popular to mountain music. This was when the new Jimmie Rodgers Postal Stamp was about to go on sale.
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McDonald beat out 72 contestants for First Place, also becoming the first and only African-American Yodeler to ever win that honor. A crowd favorite with traditionalists wherever he played McDonald is as pure Country as you can get, performing from Texas to Tennessee, Iowa and Nebraska, at numerous State Fairs, Folk-life Festivals and radio stations. McDonald and wife Rosetta, of 46 years, still reside on the historic property.
Though McDonald doesn't perform much out of state anymore, if you listen real close you can hear the echoes of his yodels in middle Tennessee. She was born Bertha Dorsey in January and passed away in June The first of four No. With Mike Curb at its helm, Gordy's M. Records produced 15 singles and three albums between and before Curb went on to found Curb Records.
Hank Williams, Jr. Mike Johnson is Country Music's No. His unique combinations of the Jimmie Rodgers and Swiss yodeling styles, along with being the most publicized, commercially recorded and consistently performing Black Yodeler firmly established him as such. Pamela E.
Foster began researching and writing about social and economic issues in Inspired by her love of Country Music she moved to Nashville in and turned her attention to chronicling black contributions to the industry. Below is a list of notable country performers alphabetically by period, with each listing followed by a description of the artists' work.
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The Rise of Southern Gospel Music | Church History | Cambridge Core
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