Dorothy Love Coates and The Gospel Harmonettes
The Gospel Harmonettes was a female gospel singing group of the 1950’s through the 70’s. Their most recognizable member, Dorothy Love Coates, led the group, along with memebers during her time, Mildred Miller, Vera Kilb, Willie Mae Newberry, Odessa Edwards, and Evelyn Starks Hardy.
Starks played paino as well as composed and arranged most of the music they sang. Newberry held down the group with a strong alto support. Miller’s messo-soprano voice led the group with the exception of Dorothy. Miller’s voice was a staple for the group and became an important factor in their recognizable sound. Edwards, an alto served as the spirit leader for the group, delivering passion to the group and the audience. The group invited Dorothy to join when they heard her sing on the radio.
Dorothy was also a composer. She wrote songs that the group sang such as “Everyday Will Be Sunday.” The group sang many gospel songs about optimism. The gospel songs they sang, as do many gospel songs and negro spirituals, had messages of hope, looking past the struggle of the oppression and discrimination against black people.
Dorothy left the group in 1947 to care for her daughter, who had cerebral palsy. She would later return in 1950 to lead the group. Dorothy lead the group with spirit and passion, sometimes the other members would have to direct her back to the stage. (James Brown took inspiration from this and made it part of his act in the 60’s). After Edwards retirement, Dorothy took over the role of preacher, publicly pointing out the corruption and evil in the church and the world as a whole
The group toured throughout America as well as the Bahamas. They performed in Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theatre, and Madison Square Garden. In 1970, the group disbanded, Dorothy would go on to form her own group: The Dorothy Love Coates Singers who later toured Europe.
She sang about civil rights movements, criticizing racial discrimination and segregation, she marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and performed at many civil rights rallies. She was arrested multiple times for her activism.
Several artists have drawn inspiration from Dorothy in several ways. Including The Supremes, Wilson Pickett, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Cleveland, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Andrae Crouch, the Blackwood Brothers, Mahalia Jackson, and Clara Ward.