The Incredible Timeline of Gospel Evolution

By: Alexia Khalil


There are not a lot of details available about her, but Mother McCollum was one of the first folk artists to combine gospel elements with her music. She was known for her guitar picking and soulfully singing. Like many women in the music industry, back then and now, she did not receive proper credit for her music and she definitely deserves that and more. Let’s take a listen to one of her most notable records, Glory! Glory! Hallelujah. 


Known as the “Father of Gospel”, Thomas Dorsey incorporates jazz elements with his gospel style in order to create a well respected, raw and true form of gospel today.


Golden Gate Quartet

This Jubilee Quartet, the Golden Gate Quartet, served as a medium during the jubilee era in which they intertwined gospel and jubilee. During this period, the transitional gospel period, the quartet ignited a common themes within gospel choirs today. Have a listen at their gospel, jubilee record Go Down Moses. 


Mahalia Jackson was another woman at the forefront of musical evolution. She took blues and gospel, and merged them into another appreciated sector of gospel. She received a lot of criticism regarding this collaboration, and was disliked by uptight church folk who felt that her music removed important elements of traditional gospel. Yet, she prevailed.



Reverend James Cleveland infused his gospel music with soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, and some pop elements. Straying so far from traditional gospel, Cleveland did receive some backlash, but it was easily overlooked by his true devotion to the church. This new form of gospel was loved and accepted by many, resulting in his name as the “King of Gospel”. Artists like Aretha Franklin even  took part in this new gospel and happily displayed it through her own music.

1980's: Modern Gospel Andrae Crouch "Through It All"

1990's: Hip Hop Gospel Kirk Franklin "Stomp"


“Never Would Have Made It,” is hands down one of my all time favorite gospel songs. I can clearly remember singing this record to the top of lungs on the way to church growing up. Marvin Sapp, one of my personal favorite gospel artists, was a former pastor from Michigan. His use of choir vocals and new instruments continue to inspire artists in this genre.


Kanye West has dabbled into gospel in his newfound musical experience.  He has labeled it Sunday Service and caters to the youth through different avenues of music and worship in an open field venue. However, personally I am not a fan, just because I have suspicions of his motive. Nevertheless, his record “Ultralight Beam” begins with the most beautiful gospel melodies, have a listen. 

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