Oh Lord, You Are the Gospel

When we think of gospel as we know it as African Americans we think of Kirk Franklin and Marvin Sapp, and this image is true from our perception but this perception derived from the religious revivalry between whites and black in the 19th century. Gospel looked and sounded different for both communities, but were rooted in similar religious values and traditions. The genre was shared through song publications, concerts, as well as radio and television broadcastings. Gospel reached a peak in the 20th century when artists began to tour worldwide; bringing the sound to different countries. 

White gospel varied in many ways including the fact that up until the early 20th century, white gospel hymns were sung in serious, monotone voices. It wasn’t until evangelist like Billy Sunday started working with musicians such as Charles McCallom and Homer Rodeheaver, that white gospel began to become more upbeat. Many say the sound is an attempt to model the sound of the black gospel. 

Black gospel emerged and began to be recognized in the last 19th century and early 20th century along with the emersion of other african-american genres such as ragtime, blues, and jazz. The roots of black gospel can typically be traced back the collection of negro spituals that were kept in the early 19th century. Such songs expressed the pain and suffering of enslaved blacks and documented their cries for help and they sung to God for better conditions and a changed future. Black gospel still carries the same message today in some songs, however, one can make a note of songs of celebration and joy more often now as black use gospel to also express gratitude to God for the good things he does in their lives. 

The beginning of black gospel began with old spirituals being sung to white melodies, however, as blacks took power in their sound they began to shift what gospel sounded like in the black community. This was often done by syncopating the hymns, or recasting normally weak beats rhythmically to add diversity in sound. Among the notable artist for black gospel are Reverend Gary Davis, the composer of “I’ll overcome someday”, Thomas Doresey, a well-known songwriting known for his piece titled “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, and new upcoming artists, Tamela Man, who is known for her worldwide hit, “Take Me to the King”.

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