Decades of Gospel

Gospel has been around for decades.  It could be seen in different forms as well.  I thought that certain Negro spirituals could be classified now-a-days as Gospel.  Being raised in a Catholic church, Gospel music was played and sung every Sunday at church. It was never the “Black versions” so to speak. I went to predominantly Black church but they the Gospel music they would play would mainly be by White singers. The only way I was able to learn the songs by Black artists was by going to a Black private school who prided themselves on having Chapel every Friday morning.


“He Is My Story” by Arizona Dranes is my favorite Gospel song of the 1920s. Arizona Dranes was a blind female Gospel singer and pianist. Listening to different songs from this decade, this one stood out.  This specific song stood out because of its tempo and lyrics. She had a lot of ragtime characteristics that influenced Gospel artists to come.


“It’s A Highway to Heaven” is my favorite Gospel song of the 1930s. This song was created by Thomas A. Dorsey, who had a key role in creating the first Gospel chorus. I understood this song to be about who can get to heaven and the highway to heaven. The only people who can get to heaven is the “pure in the heart.” They get to the meet the King. Others cannot do so. I felt this song a lot because it helps me reflect on myself. It helps me reflect on the idea of me doing right by the Lord. 


“Strange Things Happening Everyday” is my favorite Gospel song of the 1940s. It was recorded by Sister Rosetta Sharpe. It was the first Gospel song to crossover. Crossover means it became a hit on the R&B charts although it was originally classified as a Gospel song. 


During the 1950s, Mahalia Jackson released one of my favorite songs originally created by Frank Warner. This song is one of my favorites. It’s catchy and the beat is great. This song did greatly compared to her songs that came before. Mahalia Jackson was heavily influenced by Bessie Smith but still made a name for herself.


“Oh Happy Day,” recorded by The Edwin Hawkin Singers, is a song that most people would know if they go to church. Even if they don’t go to church, they would know this song. This song is very high tempo. It rings for brighter days and better tomorrows. This song was the first to hit secular charts in 1967.


James Cleveland released “Deliverance” in 1972. “Deliverance” is my favorite song of the 1970s. It’s very upbeat. It’s a Gospel song that is call and response. It’s also a Gospel song that would bring livelihood to the church and people would catch the holy spirit. 


James Cleveland released “God Has Smiled on Me” in the 1980s. He is considered the “King of Gospel.” He incorporated many different genres into his style of Gospel. Initially, I had never heard this song. But, once I heard it, I instantly loved it. It made me think it was a jazz song but in reality it’s considered a Gospel song. 


“Jesus Is My Help” by Hezekiah Walker is a Gospel song I first learned when I went to a predominantly Black private school in Brooklyn, NY. During my time there, I joined the choir and learned many songs especially Gospel songs.  This song is one of my favorites because of the tempo and the rhythm of the song.  You can have fun with the song but also praise the Lord. 


Kirk Franklin is a true staple artist in the genre of Gospel. His song “Imagine Me” is my favorite Gospel song of the 2000s.  This is a song that I truly grew up on. From church to my middle school chorus. This was a song everyone knew.  Listening you can hear and feel the Gospel characteristics, but I also heard some R&B characteristics as well. The lyrics profess imagining being free under the guidance of God.


“Break Every Chain” by Tasha Cobbs is by far one of my favorite Gospel songs.  The lyrics and rhythmic beat really sit with me.  It is different compared to some Gospel songs from the previous decades.  The song makes the listener have an emotional connection that I personally have never felt through another song.


“We Gon’ Be Alright” by Tye Tribbett is a song I did not know classified under Gospel.  I’ve heard the song before but never listened to the lyrics fully. The song has a very upbeat tempo.  The lyrics also have a deeper meaning than I thought. Tye Tribbett used a lot of America’s issues in his song.  From racism to human trafficking, he made sure he outed every problem. It was very different from any other Gospel song made but it fit right in with the culture we’ve created for this new era. 

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