Gospel: A Spiritual Timeline

 Gospel music is said to be “a form of euphoric, rhythmic, spiritual music rooted in the solo and responsive church singing of the African American South. Its development coincided with the development of rhythm and blues”. Gospel Music emerged during the early decades of the twentieth century in Urban Centers. The genre itself is representative of the time period where African American communities migrated from rural living to a more urban lifestyle. With this migration, people carried worship tradition and culture along with them. Gospel the genre has a plethora of terms associated with it. To me these are the two terms I was most familiar with prior to this course were “shout” and “speaking in tongues”. These both are things you most commonly see with occur within African American churches especially when people began to “feel the spirit”. In these moments someone is having a special moment with God. Over time Gospel as a genre went through periods of changes spanning from the Transitional Holiness-Pentecostal Style to Tindley Style, to Traditional & Rural Gospel and then to Contemporary Styles. The Tindley style/era of gospel truly set the tone for what was to come because it included some of the past along with new sounds. Charles Albert Tindley was a Philadelphia minister who composed hymns based on negro spirituals, adding instrumental accompaniments, improvisation and “bluesified” third and seventh intervals. A key figure in the development of the Gospel was Thomas A. Dorsey. He is often referred to as the father of Gospel Music. It is said that before he devoted “his career to the development of Gospel, Dorsey, the son of a Georgia Baptist preacher, was a prolific blues and jazz composer and pianist. The energetic rhythms and primal growls of secular music heavily influenced Dorsey’s sacred composing style.”. For a long time, people rejected his approach to Gospel music because they did not like how it was associated with secular music like ragtime, jazz or blues.  Today we are most familiar with Contemporary Gospel. Artists in this period include Fred Hammond, Shirley Caesar, Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin, etc. The aim of Contemporary gospel is to take gospel music beyond the black church and make it even bigger than before.