Gospel music is a genre that grew out of jubilee quartets. It can be defined as a sacred music, about God or Jesus Christ, that consisted of a sophisticated call and response that originated in west Africa. The father of Gospel music is said to be Thomas Dorsey and he was originally a blues singer. He was also known by the name of Georgia Tom. This kind of music was beginning to be recognized between 1929 and 1939, during the time of WWII and the Great Depression. Additionally, black people were still leaving the south after emancipation. We emerged in cities such as Detroit, Memphis, NY, LA, and Chicago. Anywhere there are black people now is likely where you will hear Gospel music. Though we went to such cities, the progression of the genre went well beyond just those areas, and it certainly sustained its success beyond the 1930s. Mahalia Jackson, well known Gospel singer, actually taught Thomas Dorsey songs, and it is through her that Gospel music was introduced to the rest of the world.
Characteristics of Gospel Music
With any genre of music there is a certain style that exists with the way it is played, sung, recorded, etc. Gospel music is no different in that sense. Some common terms and characteristics are sure to point you in the direction of a distinct Gospel sound. The first is the combination of folk music and negro spirituals, this is known as a folk spiritual. Secondly, there is lots of shouting, usually it is because of the spirit that takes over oneself when worshipping the Lord through song. That is not to be confused with the ring shout. Next, there is speaking in tongues, also a result from what one would call “catching” the Holy Spirit. Lastly, but previously stated, there is a call and response. For example, Gospel usually has a lead singer that is accompanied by a live band and a choir. However, even if the person in front is not singing, the lead person can act as an MC. That is how Gospel still gets the feel of call and response – there is some sort of leader in the front and others that follow.
Gospel music has changed a lot overtime, but in a way it hasn’t. The topic of Gospel music is the same, but it is not always strictly about God or Christ. Rather, Gospel has opened up into Inspirational music that is used to uplift people in times of need. It has adjusted well to modern music and tries to stay as relevant as possible. Famous artists include Tamela Mann, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Tasha Cobbs, and so much more!