The Change of Gospel Overtime(Decades)

By: MacKenzie Fox

Gospel is constantly changing overtime and will continue to do so. Gospel was first formed by the transformation of negro spirituals to gospel during the Jubilee transitional period. As time has passed, artists have incorporated gospel with other genre’s of music to keep up with the different generations present and their likings of music.


Blind Willie Johnson made the song “Jesus Is Coming Soon” in 1928. In this song Blind Willie Johnson incorporated blues with spiritual to talk about Jesus. In this moment negro spirituals hadn’t transformed into in gospel yet. Blind Willie Johnson was a gospel blues singer, guitarist and evangelist. He didn’t get much from his music while alive in regards to money but his music did well with selling as well as preaching.


This gospel song is called “Take My Hand Precious Lord” by Thomas Dorsey, he wrote this song in reference to losing his wife and son during her childbirth. This song is incredibly popular and has been recorded by many other artists such as: Mahlia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Al Greene, Elvis Presley and more.  Thomas Dorsey is a musician, composer, and christian evangelist. The most important thing about him was that he was a co-founder of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. He worked with and helped the first generation gospel singers known as: Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, Sallie Martina and others. He had an impact on the distinction of blues and church music.


The gospel song, “Oh Jonah!” by The Golden Gate Quartet was made in 1943. This group sang in churches, the radio and traveled to sing gospel as well and were known for their broad repertoire of styles in music. The “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall put on by John Hammond is what helped them become even more known and popular. 


In the 1950’s, Mahalia Jackson released the song “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”, originally created by Frank Warner. This song was a great hit compared to her other songs released before this one, that didn’t do too well. She was an amazing gospel singer who incorporated blues with her music sometimes. She was actually one of the most popular during the 20th century. She was mainly influenced by Bessie Smith and had many accomplishments including: hitting the billboard charts, preforming at John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Ball, selling millions of copies, and being the first gospel artist to tour Europe.


“Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers was released in 1967. This has always been one of my favorite gospel songs and tends to be in many movies as well. This song also won a grammy in 2970 for best soul gospel performance. Edwin Hawkins had many responsibilities consisting of being a: gospel musician, pianist, choir master, and composer.


“Goin’ Up Yonder” by Walter Hawkins and The Love Center Choir was released in 1975. I grew up listening to this song in church and this song is heavily used in funeral services. The song talks about how one is going up yonder to heaven soon due to them passing, to be with the Lord. Walter Hawkins was a gospel singer and a pastor who’s brother is Edwin Hawkins. He was once a part of his brothers music group, The Edwin Hawkins Singers but eventually left and began creating his own music. Walter and his love center choir were very successful, being on the billboard charts many times.


James Cleveland released “God Has Smiled On Me” in 1980. Cleveland was a singer, musician and composer referred to as “The King of Gospel Music.” This is because he was the main aspect behind the sound of gospel incorporating traditional black gospel, soul, pop, and jazz for mass choirs. He earned 4 grammy’s throughout his career, was the first gospel artist to have a start on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and became a part of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1984.


Kirk Franklin released “Stomp” in 1997,  I still remember this song from being in church when I was younger. Kirk Franklin is a choir director, gospel musician, singer, songwriter and author. He’s definitely one of the biggest gospel singers of the 90’s and 2000’s due to his impact on the industry. He has won 16 grammy’s, been on the billboards too many times to count and has sold millions of copies of his music.


‘I Will Bless The Lord” by gospel artist Byron Cage was released in 2005. Fun fact, Cage attended Morehouse College and was part of the Glee Club there as well. After being in his music career for a while he won a grammy for male vocalist of the year for his album, “Faithful to Believe.” He has also been a minister of music since the 1990’s and was once an ordained minister.

2010's - Now

Hezekiah Walker’s song, “Every Praise” was released in 2013. Walker is a pastor and gospel artist who has won Grammys for best gospel album by a choir, twice. Many of his songs are more youthful and have a combination of gospel and hip-hop, which is seen more often in current-day gospel music.

In this timeline of music, we can see how gospel has developed and changed over time as it continues to change today.

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