All Aboard the Gospel Train

By: Demi Browder

For those like me who wasn't too heavily experienced with gospel, hop on this train to take a gospel trip down memory lane. Traditional, jazzy, blues, folk, hip-hop, pop, and jubilee, we have it all! Sit back and enjoy the scenary.

First Stop: 1920s

Mother McCollum was a folk artist that incorporated gospel elements. Her soulful voice has that twang, and tone that immediately reminds one of folk. As well as her use of guitar picking. Although there are not many details about Ms.McCollum it is safe to say she deserves credit for being one of the first to introduce the world to gospel. 

Next Stop 'Father of Gospel': 1930s

Thomas Dorsey, known as the “Father of Gospel,” takes the song,”Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and slows down the tempo. He incorporates what we study later on as jazz elements to add some style. This style of gospel is what is known to the older generation as true, raw gospel and highly respected today. 

We Made it to Jubilee Land: 1940s

Golden Gate Quartet was known as apart of the Jubilee Quartet, specifically in the Transitional Period. But, because it was the transitional period it clearly gave room to transition between the  traditional and gospel quartet elements. In the song, “Go Down Moses,” the quartet still continues the blend of melodies and separation of parts. But this genre of gospel is what introduced the breakdown of quartets in gospel choirs today. 

Miss Jazzy Jackson: 1950s

Mahalia Jackson heavily influenced by Thomas Dorsey has more of a draw out style introducing the people to blues gospel. She really takes her time to sing each song to connect not only with her audience, but the Lord. This way of gospel was more criticized because pastors saw it as taking the gospel elements out of gospel and adding too much blues. 

Halfway Mark: 1960s

The Soul Stirrers were an American gospel music group that was in the gospel period of Jubilee Quartets. This group made gospel their own by keeping the parts of a quartet while also, adding soul and doo wop elements. As we continue this gospel journey you will notice as artists get comfortable in the genre they add some previous genre’s elements to make them stand out or jazz up the feel. 

All Hail the King of Gospel: 1970s

Rev. James Cleveland, known to some as the “King of Gospel” took the traditional style of gospel and fused it with jazz, r&b, soul, and pop elements. This also introduced a new era of gospel which was also represented by singers like Aretha Franklin. Although he was altering a well-respected and traditional genre it was known how strong he devoted himself to the church and God. 

Modern Gospel: 1980s

Andraé Crouch was more on the modern and contemporary side of gospel. In, “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,” he utilizes his vocals but also relies on the choir as well. You can hear the instrument use like the piano and tambourine is very prominent still in his style.

Turn Me Up ft. Hip Hop: 1990s

Kirk Franklin really changed the gospel game when he added hip-hop elements. This version of gospel added a groove and bumping beat to make you feel you can play it anywhere. Combining two different genres from completely opposite sides of the spectrum caused some controversy, but opened the door to a new period of gospel. Kirk paved the way for a lot of young, current gospel artists who like the holy, yet hip-hop sound. 

Almost There: 2000s

Marvin Sapp, former pastor, transitioned to gospel singer has a presence in his voice that everyone recognizes. This song in particular, “Never Would Have Made It,” is something that takes me back to my childhood. It is one of those originals that everyone can sing their hearts out, knowing every lyric. In this song specifically he incorporates choir vocals, instrumental use, and takes us back to Thomas Dorsey with a slower tempo. 

Last Stop Millennials and Gospel: 2010-Present

Kanye West mainly known as an American rapper, recently  introduced the world to Sunday Service. His version of Church in an open field for all to come and have an interactive experience, through receiving the Lord’s word only through music. It is a truly an amazing idea to reach out to the youth and connect them religiously. 

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