Gospel Throughout the Decades


As one of the students of Dr. Johnson’s class that were given the assignment to reflect on the  different gospel songs throughout the decades and pick your favorites, I was quite intimidated. Being raised Muslim has sectioned me of from one of the main sectors of Black culture, the Black Church and, subsequently, gospel music. All my life, I have heard of black people’s love for gospel music and I am excited to have an opportunity to dive into the world of gospel music. Summarily, these are my favorite gospel songs throughout the decades as an unexperienced gospel music listener. 


“Dark Was The Night, Cold Was the Ground” was my favorite song of the 1920s decade. Blind Willie Johnson performed a jarring song using only his guitar and his voice to convey his message. It is clear that Johnson was a blues artist from the instruments and rhythm used in the song. Though Johnson sang, he didn’t use any decipher lyrics in the song. Even so, I could tell that this song was one of the saddest songs that I ever heard. The slow rhythm and the haunting hums conveyed a message of sadness and loneliness that I have never heard from a song before. The fact that a lyric-less song evoked that much emotion in me made it my favorite song of the 1920s decade. 


“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” as performed by the Heavenly Gospel Singers is my favorite gospel song of the 1930s decade. As I complete my research, the love and immense reverence of God is becoming an evident theme of gospel music. The repetitive melody and chorus made the song easy to listen to and enjoyable. The lyrics were inspiring and hopeful. These factors made “Precious Lord, Take my Hand” my favorite song of the 1930s decade. 


Mahalia Jackson’s “Move On Up A Little Higher” is my favorite song of the 1940s decade. After researching far and wide for a song that I enjoyed, “Move On Up A Little Higher” certainly reigned number one. The piano intro captured my interest and Jackson’s soulful voice carried me throughout the rest of the song. 


His Eye is On the Sparrow is one of the few gospel songs that I have heard many times. Though I love the song because of the Whitney Houston’s rendition, Ethel Water’s rendition is certainly something to be reckoned with in itself. Waters’ clear and melodic voice is enchanting, making this my favorite song of the 1950s decade. 


“Oh Happy Day” is another one of the gospel songs that I have heard over the course of my life that I particularly like. I love the choir-style singing paired with the soloist that is often seen in gospel music and demonstrated in “Oh Happy Day”. The joyful message of this song also gives its listener a great feeling, making “Oh Happy Day” my favorite song of the 1960s decade. 


Water Hawkins and the Love Center Choir’s “Never Alone” is my favorite song of the 1970s. The soloist’s voice completely shocked me with their talent. The lyrics are a true testament to the omnipresence of God and His word. I truly loved this song. 


I loved “Lord Let Your Spirit Fall on Me” by Shirley Caesar. The upbeat melody of the song provided a change from the slow and drawn out gospel songs that I have heard in this song. Like other gospel songs, ad-libs and call-and-response are features of this song. I chose this song to be my favorite gospel song of the 1980s because it provide a new beat for the gospel, while maintaining the religious beliefs in the song. 


My favorite song of the 1990’s is Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp”. Dr. Johnson described “Stomp” as being a controversial song for its divergence from the norm of gospel music through the use of rap and hiphop beats. I thoroughly enjoyed “Stomp” because it brought me gospel music in a new way that was appealing to the youth of the 1990s. I simply loved this song, making it my favorite song of the 1990s. 


“Never Would Have Made It” is my favorite gospel song of all time. This is one of the few gospel songs that I have heard in my life and it speaks to my heart every single time. The lyrics of the song are uplifting and force me to reflect on the blessings from God. I truly believe that I never would have made it with God, so I really resonate with the song. All of these factors make “Never Would Have Made It” my favorite gospel song of the 2000’s and of all time. 


“For Your Glory” by Tasha Cobbs is my favorite song from the 2010s decade. The rhythm and lyrics of this song is inspiring and makes you love the Lord even more. Tasha Cobbs’ voice is simply amazing and this song fits her very well. The ad-libs in the song are reminiscent of the improvisation known in African music styles. Call-and response is also another prevalent aspect of African music style that are present in this song. 


Tye Tribbett’s “We Gon’ Be Alright” was my favorite song of the 2020’s thus far. After listening to the song for a previous song, I found that I truly enjoyed the song. The new hiphop beat with the religious lyrics provided a refreshing approach to gospel music that I haven’t necessarily seen before. Along with being refreshing, the song was actually done well. 

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