How Gospel Music Is Affected By Popular Music Genres


Since the nineteenth century, gospel music has been a way for slaves and African Americans to worship God. Evolving from Negro Spirituals, gospel was first found in Invisible Churches where slaves would meet secretly and preach the gospel of the Lord, sharing testimonies or singing and dancing, free from the control and manipulation of their masters. Overtime, the gospel became widely known as something that was preached in black churches accompanied by spirituals. 

Things 'Bout Coming My Way No. 2- Tampa Red & Georgia Tom

New Jazz Gospel

Take my Hand, Precious Lord- Thomas Dorsey

By the twenty-century, artists began to mix new jazz, the genre of music popular at the time, with the gospel and the spirituals sung in churches. Thomas Dorsey was one of few artists that worked to accomplish this transition. Dorsey was a famous off-color blues artist, but when he stopped selling music, he turned his song talents to gospel music. Regardless of his experience in the music industry, people were against this change in music. “At the start, people argued ‘Gospel can only be preached, not sung” (pg.261). After pushing his music to different churches and preachers, Dorsey successfully introduced jazz cadences of popular music to the gospel idiom. 

Please Mr. Postman-The Marvelettes

Contemporary Gospel

Oh Happy Day- The Edwin Hawkins Singers

After Dorsey successfully changed the sound of the gospel, other artists began to follow in his footsteps. New jazz was the most common style of gospel music until 1969 when “Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers debuted. The song used instruments like the fender, bass, bongo, and horns, which was considered innovative at the time (pg. 281). These instruments were used in popular music at the time and were soon embraced in the gospel genre. “Oh Happy Day” now falls into the category of traditional gospel music as the sonic boundaries of the genre continue to expand.” (pg. 281). Twenty-five years later, Kirk Franklin and the family followed in the footsteps of The Edwin Hawkins Singers and debuted their first song, “Why we sing,” and lit the way for many artists like The Winans, Tramaine Hawkins, and Take 6.

Walk on Water-Eminem

Gospel Rap

More Than Life-Justus

Today, Hip Hop and Rap artists have taken the music industry by storm. Beginning in the late 90s as underground music, gospel rap was influenced by individuals and groups like Tupac, OutKast, and A Tribe Called Quest. As rap progressed and got more popular, so did gospel rap. Gospel singers like Kirk Franklin embraced this change and began to embrace rap, hip-hop, and funk into their music. Since then, we have moved away from traditional, contemporary gospel music and towards gospel rap as our current form of gospel music. 


Like most things, music changes over time, and one genre becomes more popular than the others. Gospel music is in its own genre and does not seem to waver in popularity, but that does not stop it from changing and evolving. It started with negro spirituals and later changed to match the style of new jazz. From there, gospel music met its traditional form when it evolved to match the style of contemporary music and is now changing into gospel rap. 

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