Gospel Music

The roots of black gospel music can be ultimately traced to the hymnals of the early 19th century Negro Spirituals alongside ragtime, blues,  and jazz.  A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected from Various Authors (1801) was the first hymnal intended for use in black worship. It contained texts written mostly by 18th-century British clergymen, such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, but also included a number of poems by black American Richard Allen —the founder of the AME Church —and his parishioners. 

1940 – Senior Choir, Morning Star Church

The volume contained no music, however, leaving the congregation to sing the texts to well-known hymn tunes. The immediate development of this new, energetic, and distinctly black gospel music seems to have been the rise of Pentecostal churches at the end of the 19th century.Pentecostal churches welcomed tambourines, pianos, organs, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and some brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in call-and-response counterpoint with the preacher’s sermon.

Gospel Pioneers

The Transition to Modern Day Gospel

Urban/contemporary gospel derives primarily from traditional Black gospel music, with strong influence from, and strong influence on, many forms of secular pop music. In comparison with traditional hymns, which are generally of a statelier measure, gospel songs are expected to have a refrain and a pronounced beat with a syncopated rhythm. Compared to modern praise and worship music, urban/contemporary gospel typically has a faster tempo and more emphasis on the performer.

Gospel's Musical Impact

Blending hip-hop with gospel isn’t radical. Prominent rap producers like Timbaland, Pharrell and Zaytoven developed their musical chops in the church and brought influences into their work; other producers, like Pimp C, usedHammond B3 organ chords, hand claps and choir vocals straight from the sanctuary to add a gospel flair to their music. Several mainstream rappers have released gospel-influenced songs and even entire gospel albums. Most notably, contemporary gospel artist Kirk Franklin married hip-hop sonics and gospel messaging 20 years ago.

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