Traditional Gospel V. Contemporary Gospel feat. Tasha Cobbs and Rev. James Cleveland

Contemporary Gospel

Reverend James Cleveland better known as the king of gospel has a lot of gospel hits. He originally played the piano with a group called the caravans. Cleveland is known as being the backbone for modern day gospel, for he found ways to incorporate jazz and rhythm into gospel music.

Most songs sung in church were hymns but Cleveland changed the style and artist soon followed after. In contemporary music there is a repeating of lyrics, polyrhythms or multiple rhythms played simultaneously, and timbre to distinguish sounds.

The song I am focusing on for this post is Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” which still has a traditional gospel feel to it but it is listed amongst the top contemporary gospel songs. In this song there is only the piano and a drum set playing, instruments was still at a minimum when incorporated in this song. This song was released in 1980, the beginning of the contemporary gospel era. 

Contemporary Gospel Today

Gospel Today has many different styles, there are ore upbeat songs and there are some that are slower. One thing that is common is polyrhythms, in todays gospel there are many instruments featured and sometimes multiple voices including a background of a mass choir.  Some elements that were developed during the time of negro spirituals reminded the same, such as ring shouts and drums. 

I chose to compare the contemporary music of James Cleveland to that of Tasha Cobbs. We can hear the obvious difference in the times as her sound is completely different from that of Cleveland’s. In this song these is a subtle transition from traditional gospel to modern gospel as we know it today. In the beginning there is sort of a call and response between Tasha Cobb and the piano. When she sings the piano follows the same tune as she does. This music also creates elements such as a ring shout where she says “I need the dancers to break out”, which dates back to spirituals.  In this song there are many different instruments or polyrhythms throughout the song.

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