Gospel music began to emerge in the African American community shortly following the popularity of singing hymnals. This during the mid to late 19th century although hymnals had been around for a bit before. During this time, the early 19th century, hymnals had a different tone than what we would normally be used to. Instead of music backing the vocals, hymnals were sung straightforward and unembellished. Post civil war, gospel music became more colorful and syncopated, what we would know today as a more traditional contemporary gospel music.
The women of gospel, sometimes unnoticed, have made some of the largest and most telling contributions to the popularity of this style of music. The music that we know today heightened in popularity around the 1930’s. Much of which can be contributed to the work done by women, now making it possible for female gospel to live on.
Woman have pushed most of the gospel movement even secretly, from the very beginning. This starts with Fanny Crosby, who writes many of the very first gospel songs sung by predominantly white men. Known as one of the best gospel music writers of her time, she was most popular well before the popularity go the gospel music around the mid 19th century.
Shortly after the popularity of Crosby, followed Mahalia Jackson, easily one of the most influential women in gospel. Her career lasted well over 40 years, during which she recorded 30+ albums. Many of which sold over a million copies each.
Of course, you can’t forget Aretha Franklin. Although, mostly known for her more “Pop” style songs like “Respect”, she grew up in the church. Her singing career began in the choir of New Bethel Baptist Church and went on to be the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame.
And there are so many other woman who have been fortunate enough to have graced fame from gospel roots. Tasha Cobbs, Chloe and Halle, Queen Ester Marrow and the Harlem gospel singers, Tamela Mann, and many other singers which we have been given the pleasure of listening to.