gospel music


gospel music
a now popularized form of impassioned rhythmic spiritual music rooted in the solo and responsive church singing of rural blacks in the American South, central to the development of rhythm and blues and of soul music. Also called gospel.
[1950-55]

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Form of black American music derived from Pentecostal church worship services and from spiritual and blues singing.

Recordings of Pentecostal preachers' sermons were immensely popular among African Americans in the 1920s. Taking the scriptural direction "Let everything that breathes praise the Lord" (Psalm 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed timbrels, pianos, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and even brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in antiphonal counterpoint with the preacher's sermon. Other forms of gospel music have included the singing and acoustic guitar playing of itinerant street preachers; individual secular performers; and harmonizing male quartets, whose acts included dance routines and stylized costumes. Gospel music's principal composers and practitioners included Thomas A. Dorsey, who coined the term; the Rev. C.A. Tindley (1851–1933); the blind wandering preacher Rev. Gary Davis (1896–1972); Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–73), whose performances took gospel into nightclubs and theatres in the 1930s; and Mahalia Jackson. Gospel music was a significant influence on rhythm and blues and soul music, which have in turn strongly influenced contemporary gospel music.

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music
      a form of black American music derived from church worship services and from spiritual (q.v.) and blues singing. Gospel music spread through song publishing, concerts, recordings, and radio and television broadcasts of religious services from the Great Depression days of the 1930s.

      The immediate impetus for gospel music seems to have been the rise of Pentecostal churches at the end of the 19th century. Pentecostal shouting is related to speaking in tongues and to circle dances of African origin. Recordings of Pentecostal preachers' sermons were immensely popular among American blacks in the 1920s, and recordings of them along with their choral and instrumental accompaniment and congregational participation persisted, so that ultimately gospel reached the white audience as well. The voice of the black gospel preacher was affected by black secular performers, and vice versa. Taking the scriptural direction “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalms, 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed timbrels, pianos, organs, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and some brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in antiphonal counterpoint with the preacher's sermon. Improvised recitative passages, melismatic singing, and extravagant expressivity also characterize gospel music.

      Other forms of gospel music have included the singing and acoustic guitar playing of itinerant street preachers; individual secular performers, sometimes accompanied by bands; and harmonizing male quartets, usually singing a cappella, whose acts included dance routines and stylized costumes.

      Among the most prominent of gospel music composers and practitioners were Thomas A. Dorsey (Dorsey, Thomas Andrew), born in 1899, a prolific and best-selling songwriter whose works include, most notably, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”; the Reverend C.A. Tindley (1851–1933), composer of “I'll Overcome Someday,” which may have served as the basis for the anthem of the American civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome”; the Reverend C.L. Franklin of Detroit, who issued more than 70 albums of his sermons and choir after World War II; blind Reverend Gary Davis (1896–1972), a wandering preacher and guitar soloist; Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose guitar and vocal performances took gospel into nightclubs and concert theatres in the 1930s; Roberta Martin, a gospel pianist based in Chicago with a choir and a school of gospel singing; and Mahalia Jackson (Jackson, Mahalia) (1911–72), who toured internationally and was often broadcast on television and radio.

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Universalium. 2010.

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