Gospel music is a genre of Christian music that popular music traditions have influenced. Although this genre can technically draw influences from a wide range of ethnic styles and religious traditions, the Black American style dominates this genre.

Origin of Gospel Music

Traditional church hymns became the foundation for many gospel tunes. This genre borrowed elements from other genres, notably country, blues, and ragtime, making the music entertaining and spiritual. Many soloists and groups started performing in churches before moving on to secular music. Musicians like  Aretha Franklin and Little Richard contributed to developing the R&B and rock ‘n’ roll genres.

From its beginnings in the eighteenth century to the present, this genre has significantly impacted American popular culture. Some of the most well-known modern gospel tunes, such as “Amazing Grace” and “Rock of Ages,” originated as hymns in the Anglican church of the seventeenth century. Later, the tunes we recognize today became part of these songs.

Notable Releases

When composer and Baptist missionary Philip Bliss released Gospel Songs: A Collection of Hymns and Tunes in 1874, it appears that he then printed the term “gospel music.” The Biblical proclamation that Jesus Christ was the son of God was known as the “gospel” in this context. The published music was often more catchy and approachable than most religious hymns.

From the 1870s until the 1920s, this genre concentrated on white churches and the country music tradition. However, Black American gospel music later took over as the dominant genre. The Carter Family, Ira D. Sankey, and George F. Root were a few of the prominent gospel performers of the time. The Black church has long used praise hymns, and in the 1920s and 1930s, popular recordings of Black gospel music became popular.

Icons of This Genre

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll), the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Arizona Dranes were early Black American gospel icons. The Black church and traditional gospel music are closely connected. Choirs, boisterous instrumentalists, enthusiastic hand clapping, call-and-response, and connections to social movements like the Civil Rights movement are all hallmarks of the musical genre.

Hip-hop and modern R&B have a significant effect on the majority of popular gospel music right now. Contemporary performers frequently base themselves in important music cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. They achieved Billboard success because of a crossover sound that complements current pop singles.

Mahalia Jackson, who lived from 1911 to 1972 and was also called “the queen of gospel,” studied singing in the Baptist church. She was one of this genre’s first big stars after forming a legendary partnership with Chicago composer and publisher Thomas A. Dorsey. At 18, Mahalia earned a record deal with Columbia Records after performing in the choir at her father, C. L. Franklin’s church, the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. She has nearly 100 hits that reached the Billboard charts towards the conclusion of her career. 2012 saw Franklin’s induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

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