The History of Gospel Music: Building Bridges of Hope



Download 38.81 Kb.
Date conversion20.05.2016
Size38.81 Kb.

O

The History of Gospel Music: Building Bridges of Hope

Anthony


Donna Bolima, Instructor

Language Arts 12A

January 31, 2007

ASTRACT


This paper describes

Music is an important aspect of every society. Music can tell stories, release emotions, build bridges and break down barriers, but above all music is entertaining. There are various forms of music but not many have as rich a history as gospel music. The importance of gospel music has been relevant in American music for more than a century and its importance to society is still relevant to this day (See Appendix A). Gospel music helped slaves escape to freedom and paved the way for other styles of music. It promotes a spirit of hope and provided an outlet to worship God. So how exactly has Gospel music impacted today’s society?

Music has been relevant in Christianity since its beginnings. Some of the first music was written in Latin and they were called Hymns. “Hymn is a song of praise” (Van Camp) and were sung only by catholic churches. When Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation and helped create Protestant Christianity, he began translating hymns into German. All around Europe people were translating hymns into different languages. These translations were brought over by European settlers coming to America and were used frequently in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

Contemporary, as well as older, Gospel music originated from the “Spirituals.” The spirituals, also known as the “Negro Spirituals or African-American folk songs,” were religious songs sung by the African Americans slaves in Southern America. The spirituals spawned from teachings of Christianity from slave owners, the church and even hymns. The songs were usually about love, hope, peace, oppression, freedom and even used as a secret code. The African American slaves would sing while working so much so that slave owners became fond of the music and some even adopted in into their style of worship. The slaves actually used Spirituals as their “liberation theology,” and also as subliminal messaging (Perry A4). Spirituals were not only “sung to keep spirits up” (Thompson 9), but were used as coded messages to give directions for where to go or how to proceed to freedom in the North. The slave owners believed that the slaves were happy because they sang church songs and they praised God but little did they know, that the slaves were secretly communicating. For instance, during the Underground Railroad, songs like “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,’ ‘Wade in the Water,’ and ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ all directly refer to secret code about using the Underground Railroad.” As many as 100,000 slaves escaped by means of this method (Thompson 9).

When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, over twenty million Americans, both black and white moved out of the southern United States. This move as stated by Whitaker, “transformed religion, American popular culture, racial hierarchies, American conservative and the nature of American regions.” During this revolutionary movement, “Baptist and Pentecostal churches” and music, such as jazz, blues and gospel, spread. Spirituals were not known by anywhere else in the country other than in the south until that time (570).

Spirituals were used and recorded by producers and different artists. A group of college students called, “the Jubilee Singers,” from Fisk University sang Spirituals to parts of the United States and even went over seas to Europe to perform in England and Germany. The Jubilee Singers became so renowned, that “other black schools followed their example.” The students sang to raise money for the school while also spreading a unique style of music. The unique style and sound later became known as Gospel. There have been many famous composers of spirituals and a collection of spirituals were published in 1867 (Van Camp; See Appendix B).

During the “Southern Diaspora,” and over a sixty year time period, twenty million Americans, both black and white, left their homes in the South and moved to the outer edges of the country. The “Southern Diaspora” dispersed “religion, music and political practices.” Gospel music was now being heard across the nation. Westerners and Northerners alike were introduced to a new music style (Gregory). In the 1920’s to 1930’s the “‘holiness’ evangelistic movement” began to see an integration of different styles of music --especially Rhythm & Blues (See appendix A). Instruments and vocal harmonies were being used more in the transition. The blending of Gospel and Blues evolved into many other genres of music and shaped American music into what it is today (Perry A4). For instance, Jazz music traces its origins from gospel music during this time period and before. Jazz, which started late into the 1800’s, “grew from a combination of influences,” like “black American music, African rhythms, American band traditions and instruments, and European harmonies and forms” (Tirro).

Many upcoming black artists also started to use Gospel sound and combined it with Rhythm and Blues, labeling it “soul music.” With a Gospel background, artists such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke paved the way for the popularity of soul and for new talents to emerge. Motown Records was a famous record company in producing great R&B singers. Famous artists like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross and the Supremes, soul music became a big hit and the new sound for a generation (See appendix B). The sound of Gospel music was relevant in the music, but the lyrics for soul music were completely different. In gospel music, the lyrics often talked about hope, love and peace but a lot of soul music, like in many Motown songs, the lyrics mostly dealt with sex and infidelity. The contrast was black and white. Some people in the Christian community were disgusted by the way artists were adapting Gospel into a secular form of music (Miller).

“Multiculturalism” was hugely influenced by the entertainment and the arts. Commonality was found between white and black Americans in movies, television, dance and song. Many African American entertainers emerged during the Southern Diaspora and brought Gospel with them. The Gospel sound was relevant in the music, but the lyrics for soul music were completely different. In gospel music, the lyrics often talked about hope, love and peace but a lot of soul music, like in many Motown songs, the lyrics mostly dealt with sex and infidelity. The contrast was black and white. Some people in the Christian community were disgusted by the way artists were adapting Gospel into a secular form of music (Whitaker 570).

Known as the “father of gospel music,” Thomas Dorsey grew up in church. The son of a preacher and the church organist, Dorsey was connected to church but a part of him wanted to branch out into things outside of the church. According to Thomas, financial struggles, problems in school and his parents’ main focus no longer being on church but rather on survival, Dorsey’s “connection to organized religion waned.” As Dorsey’s beliefs suffered he began turning to a new alternative, playing Blues music. He moved from his home in Atlanta, to Chicago where he found immediate success playing with Ma Rainey, a blues artist. After a couple serious nervous breakdowns, Dorsey then turned to gospel music as his source of strength. His style was rejected by “mainstream churches” but he continued to play nonetheless. Times got worse for Dorsey when his wife, Nettie Harper, and his son died in childbirth but Dorsey turned to his music for solace. Dorsey made “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” during this crisis and it became Dorsey’s most famous song. He then led the way for the “Golden Age of Gospel Music” by collaborating with Mahalia Jackson. Thomas Dorsey died in 1993 (This Far by Faith; See Appendix B).



Mahalia Jackson is regarded as the “mother of black gospel music.” Born on October 26, 1911, life was hard for Mahalia growing up. She was conceived out of wedlock, her mother died when Mahalia was young, she had to live with her aunt who was more than strict, she dropped out of school and got a job as a washerwoman all before she passed the eighth grade. Through her rough childhood, Mahalia always had a strong connection to her church. She was drawn to the musical style of the church and it stuck with her. Mahalia dreamt of going to Chicago ever since and in December 1928, when she was seventeen years old, she “took her first train ride to and has headed to Chicago.” She was in the church choir and after a few years she began to sing solos as the other soloist in the choir left to pursue singing careers. She began to work with gospel music composer, Thomas Dorsey. Her work with him elevated her status of recognition around the country. Dorsey loved Mahalia’s voice that he “even began writing songs with her in mind.” Mahalia rocketed to star status as she began singing for larger audiences in more places. Despite the fact that she was a gospel singer, singing gospel songs, her music became the talk of pop culture in the 1950’s. Mahalia became outspoken in the Civil rights movement knowing first-hand about discrimination, which seemed to follow her like a second shadow. Racism became so much a part of her life that no amount of fame or fortune could stop it. She sang songs for two presidents and also sang numerous times for Dr. Martin Luther King. Given many opportunities to turn “pop” and sing secular forms of music, Mahalia stuck to Gospel music refusing anything else. She sang Gospel music, touring the world, until she died in January 1972 of “intestinal obstruction combined with heart failure” (Carpenter 206:211).

Rev. James Cleveland revolutionized the gospel world by revitalizing gospel choirs but a scandalous life ruined his reputation according to some people. He turned choirs into “a sophisticated art form” by creating an innovative sound combining “jazz and pop, blues and Sanctified church rhythms. Born in the Great Depression, Rev. Cleveland was accustomed to work. He even had a job delivering papers and one of his customers was Mahalia Jackson. James started playing piano since age five playing on black and white keys he drew on the windowsill, but he later became a talented pianist. He attended church service with his Grandmother and joined his church choirs where he began singing. He started singing, composing and writing songs and playing piano for many different gospel groups. He signed with Savoy records and turned down Vee-Jay records. His deal with Savoy records propelled him to superstardom at a time when “it was rare for any black music to sell many LPs.” He spread his talent for music all over the U.S. and even to Europe but his skill caused him to demand $2,000 a night for a concert. Rev. Cleveland even became a pastor for some churches. He preached at the New Greater Harvest Baptist Church but was fired after seven years for putting music above preaching. He then relocated and his choir followed and went to n found the Cornerstone Institutional Baptist Church later that year. His popularity caused him to have two services to “accommodate the overflow.” Although Rev. Cleveland had written songs for secular artists, he was firmly against gospel singers singing gospel to any other type of music. He believed that the message of gospel songs, out weighed the music. Rev. Cleveland was a millionaire which caused many to believe that it was attributed to Cleveland misusing their money they gave to support the church. Cleveland answered saying that he was rich before he even became a pastor and that all the money came from his work in gospel music. All the gospel music he worked on was successful so Cleveland created his own record company called King James records. After his record company was created, Rev. Cleveland started to get sick. He lost a lot of weight, it was said that he smoked and drink at times and he had a respiratory problems. Rev. James Cleveland died February 9, 1991 of congestive heart failure but a life with scandal, remained after his death. There were many complicated problems concerning his property including his church. Cleveland left no will so there was no one entitled to his estate. This caused an eruption between his heirs and his church. His church was eventually sold and turned into a discount store despite winning a battle to keep it open, a man accused Cleveland of being homosexual and for sodomizing him and a man claimed himself to be Rev James’ adopted son, entitling him to half of Cleveland’s estate. He made a huge difference he made in the Gospel and Church community. Regardless of all of the drama that riddled Rev. James Cleveland’s life, his great accomplishments cannot be denied. (Carpenter 88:91)

Rock and roll originated from two American musical styles- “country and blues.” Rock music’s characteristics were taken from African American blues. The basic melodies of Blues combined with “aggressive” beats made rock and roll. Some songs like “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” and “All She Wants to Do is Rock,” which were rhythm and blues influenced, helped to shape rock and roll in the late 1940’s. Then Elvis Presley came along in the 50’s and presented a new style that brought Gospel music together with rock and roll (See appendix B). Elvis also sang a lot of Gospel songs and Hymns he had heard growing up in church. Early in his career, the majority of the songs Elvis sang were Gospel. It was not until he became more widely known that he started taking his music into more rock and roll. Elvis’ music became very popular leading into the age of rock and roll (McKeen).

Kirk Franklin has been a driving force in the Gospel world for over a decade. He introduced a style that all ages would enjoy, especially teens. Raised without his parent’s, he was “grounded in church.” As a result, he began to lead the adult choir at the church. But as Kirk began to develop into a teenager, he began to “rebel and hang with a rough crowd” causing him to turn away from the church. It was not until one of his friends were shot that he realized that he was going in the same direction, death. He then turned back to the church and began to compose songs. Kirk’s songs are mostly directed to teens because of his own childhood struggles. Kirk formed a group called the Family. Kirk found success after a while due to his “hard urban sound.” His style of gospel music was unheard of and many came to believe that it did not belong. Gospel music was just changing and Kirk helped in the molding process. Kirk became a huge hit in the 90’s and is still going strong today. (Carpenter 146:147)

Gospel music has been a powerful force in American culture. It has helped slaves escape to freedom, it enriched America’s diversity, it was a supporting backbone in the Civil Rights Movement, it paved the way for different genres of music but most of all it has empowered people to be more than they can be. Gospel music started out as slave music but turned into a musical juggernaut and still impacts the lives of its listeners. Gospel music builds bridges in society and continues to help mold America into what it is today.

Works Cited

Blevins, Brooks. “The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black

and White Southerners Transformed America.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly Autumn 2006: 317-320.

Carpenter, Bil. Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia. San Francisco:

Backbeat Books, 2005.

Goertzen, Valerie Woodring. "Folk music." World Book Online Reference Center.

2006. 11 November2006

Article?id=ar202940>.

Gwinn, Mary Ann . "Roots pulled from Southern soil ; A UW history professor

examines how the settling of black and white Southerners across America

shaped who we are today." Seattle Times 6 February 2006:

Liddell, Marlane. "Roots of Rhythm : The origins of American music—

from Gospel to Country, from Zydeco to the Blues--a celebrated in a new

book and a PBS television series. ." Smithsonian. November 2001: 77-84.

McKeen, William. "Rock music." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

Nov 2006 .

Miller, Jim. “Soul.” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. New

York: Rolling Stone Press/Random House, 1976.

Perry, Brandon. "Gospel Music: A historical summary." Recorder Vol. 111,

Iss. 23. 9 June 2006 pg. A4. 11 November 2006

pqdweb?sid=2&vinst=PROD&fmt=3&startpage=1&clientid=24975&vname=

PQD&RQT=309&did=1095776201&scaling=FULL&vtype=PQD&rqt=309

&TS=1164991813&clientId=24975>.

Rubel, David. "Presley, Elvis." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

"Thomas Dorsey." This Far by Faith. 2003. The Faith Project, Inc.. 13 Dec 2006



.

Thompson, Ericka. "Negro Spirituals: the Ancient Gospel Music."



Recorder 21 April 2006: 9.

Tirro, Frank. "Jazz." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11 Nov 2006



.

Van Camp, Leonard W. "Hymn." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

Van Camp, Leonard W. "Spiritual." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

Wells, Paul F. "Country music." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

Nov 2006 .

Whitaker, Matthew. “The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and

White Southerners Transformed America.” The Journal of American History.

2006: 570


Bibliography

Blevins, Brooks. “The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black

and White Southerners Transformed America.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly Autumn 2006: 317-320.

Carpenter, Bil. Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia. San Francisco:

Backbeat Books, 2005.

Goertzen, Valerie Woodring. "Folk music." World Book Online Reference Center.

2006. 11 November2006

Article?id=ar202940>.

Gwinn, Mary Ann . "Roots pulled from Southern soil ; A UW history professor

examines how the settling of black and white Southerners across America

shaped who we are today." Seattle Times 6 February 2006:

Jackson, Jerma. Singing in my Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age. North

Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Liddell, Marlane. "Roots of Rhythm : The origins of American music—

from Gospel to Country, from Zydeco to the Blues--a celebrated in a new

book and a PBS television series. ." Smithsonian. November 2001: 77-84.

McKeen, William. "Rock music." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

Nov 2006 .

Miller, Jim. “Soul.” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. New

York: Rolling Stone Press/Random House, 1976.

Perry, Brandon. "Gospel Music: A historical summary." Recorder Vol. 111,

Iss. 23. 9 June 2006 pg. A4. 11 November 2006

pqdweb?sid=2&vinst=PROD&fmt=3&startpage=1&clientid=24975&vname=

PQD&RQT=309&did=1095776201&scaling=FULL&vtype=PQD&rqt=309

&TS=1164991813&clientId=24975>.

Rubel, David. "Presley, Elvis." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

"Thomas Dorsey." This Far by Faith. 2003. The Faith Project, Inc.. 13 Dec 2006



.

Thompson, Ericka. "Negro Spirituals: the Ancient Gospel Music."



Recorder 21 April 2006: 9.

Tirro, Frank. "Jazz." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11 Nov 2006



.

Van Camp, Leonard W. "Hymn." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

Van Camp, Leonard W. "Spiritual." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

November 2006 .

Wells, Paul F. "Country music." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. 11

Nov 2006 .

Whitaker, Matthew. “The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and

White Southerners Transformed America.” The Journal of American History.

2006: 570


Appendix A

Timeline for Gospel Music

1619- First record of African slaves in Colonial America brought as indentured servants

1786- All states, except Georgia, ban or limit importation of African slaves

1798- Georgia bans importation of African slaves

1810- Underground Railroad helps slaves escape to free states

1861- American Civil War begins

1863- President Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation

1865- American Civil War ends

1867- Collections of spirituals published, songs known now as Gospel

1870- Students, called Fisk Jubilee Singers, perform spirituals across the nation

1920- Evangelistic Movement integrates styles of music with gospel

1947- Music style combining jazz, gospel and blues named Rhythm & Blues

1948- Rhythm & Blues helps shape Rock and Roll

1960- Twenty million Americans move from the South over a sixty year period

Appendix B

Influential People in the Progression of Gospel Music



Fisk Jubilee Singers



Smokey Robinson Marvin Gaye


Appendix B2

Stevie Wonder Diana Ross and the Supremes




Thomas Dorsey Elvis Presley


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page