Before we can start, it is important to first understand what gospel music is. In simple terms, gospel music is a style of Christian music that has been drawn from diverse music traditions. For years now, it has been derived from a vast number of ethinic styles and religious traditions.
Gospel music had originally emerged from traditional church hymns and overtime, it began to incorporate traits of secular music such as blues, ragtime and country music – making music entertaining as it was reverent.
The History of Gospel Music
Since gospel music has influenced so much of American pop culture, let us look into the origins of its beginning.
During the eighteenth century, some of the most famous gospel songs such as ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ started out as hymnal songs within the Anglican church. In modern times, these hymns have become well known melodies.
Becoming Official in Nineteenth Century
In 1874, the phrase ‘gospel music’ was printed for the first time when composer and Baptist evangelist Philip Bliss had published “Gospel Songs: A Choice Collection of Hymns and Tunes.” Moreover, the music that was published was catchier and more accessible as compared to most church hymns during that era.
Gospels in Black Churches
Since the beginning, praise songs have always been a part of Black churches. Over the years, popular Black gospel music recordings gained a lot of recognition, especially the 1920s and 1930s. Around that time, some of the most popular gospel stars included Arizona Dranes, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.
Music Publishing of Formal Gospel
Musician Thomas A. Dorsey saw immense potential in the Black American gospel music and hence, decided to establish a publishing house that was dedicated to the art form. In time, Dorsey became famously known as ‘Father of Gospel Music’ – pushing forth the influence of gospel music into popular culture.
The Golden Age
Gospel music reached its peak during the decades surrounding World War II. There were many occasions when the vibrant gospel scenes had emerged within cities that have been touched by the Great Migration, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
Coming to the Present
Gospel music continues to stay relevant and entertaining to this day. Simply look at Palmyre Seraphin – a revered Haitian-American gospel singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has been known for making music that caters to the French/Creole-speaking community.
Initially, Seraphin started out her career teaching literature to high school students until she met gospel artist, Wilkinson Theodore, who invited her to a studio session and they ended up collaborating. Soon after in 2009, she took a leave from her Brooklyn Tabernacle choir in order to record her first Solo project, ‘Ou se Jehovah.’ She has also been singing with the 6th Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle from 2006 to 2018 and participated in the album “I’ll Say Yes” which received a Grammy nomination in 2009.
Soon after, her song “You Better Know What Time It Is” was her first song released in English through the Devine Jamz Gospel Network. In 2022, she released Yahweh before taking a break during COVID-19.