The Triumph of Contemporary Gospel Music
By B.L. Barbour
Worship music or gospel has been around since the beginning of the 17th century. Today, it’s usually a combination of vocals and musical instruments producing the song, but in the beginning it was a cappella vocals accompanied by rhythmic hand claps and/or foot stomps. The gospel music performed now ranges from southern, contemporary, and jazz to rap.
Its many forms are effective at reaching its intended audience. Great songs of the contemporary gospel genre touch the soul leaving a lasting impression, songs like “Awesome God”, “Goin’ up Yonder”, “Smile”, “No Greater Love”, “Never Would Have Made It” and “Take Me to the King” are excellent examples of the overall effect of today’s strongest gospel tunes. These songs many performers, Kirk Franklin, Tamela Mann, Marvin Sapp and Smokie Norful have all benefited from the success of their music winning both Grammy awards and Stellar Awards in the contemporary gospel category.
Contemporary gospel hits all the right cords with foot stomping, soul rousing sounds that move the listener. Something deeply arousing happens when a song stirs your devotion to God. The words of worship and reverence coupled with the musical accompaniment take the auditor to new heights, a sort of Christian ecstasy.
Contemporary gospel has good roots in Negro spirituals and later Southern gospel. Great songs were spawned like “Peace in the Valley”, “His Eye is on the Sparrow”, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, “Old Time Religion” and “Amazing Grace”. These standards were sung by Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe encouraging significant numbers to an even greater appreciation of musical praise and worship. Continuing to evolve gospel continued to be sung by the great voices, The Alex Bradford Singers, The Clair Ward Singers, The Caravans, Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, Queen C. Andrews, The Orioles, Jessie Mae Renfro to the Staple Singers, Aretha Franklin and Shirley Caesar.
The triumph of contemporary gospel is in its complete acceptance by today’s worshiper. From the 1600’s until today gospel has been tweaked and updated from a cappella to include instruments and a fast paced beat. It’s come a long way from its origins in call and response to be refined into toe tapping soul jarring mixtures of popular music and gospel.
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