Friday, September 17, 2010

How Well Do You Know Your Detroit Gospel History? Part 1

                                             Interesting Facts About Detroit Gospel 

§  The Reverend James Cleveland moved to Detroit around 1949 to direct the music department at New Bethel Baptist Church.  Four years later, he was appointed Minister of Music at Our Faith Prayer Tabernacle Church where he directed the Voices of Tabernacle Choir with whom he recorded his first hit, “The Love of God” in 1960.

§  At the age of 15, Della Reese joined the Original Hutchins Gospel Singers and directed choirs at Detroit’s New Liberty Baptist Church.  She and Ernestine Rundless formed a female quartet in 1947 with Marie Waters and DeLillian Mitchell called the Meditation Singers.  The group brought gospel to secular showrooms across the country including the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, the famed Copacabana in New York and Detroit’s 20 Grand.  On another note, Rundless’ husband, Rev. E.A. Rundless who pastored New Liberty, was a member of the legendary gospel group, the Soul Stirrers before moving to Detroit.


§  Affectionately called “The Big Three,” Elma Hendrix Parham, organized the women’s chorus at the Greater New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, founded and directed the Community Youth Ensemble as well as owning the popular Elma and Carl’s House of Music on Owen Street in Detroit and owned her own music publishing company; Mattie Moss Clark, founder of the Southwest Michigan State Choir, the first COGIC State Choir organized (1959) and mother of the famed Clark Sisters; and Lucylle Lemon who served as a choir director at New Bethel Baptist Church and founded the Lucylle Lemon Gospel Chorus, the first community choir organized in Detroit (1943). Another Lucylle Lemon note: Mom and Pop Winans met each other as teenagers while members of the Lemon Gospel Chorus.

§  Rev. James Lofton bought the Paradise Theatre (now Orchestra Hall) and founded the Church Of Our Prayer.  Rev. Lofton and the church were noted for their 300 voice choir who performed concerts at the Olympia Stadium and the State Fairgrounds.

§  Vanessa Bell Armstrong first drew the attention of gospel music fans as a member of the Detroit based choir, The Voices of Heaven during the early to mid 1970’s. Under the leadership of Rev. James Marks and Rev. Ronald Kersey, young Vanessa and choir brought a gospel feel to the pop/inspirational hit “Put A Little Love in Your Heart.”

§  As a teenager, Rev. Charles Nicks, Jr. played organ and later recorded with another Detroit gospel landmark, The Harold Smith Majestics.  He later became the musician for Detroit’s St. James Baptist Church, the church where he would eventually become pastor.  Rev. Nicks and the choir helped to bring attention to another budding, charismatic director, Jimmy “J.D.” Dowell.  
      Jimmy "JD" Dowell and Rev. Charles H. Nicks Jr.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Celebration of Gospel Music Heritage Month: An Historical Timeline

Prepared by Deborah Smith Pollard, Ph.D.
1619                                    First Africans arrive in Virginia singing 
                                            African music

1640-1680                           Large scale slave labor introduced in the 
                                            British Caribbean

Mid-late 1700’s                  The folk Negro spiritual emerges 
1787                                    The African Methodist Episcopal Church
                                            is founded
1865                                    Slavery abolished by the 13th amendment
1871                                    The arranged Negro spiritual created by 
                                            the Fisk Jubilee Singers

1890-1920’s                Transitional/Early Gospel Music
                                    Famous Name(s): Rev. Charles A. Tindley
Songs: “Beams of Heaven,” “I’ll Overcome Some Day” 
(which later becomes “We Shall Overcome,” the Civil 
Rights anthem

1929-1940s                 Traditional Gospel Music Emerges
Some Famous Names:  The Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey
The Male Quartets: The Golden Gate Quartet, The Dixie 
Songs:  “Precious Lord,” “Peace in the Valley,” “If We Never
Needed the Lord Before,” “Milky White Way”

1945 -1960s                The Golden Age of Gospel Music
Some Famous Names: Mahalia Jackson, The Clara Ward Singers,
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
                                    Songs:  “Move on up A Little Higher,” “Soon I Will Be Done,” 
                                   “Surely, God Is Able,” “Packing Up,” “Up Above My Head,” 
                                   “This Train”

Late 1960s-1980         Contemporary Gospel and The Mass Choir Sound Explode
Some Famous Names:  Andrae Crouch, Edwin Hawkins, Mattie Moss Clark, 
The Rev. Charles Nicks Jr. & St. James Adult Choir,
The Harold Smith Majestics, The Rev. James Cleveland
Songs: “I’ll Be Thinking of You,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “Oh Happy Day,” 
“Wonderful,” “Climbing up the Mountain,” “Salvation Is Free,” “I Really 
Love the Lord,” “The Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings 
Flow),” "Peace Be Still"

1980’s to present       Urban Contemporary Gospel Music
                                    Some Famous Names: The Clark Sisters, The Winans, BeBe and CeCe Winans, 
                                    Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Commissioned, Witness, Vickie Winans, 
                                   John. P. Kee/New Life, Vanessa Bell Armstrong
                                    Songs: “You Brought the Sunshine,” “The Question Is,” “Heaven,” “Stomp,” ” 
                                    ‘Open My Heart,” “We Fall Down, “Ordinary Just Won’t Do,” “Standard,” “Shake 
                                   Yourself Loose, “Show Up,” "He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Need"

1985+-present            Praise and Worship Music
                                    Some Famous Names:  Min. Thomas Whitfield and the Whitfield Company, Fred Hammond, 
                                    Israel and New Breed, Byron Cage, Martha Munizzi, Shekinah Glory Ministry, J. Moss
                                    Songs:  “Precious Jesus,” “Let the Praise Begin,” Rejoice,” “The Presence of the Lord Is Here,” “Because of Who You Are,” “Praise Is What We Do,” “We Must Praise”

1987-present              Christian Rap/Holy Hip Hop
                                    Some Famous Names: The Cross Movement, Da Truth, Lecrae,
Trip Lee
Songs: “Cry No More,” “That Great Day,” “Jesus Muzik,” “Invasion (Hero)”

*This is a handout I give to audiences or students when I only have one hour to do an
overview of gospel history.   If your favorites aren’t here, just know that in a full 14-week class,
I am sure to get to them!By the way: who ARE your favorites? Whoever they are, make sure you
share some of their music (legally) with someone you love today!--Dr. Deb