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


  1. My response is "they are all my favorite!" LOL!

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