In the black culture of the first half of the 20th cent., gospel music was considered antithetical to blues and jazz, despite their similarity of origins, and gospel performers rarely sang in nonreligious settings. Later, as all three forms became popular outside the black community, they were less mutually exclusive. A strong gospel element underlies the
soul jazz and rock music of the 1950s and 60s. Composer and pianist Thomas A. Dorsey, often referred to as
the father of the gospel song, played a major role in the development of gospel music. Important gospel performers have included Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Alex Bradford, James Cleveland, The Swan Silver Tones, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Dixie Hummingbirds, and The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Pop singers who have been heavily influenced by gospel include Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. While the greatest era in gospel is widely considered to be c.1945–1965, the tradition and the music remain vital in contemporary culture. The Gospel Music Association rewards achievements in the genre with the annual Dove Awards.
See T. Heilbut, The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Time (1971); L. Gentry, A History and Encyclopedia of Country and Western and Gospel Music (1961, repr. 1972); H. C. Boyer, How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel (1995); G. Nierenberg, dir., Say Amen, Somebody (documentary, 1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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