Note: ChristianitySymbolWhite // //
Representative songwriters and artists
- Charles A. Tindley (1851–1933) is generally considered the "Father of Gospel Music". He composed many Christian hymns, including "I Shall Overcome", which was the basis for the now-famous anthem for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, "We Shall Overcome". Other famous songs included "We'll Understand It Better By and By" and "Leave It There" among many others. His soulful lyrics, rooted in the depth of feeling that rises from an oppressed people, love, patience and tolerance, rather than hate, revenge or retaliation. His hymns still appear in hymnals and songbooks used by all Christian denominations.
- Thomas A. Dorsey (1899–1993) had such a marked effect on the Golden Age of gospel that sheet music for songs written in his rhythmic, bluesy style were called "dorseys" at the time. Dorsey was an American pianist, arranger and composer of such standards as "Peace In The Valley", which was one of the first gospel recordings to sell one million copies. Originally focused on secular music, Dorsey began to write music with a religious theme after meeting Tindley at a National Baptist Convention. Initially, his blending of sacred themes with the secular musical styles of blues and jazz was condemned as "the devil's music" and shunned by conservative Christians. After several years' persistence, however, his style gained in popularity. Perhaps the most famous is "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", written after losing his wife to childbirth and his newborn son the next day. Dorsey wrote over 1000 songs in his lifetime and founded The National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in 1932.
- Sallie Martin (1895–1988), who was proclaimed "The Mother of Gospel" by the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, worked with Dorsey early in her career. Her performances were characterized by her rough alto voice and the shouting and ecstatic motions associated with the Pentecostal Holiness tradition. After joining Dorsey's choir in 1932, Martin also took over Dorsey's struggling music store, to its benefit. During the 1930s, Martin traveled to organize choruses throughout the South and Midwest. In 1940 Martin left Dorsey's group and began touring. Martin and gospel composer Kenneth Morris formed Martin and Morris, Inc., a publishing company which became the biggest of its kind in the United States. She then formed her own ensemble, the first female group in gospel history, called the Sallie Martin Singers. Martin was actively involved in the civil rights movement, and a Nigerian government building was named in honor of her support for the Nigerian Health Program.
- Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith (1906–1994)
- Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972)
- Clara Ward (1924–1973)
- James Cleveland (1931–1991)
- Andrae Crouch (1942–2015) helped establish the post-Dorsey style of urban contemporary Christian music. Andraé Crouch was a key figure in the Jesus Music movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and strongly influenced future American artists such as Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Though his contemporary music is still subject to the age-old criticism of diluting the sacred message with contemporary music styles, his songs, such as "Soon and Very Soon", "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power", "Bless His Holy Name", and "My Tribute" have become staples in churches all around the world and recorded by mainstream artists such as Elvis Presley and Paul Simon. He was one of the first African-American Gospel artists to crossover to mainstream contemporary Christian music. Crouch has won numerous awards and honors over the years including eight Grammy Awards, four GMA Dove Awards, and ASCAP, Billboard and NAACP Awards. In 2004, he became the third-ever gospel artist to have a star enshrined on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Kirk Franklin
- The Winans
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