What Makes Gospel Music So Popular Even After All These Years?

Gospel music, which began during the 18th century, is probably one of the oldest and most popular music genres. This begs one to ask what makes gospel music so popular considering the religious topics it tackles. Gospel music's popularity is beyond the obvious fact that the songs and melody are catchy and easy to remember, since most gospel hymns do bear these characteristics. Gospel music is a rare type of music because it unites concepts culled from seemingly different cultures and produces a far more powerful sound that can evoke reactions from its listeners. Gospel music initially started out as the music of rural African Americans who were forcibly brought to American soil during the height of the slave trade. These enslaved African Americans were indoctrinated with the ways of the white Americans, especially in religion which stressed the importance of obeying and respecting their masters. Since most of the slaves were uneducated, they were taught using the technique of repetition which included the singing of church hymns. It wasn’t long before these African Americans started infusing their own native music into the church hymns and learning how to play Western instruments like the guitar and piano. Part of the reason why gospel music became so popular with the slaves was because it was their way of uplifting themselves from their harsh living conditions. To this day, many people coming from different beliefs continue to be moved by the rousing and soulful performances by gospel singers and this is what makes gospel music so popular to its audience. Somehow these heartfelt performances manage to bypass the different religious beliefs of people and give them common ground. It’s not surprising since gospel songs typically feature lyrics that tackle overcoming adversities shared by everybody. Another factor that contributes to the popularity of gospel music is the fact that many of the influential musicians of the 20th century, like Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles to name a few, grew up surrounded by gospel music and eventually incorporated it into their own brand of music. Ray Charles is known to use the popular call and response pattern of gospel songs in his own compositions. You’d be surprised to know that the Soul Stirrers, one of the leading gospel groups during the 50s and 60s, were inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame for their contribution in shaping the rock and roll genre. There was a time when it was gospel music that influenced other genres that emerged from African-American culture like jazz, blues and R&B. Today it can be said that jazz, blues and R&B strongly influence the modern day sound of gospel music. The Father of Black Gospel Music himself, Thomas A. Dorsey encountered initial criticism when he dared to infuse jazz and blues with traditional hymn practices, yet that is the style that prevails today. Gospel music allows for the creativity of its composer to seep through the music. What makes gospel music so popular is because it speaks to all ages and all generations.
Written by Gary Harbin www.garyharbin.com

What Makes Gospel Music So Popular Even After All These Years

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