Contemporary Gospel Music is one of the most innovative and exciting genres of music on the planet. People around the globe are enjoying the uplifting and positive message that is the trade mark of Gospel Music. The sound and energy of Gospel Music can be felt and heard in many different languages around the world. In Japan there is an explosion of Japanese communities creating Gospel choirs, and the demand for them continues to grow. Gospel music has come a long way from its humble beginnings here in America. There are countless stories of artist like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke starting careers in church and moving on to other genres of music. That tradition still continues today, however the narrative plays out a little differently.
In a not so distant past, most people felt like Gospel should be for church and secular music was for outside of church. It was not acceptable in the church to be a Gospel singer and a secular singer at the same time. This led to artist having to choose one or the other, and the money that could be made singing secular music made this decision a no-brainer for artist wanting a career as a recording artist. Still there were some very successful Gospel artists, like Mahalia Jackson, who achieved mass appeal in the Gospel music genre. The artists who crossed over to popular music from Gospel naturally took their sound and style with them. This began to fuel an entirely new genre labeled Rhythm and Blues (R&B). The feel and soul of Gospel music had successfully made its way into mainstream popular music, and created some icons in the process. People like Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin, all made their way from the church to popular music.
We continue to see and hear the influence of Gospel music in many genres of music across the board. In addition to influencing popular music, Gospel music is competing head to head with all genres of music and increasing in market share. We are seeing artist like Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary blur the line of Pop and Gospel music all the time. Kanye West, who is a Rap artist, managed to have the first Rap song at the top of the Billboard music charts with the name Jesus being mentioned in the song. We also continue to see other talent from the Gospel world influence popular music and culture. For example, music producer J Roc (Jerome Harmon) recently produced the new Michael Jackson hit song “Slave To The Rhythm”. J Roc was known for playing on a lot of the Kirk Franklin records.
In a time when popular music continues to dumb down its message and sound, Gospel music is growing with its intricate vocal harmonies, sophisticated melodies, and progressive arrangements. Not to mention, the message in Gospel music still reaches out to people offering hope, celebration of life, and unconditional love. It is ingenious how Gospel music has managed to consistently grow in so many directions, inspire so many people, and give so much while remaining relevant in an ever changing world.