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Gospel

What is gospel?

Gospel is another cultural heritage of the slaves. The Word of God emerged from the African American churches in the 18th century and became popular during the 1930s. They are evangelical songs that invite people to follow the Creator.

Although it also spread to white Southern singers, the sharp division between churches in the United States due to racial segregation caused a split of the gospel into two branches, which continues today.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers - Oh, Happy Day (1969)

Theme arranged by Edwin Hawkins from an 18th century gospel hymn. The performance of the solo singer, Dorothy Combs Morrison, stands out and won him a Grammy award.

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Many of the European slave traders preached the Christian faith only to keep their captives submissive, who saw in Jesus the greatest of all ancient heroes. These forced immigrants brought with them a musical style all their own. A community life based on music and dance, always led by insistent percussion, was incorporated into the rite of the newly discovered Christian faith. The singing is accentuated by the lively participation of the listeners with exhortations, clapping or improvised dancing. The white church music is transformed.

What's it like?

Its creator was Thomas Dorsey and it was based on the spirituals sung by the blacks in the work camps and on the melodies and rhythms of jazz and blues, replacing the drumming with polyrhythmia, typical of the West African tradition.

This musical genre, characterized by the dominant use of choirs, has evolved and spread throughout the world, giving rise to sub-genres such as gospel-blues, black, traditional, southern, Latin, etc.

Mahalia Jackson - Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen (1954)

Traditional spiritual song and one of the best examples of gospel theme. Although there are countless versions, in this one the queen of gospel gives a master class.

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Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans and had an alto vowel tessitura. She was one of the first spiritual performers to incorporate blues elements into her music, dressing up gospel with a sensuality and freedom that had never been experienced before in the style. Mahalia was also a civil rights activist, becoming Martin Luther King's favorite singer. In fact, she sang Thomas Dorsey's Take My Hand, Precious Lord for him the night before he was murdered.

How does it influence rock and roll?

Church choirs produce a multitude of singers who achieve great popularity, both in gospel and in soul, pop or rhythm and blues. They include: Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Ruth Brown.

On the other hand, Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel singer who became very popular in the United States in the thirties and forties, with a unique mix of spiritual lyrics and rock and roll accompaniment.

Rosetta Tharpe - Strange Things Happen Every Day (1945)

A version of a traditional African-American spiritual music track recorded by the singer, guitarist and composer known as Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Original Soul Sister.

Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. She began playing at age four accompanying her mother, evangelist preacher Katie Bell Nubin. Later she moved to Chicago where she played, accompanied by great bands, her "spiritual and light music" in the darkness of night clubs and concert halls. Her idiosyncratic style marked many gospel artists. Although she offended many of the faithful with her forays into pop music, she never gave up spiritual music.

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