My Love Affair With Gospel Music
Gospel Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It took hold of me and has never let me go. It was the biggest part of my church experience and is an essential part of my music history and training.
Gospel Music planted its feet deep in the soil of the South and in music history in about the 17th century, the time of slavery, when from plantation to plantation slaves would do a call and response all in the guise of a song. Often hidden therein were messages of warning, messages to family members who had been torn away from one another, messages of love, support, and most importantly, “I’m still alive!” They weren’t allowed to read or write, so they sang!
Gospel music has been a source of inspiration and solace for millions of listeners. Over time, as the influence of the African-American church grew and the Great Migration transported thousands of African Americans from the South to America’s northern industrial cities, the influence of this musical genre expanded. Ultimately, Gospel’s reach would extend well beyond the religious realm, directly affecting the world of secular music. Gospel music had a direct influence on Soul, Blues, R & B, Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, and Rap in America.
Gospel music rises up through drums, from piano and organ keyboards at the hands of very gifted musicians, and from the tambourine! Gospel music sings through us about our troubles, our fears and our hopes. It sings through us about our joys, deliverance, healing, affirmation, proclamation, our victories and let us not forget, it sings through us of redemption! The gospel message shakes its finger in the face of our challenges, claps our hands, stomps our feet, shouts, dances and endures in the face of all travail or defeat!
The messages in gospel music taught me about God, about deep sorrow, the greatest joys of life and the emancipation of my personal soul. It schooled me in its own brand of rhythms and singing. It has been a home, a place of refuge, my language of worship, and my voice of praise and love of God!
Early in my career, I traveled into the many boroughs of New York City, having been invited to come to sing Gospel music in various churches. I dreamed of walking in the footsteps of Mahalia Jackson, whom I loved! My career took off in other directions, but Gospel music resides at the base of all my singing.
I can’t begin to tell you of the mountain of gospel songs, hymns and sacred songs I’ve learned and loved over time, each of them a jewel in my music memory. I turn to Gospel music when the world is doing its best to be upside down and when I myself have been upside down.
A song I heard again recently by beloved gospel singer, Douglas Miller, “My Soul Is Anchored In The Lord”, is an example.
Though the storms keep on raging in my life
And sometimes it’s hard to tell the night from day
Still that hope that lies within is reassured
As I keep my eyes upon the distant shore
I know He’ll lead me safely to
That blessed place He has prepared
But if the storms don’t cease
And if the winds keep on blowing in my life
My soul has been anchored in the Lord
The Book of Revelations
Chapter 7: Verses 16 and 17 (yes sir)
They shall hunger no more,
Neither shall they thirst anymore (preach preacher!)
For God shall wipe away (yes sir)
Every tear from there eye (yes sir)
For the revolution
(Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on) Whoaaaa-o-o-oooooo-ohhhhh
Do you wanna Revolution?
I said, Do you wanna Revolution?
Do you wanna revolution?
Come on, do you wanna revolution?
Something Wonderfully In-between:
The lyrics for “ALL Day Long”, aren’t available as of yet, but you get the idea!
Having spent eighteen years in foster care, I needed something to cleave to. A couple turns of the lyrics above and my world would get brighter. Gospel music buoyed and reminded me that I wasn’t completely alone. The Gospel greats I’ve been blessed to hear are too numerous to list.
Suffice it to say, that I was raised up on and by Gospel music! We began Sunday morning service in my Mom’s church, with the choir walking down the aisle singing together. I loved the unity and power of that march and of those songs!
I’ve walked through my life with this faithful friend.
I often dip myself for days in this music to find my bearings, and to remember the many truths I learned in my foster mom’s (Reverend Josephine Richards) small church in the South Bronx!
This wonderful music has caused tears to spill down over my face, made me smile, and put a great joy in my soul. It has eased some of the darkness and confused places in my life.
Often when attending a church service, the spirit would be so high that you wouldn’t know which way to go and felt that perhaps you might just lift off and fly away!
Gospel music still fills my heart and feeds my soul with its many tones, textures, rhythms and truths, and always will!
Thank you ole friend!