What Is Gospel Music

History of Gospel music is deeply rooted in the rich traditions of the African-American church. During the late 1800s, African-American churches in the southern United States started to fuse various styles of music into their worship services including African-American spirituals, hymns, and sacred songs. Such music was primarily sung at church and accompanied by hand clapping and foot stomping. Similarities between their chains of bondage and those of Moses’ people. The enslaved also linked the promise of an afterlife with earthly freedom. Since they were “allowed” to sing only about Christian ethics and ideals, they eventually turned the hymns they learned into their own form of religious folk music. These songs became known as Negro spirituals. Hidden in them was a secret code to give one another messages of hope and freedom. Canaan meant Canada, the land of freedom. Going up yonder meant going north. Moses was a name for Harriet Tubman, founder of the underground railroad. And Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was a song about taking that underground railroad north to freedom. (The swinging low of the sweet chariot is the rocking rhythm of a train.) In the midst of excruciatingly difficult lives, slaves used these songs to inspire inner strength and courage.

At the heart of the gospel music tradition was the use of a choir. The church choir consisted of a group of volunteer singers from the church congregation. Choir members could easily be distinguished from the rest of the congregation because they normally dressed in uniforms, which were choir robes. The type of feeling you may experience when listening to gospel music. By its very definition, the term gospel means good news. The types of music sang by the gospel choir followed the call and response format similar to that used in traditional hymns and sacred songs. The traditional structure of gospel music changed in the late 1930s when Thomas A. Dorsey began work for Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. Dorsey was a former jazz pianist and composer who had worked with famous players such as Ma Rainey and Hudson Tamp Red Whitaker. Dorsey infused his study of blues and jazz with traditional gospel music. This new style of music, known as gospel blues, was initially rejected. However, by the end of the 1930s, gospel blues won over acceptance as the new form of traditional gospel.

Thomas Dorsey, The Father of Gospel Music Gospel music continued to evolve throughout the late 1930s. There are four distinct styles of gospel music including, but not limited to, quartet style, traditional gospel, contemporary gospel, and praise and worship. The Gospel quartet style is one in which a small number of male vocalists sing music together with tight harmonies.The major difference between traditional and contemporary gospel styles is that contemporary gospel places more emphasis on the solo artists as opposed to the choir. Most contemporary artists rarely sing with a choir. Praise and worship is a combination of both contemporary and traditional gospel styles, in that a praise leader has a small group of singers to help lead the congregation into singing gospel music. In addition to Thomas Dorsey, there are many others who contributed to the development of gospel music including James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson. James Cleveland was a member of Pilgrim Baptist Church and sang under the direction of Thomas Dorsey. Cleveland was the founder of the Gospel Music Workshop Association (GMWA), the first gospel artist to record a live gospel LP, and the first gospel artist to sell 50,000 albums. It is a living experience, always changing, always giving, and always becoming the foundation that gave moral, physical and spiritual support to a great and powerful people.Mahalia-Jackson-2a

The influence of Mahalia Jackson is evident in her style and references to the storms of life
and of the good that is produced through overcoming adversity. Her melodious voice
stirred listeners as they “Moved On Up A Little Bit Higher” and invited them to participate in
her songs. She developed a flair for composing songs that moved the heart and regenerated the soul of a people who looked to the hills from whence cometh their help. The songs were so exciting and popular that congregations automatically joined in the singing and shouting as they lifted up the name of Jesus. It is the Alpha and Omega of God’s spiritual principle that plays upon the keyboard of mans integrity. It is a resonance, an echoing sound throughout the ages that has surrendered the wonders of God’s Almighty creations. The roots of gospel music are not well documented. Early recordings were lost. Stories behind the songs weren’t written down. A new book recounts the history of the beloved American art form.

After thousands of years, the sound of Gospel Music is still enthralling and captivating because it stands against the social background as a shadow of today’s community problems and dilemmas. From the 1930’s to the 1960’s desperate circumstances controlled our lives; despair and hope, life and death; but Gospel Music mirrored our predicaments as a collective group of people, it reflected upon our social status, and eventually reverberated in our made up minds that God was indeed on our sides.

What Is Jazz + Billie Holiday

Dr. Billy Taylor, noted jazz pianist, historian, and educator, shares glimpses of his extensive knowledge of jazz music from its roots in the African-American slavery experience, through the early days of ragtime, and onward through swing, bop, and progressive jazz. Dr. Taylor combines academic research with a wealth of personal knowledge of the music and shares many fascinating anecdotes about the great artists of jazz. He cautions, however, that four hours is only long enough to scratch the surface. For an in depth look at jazz history, get a copy of “Jazz Piano, A Jazz History.” Jazz an American art form and an international phenomenon! Jazz is not the result of choosing a tune, but an ideal that is created first in the mind, inspired by ones passion and willed next in playing music.

Jazz music is a language, sometimes intimate, often boisterous, but always layered with experience and life. Jazz is the most significant form of musical expression in American culture and outstanding contribution to the art of music. From obscure origins in New Orleans over a century ago, the music and the word we use for it are now familiar the world over. Like the self- motivating, energetic solos that distinguish the genre, Jazz continues to evolve and seek new levels of artistic expression. In slightly over one hundred years, this evolution has given birth to approximately two dozen distinct Jazz styles. Jazz music draws from life experience and human emotion as the inspiration of the creative force, and through this discourse is chronicled the story of its people. Jazz musicians and those that follow the genre closely, can indeed be thought of as an artistic community complete with its leaders, spokesmen, innovators, aficionados, members and fans.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday at the age of 18 and after gaining more experience than most adult musicians can claim, Holiday was spotted by John Hammond and cut her first record as part of a studio group led by Benny Goodman, who was then just on the verge of public prominence. In 1935 Holiday’s career got a big push when she recorded four sides that went on to become hits, including “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown to You.” This landed her a recording contract of her own, and then, until 1942, she recorded a number of master tracks that would ultimately become an important building block of early
American jazz music.

Billie Holiday began working with Lester Young in 1936, who pegged her with her now-famous nickname of “Lady Day.” When Holiday joined Count Basie in 1937 and then Artie Shaw in 1938, she became one of the very first black women to work with a white orchestra, an impressive accomplishment of her time. Billie Holiday was a true artist of her
day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, Holiday is remembered for her masterpieces, creativity and vivacity, as many of Holiday’s songs are as well known today as they were decades ago. Holiday’s poignant voice is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz voices of all time.

Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan) grew up in jazz talent-rich Baltimore in the 1920s. As a young teenager, Holiday served the beginning part of her so-called “apprenticeship” by singing along with records by Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong in after-hours jazz clubs. When Holiday’s mother, Sadie Fagan, moved to New York in search of a better job, Billie eventually went with her. She made her true singing debut in obscure Harlem nightclubs and borrowed her professional name – Billie Holiday  from screen star Billie Dove. Although she never underwent any technical training and never even so much as learned how to read music, Holiday quickly became an active participant in what was then one of the most vibrant jazz scenes in the country. She would move from one club to another, working for tips. She would sometimes sing with the accompaniment of a house piano player while other times she would work as part of a group of performers. In the 1930s, when Holiday was working with Columbia Records, she was first introduced to the poem
“Strange Fruit,” an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man. Though Columbia would not allow her to record the piece due to subject matter, Holiday went on to record the song with an alternate label, Commodore, and the song eventually became one of Holiday’s classics. It was “Strange Fruit” that eventually prompted Lady Day to continue more of her signature, moving ballads.

Billie Holiday recorded about 100 new recordings on another label, Verve, from 1952 to 1959. Her voice became more rugged and vulnerable on these tracks than earlier in her career. During this period, she toured Europe, and made her final studio recordings for the MGM label in March of 1959.Despite her lack of technical training, Holiday’s unique diction, inimitable phrasing and acute dramatic intensity made her the outstanding jazz singer of her day. White gardenias, worn in her hair, became her trademark. “Singing songs like the ‘The Man I Love’ or ‘Porgy’ is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I’ve lived songs like that.” Billie Holiday, a musical legend still popular today, died an untimely death at the age of 44. Her emotive voice, innovative techniques and touching songs will forever be remembered and enjoyed.