Women have played an important role in gospel music since the early 20th century. Some of the most prominent performers include Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Karen Clark Sheard. They helped bring the power of gospel music black artists into the mainstream as musical innovators with empowering voices that left an indelible mark in the music industry. Although this music found its start in places of worship, its distinct sound and invigorating beat proved to be a music genre that touched the ears and hearts of a broad cross-section of Americans and people around the globe. The music of top gospel music black artists continues to fill the airwaves of the best gospel radio stations today for example:
Gospel Music and African American Performers
According to Sound Business: Great Women Of Gospel Music And The Transmission Of Tradition, the influence of gospel music on top vocalists such as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Karen Clark Sheard has left its mark on the American music industry. Despite the religious impact of the music, the talent of the performers in hand with the contagious beat and message of gospel music not only helped skyrocket these performers to stardom but also proved to influence the sound of other music genres. Male artists such as Kirk Franklin and Andrae Crouch cannot be overlooked when considering top gospel music black artists.
Mahalia Jackson earned her title as “The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer,” as the first international black gospel music star selling millions of records. She was also a civil rights activist and believed to be one of the most noted contraltos in the gospel genre. Her signature song “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” continues to move and inspire listeners today. She is a Multi-Grammy Award Winner and Grammy Award Hall of Famer with a career that spanned the 1920s until the early 1970s.
This male singer is most likely the bestselling Gospel artist of all time. As a modern performer, he has helped push black Gospel music the farthest, reaching mainstream fame with multiple Grammy Awards. He is a Stellar Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and producer who was regarded as a child prodigy when growing up in Fort Worth, Texas.
However, it was his 1993 cross-over hit, “Why We Sing” that stayed on the charts for almost two years that won him the spot as the first million-selling Gospel album artist. Despite his Christian ties, his controversial hit video and single “Stomp” featuring rapper Cheryl “Salt” James not only hit the Billboard’s Gospel, Urban and Top 40 Charts, but also received heavy rotation on MTV.
As an eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, arranger and producer, Andrae Crouch is celebrated as a modern-day pioneer. He is possibly the first to cross Gospel music into Christian music successfully. He has performed with artists across multiple genres including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Bono of U2, Crystal Lewis, Kirk Franklin, Whitney Houston, the Georgia Mass Choir and more.
Gospel music black artists also include many popular duos and groups. Brother and sister duo, Benjamin, and Priscilla Winans, who perform under the name BeBe and CeCe, are the first Gospel duo to reach number 1 on the Billboard Sales Chart. Talent runs in the family with older brothers Ronald, Marvin, Carvin and Michael Winans, better known as The Winans bringing a new sound to gospel with their mash-up of Urban Contemporary Gospel and Bible-based/inspirational lyrics. The Caravans all-female group was the first group to make a name for themselves through their distinct harmonies and chic sense of style. They reigned supreme as the favored female Gospel group for over a decade and are often played on thi online Black Gospel Radio station.
To get a taste of these artists and more,tune into featured online Gospel & inspirational radio stations across the United States.