Work the Works: The Role of African-American Women in the Development of Contemporary Gospel

By Kernodle, Tammy L. | Black Music Research Journal, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Work the Works: The Role of African-American Women in the Development of Contemporary Gospel


Kernodle, Tammy L., Black Music Research Journal


"I must work the works of Him who sent me while it's day, for when the night is come the time for work will be done away. Would you be willing to work for Jesus any time and every day? He'll reward you when He comes to take His bride away."

--Danniebelle Hall, "Work the Works"

The popularity of black gospel music has expanded beyond the grassroots network of churches and small concert venues that powered the genre to new heights in the 1950s and early 1960s. Today, gospel has earned a distinct place on mainstream black radio, and gospel videos have moved from being shown on Sunday mornings between 11 A.M. and noon and are now played in rotation with Missy Elliott, Tupac Shakur, and Mariah Carey on BET and VH1. Recent marketing strategies that include concert tours, music videos, e-mail listservs, downloadable ring tones, concert DVDs, and movies have placed the genre's profits well above other forms of popular music. At the center of this popularity is a creative community of singers, composers, producers, instrumentalists, and independent and major records companies that have drawn from myriad musical styles and production methods.

More important is gospel's meteoric evolution to a form that today is emblematic of the social, economic, and musical beliefs of the urban identities and theological perspectives that developed in the generations that followed the civil rights movement. The term contemporary gospel, much like its counterpart traditional gospel, has served as an umbrella term that represents the stylistic characteristics and production methods that have defined gospel music from circa 1968 forward. Turn on gospel radio today or download the newest gospel single, and you will hear a complex arrangement of sampled bass lines, explosive rhythms, and intricate vocal interactions that are more reflective of the sound identities that each performer, production team, and record company has created than one singular sound. With the growing influence that R&B, jazz, Western art music, and hip-hop have had on contemporary gospel, producers such as Donald Lawrence, Kevin Bond, Kurt Carr, and J. Moss have become as notable if not as popular as the performers.

While the criticism against "secular-sounding" gospel music has grown, and fears that the church has "lost" gospel to the world are nurtured in many traditional circles, the influence of the music--and its accompanying images of dancing choirs, glamorized and highly coiffed purveyors in the newest and hippest fashions--on younger and secular audiences has not lessened.

Central to understanding the history and development of contemporary gospel is the role gender that has played in its basic practice and conceptualization. While black men have continued to hold important roles as composers, producers, instrumentalists, and CEOs in gospel music, women have shaped the performance aesthetic of the genre. It was, after all, the creative textural interpretation and vocal dexterity of female vocalists that gave Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, and Andrae Crouch their signature sounds. Today, artists such as Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans, Shirley Caesar, and the Clark Sisters have defined and in some cases redefined the sound and image of contemporary gospel and placed it in the realm of mainstream popularity that continues in the vein of singers Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Clara Ward, who spread gospel beyond the boundaries of black churches and popularized it on concert stages and in nightclubs during the 1940s and 1950s.

Framing the present discussion around the post-civil rights generations (1969-present), specific performers, and the performance approaches each has introduced or popularized, I consider the contributions of African-American women to the development of contemporary gospel music. (1) In an effort to bring clearer understanding to the ever-evolving concept of "contemporary," this discussion extends beyond the work of previous scholars, which has focused on the contemporary gospel sound of the late 1960s and early 1970s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Work the Works: The Role of African-American Women in the Development of Contemporary Gospel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.