Have you ever heard a song that moved you to the point where you wanted to tell all of your friends about it? Well, that’s the type of feeling you may experience when listening to gospel music.
By its very definition, the term gospel means ‘good news.’ Gospel music is one of the vehicles through which the ideals of Christianity have been spread to audiences all over the world.
‘Feed your soul’ has been a statement I’ve heard for years from my mother. A spiritual woman, my mother has always encouraged me to center myself and connect with the universe (GOD) in the ways that empower me.
Recently my neighbor committed suicide, and it’s affected me because I remember when I wanted to end it all. During that time in my life, doubt, failure, and social media controlled how I felt about myself.
Yes, social media was a big issue in my life. At 45, the mirror and the reflection was nothing I envisioned when I was 18, graduating from High School. It was the years when I was the center of attention, Senior Class President of the class of 1990 of a predominantly Caucasian school.
I thought I could achieve anything, but of course, the truth set in years later. Life beat me up. My skin color became an issue, my desire to be loved as a gay man, and the appetite to achieve the impossible.
Achieving the impossible seemed so hard that I turned to sex and drugs to cover up the hurt, a temporary bandaid covering up the pain I was feeling within. I no longer believed in myself or in the words my mother instilled within me.
Sadly, many men and women in despair see no way out and walk in darkness. They feel like they are alone and have no one to talk to, but that’s far from the truth.
Silently mental illness, depression, and suicide are taboo subjects, and that should not be the case. And WHY? Suicide Statistics and Facts – SAVE
In my case, I was surviving solely on what I could see. Yes, social media played a huge role to give up on life. However, I searched deep within and found the answers, and although finding the answers to life and the reasons for life is different for each person. Whether it’s through mediation, counseling, from a spiritual home, or music; you can find the reasons to live and continue making the best out of life.
Gospel music is how I found strength and the motivation to live. It was a battle and a fight I thought I could not win, however, I did!
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 fusing 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.
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 types of music sung 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, who became known as the ‘Father of Gospel Music,’ began working 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 created a new style of gospel music called gospel blues, which infused his study of blues and jazz with traditional gospel music. It was initially rejected; however, by the end of the 1930s, gospel blues won over acceptance as the new form of traditional gospel.
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 while traditional gospel usually features a more basic sound suited for singing by a choir, contemporary gospel places more emphasis on solo artists. Most contemporary artists rarely sing with a choir.
The upcoming walk here in NYC to fight suicide and the death of my neighbor inspired this post. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some gospel songs that changed my life and gave me hope! I know music might not be the answer for everyone, but I hope it touches someone considering death over life. “IT GETS BETTER! HANG IN THERE!”
If you close your eyes and meditate while listening to these songs, I hope they provide you the strength to continue to fight! Whatever you believe, I am proof that the universe (GOD) will provide!