Gospel Music

RIP: Pastor Steve Hawkins

By Robert M. Marovich A. Jeffrey LaValley informed JGM of the passing of his friend, gospel singer and pastor Steve Hawkins. Born in Waco, Texas, on Valentine’s Day, 1953 (“That’s why I’m such a sweetheart!” he chuckled during our 2014 interview), Hawkins was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where his father was pastor of the Jerusalem Church of God in Christ. As a youngster, Hawkins learned the finer points of singing from his mother. His uncle and aunt, Dorothy and Lawrence Abrams, took him on the road to open for the Original Five Blind Boys, in which Lawrence was a member ...

Read More »

How Gospel Music Influenced Mainstream Hits

By Cecille Richman, Guest Contributor While many might say that gospel music is incredibly niche, the opposite is actually true. Formed out of a mixture of African American folk music and religious hymns, it’s a soulful genre that has inspired countless others. Genres now considered foundational to American popular music, including soul, blues, and R&B, can all trace their history back to gospel. The recent launch of Legacy Music Group is proof of gospel music’s incredible influence and popularity. Hundreds of popular artists have made use of gospel music or gospel musical influences in their discographies. In a ZenBusiness guide ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: December 21, 2020

“Silent Night”HamiltonesFrom the Young Vintage CDA Hamiltone Christmas (release date: November 30, 2017)www.watchtheton3s.com By Robert M. Marovich Although labeled a soul and R&B group, the Hamiltones of North Carolina sound for all the world like a gospel quartet on “Silent Night.” From converting the song’s 6/8 time signature to 12/8 to the shouting vocals, gritty guitar work, adlibbing, and crackling vinyl intro, this is old school quartet, I don’t care what anybody says. Then again, the Grammy-nominated trio has been featured on albums by Anthony Hamilton, PJ Morton, Jonathan McReynolds, and Tori Kelly, so there’s that. Released in 2017, the ...

Read More »

RIP: Val Alexander (Gospel Keynotes)

By Robert M. Marovich Debra Robinson informed JGM yesterday that Val Alexander, longtime singer and guitarist for the Gospel Keynotes, passed away on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Alexander can be heard on Gospel Keynotes recordings as early as 1970. Here is a brief bio on the Gospel Keynotes: From Tyler, Texas, Willie Neal Johnson – affectionately known as “Country Boy” – began his professional singing career when Rev. C. W. Jackson invited him to join a local group, the Five Ways of Joy Gospel Singers, while he was still a teenager. The Five Ways of Joy instilled in Johnson a ...

Read More »

RIP: Ora Watkins-Jones (Southwest Michigan State Choir of COGIC)

By Robert M. Marovich Marcel West of Detroit informed JGM of the passing of Mother Ora Watkins-Jones, stalwart lead vocalist for the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ, under the direction of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Of a choir with more than 100 members, a few names stood out from the pack. Rose Marie Rimson-Brown. LaBarbara Whitehead. Vanessa Bell Armstrong. The Clark Sisters. Donald Vails. And Ora Watkins-Jones. Mother Watkins-Jones is perhaps best known for her vocal contribution, with Rimson-Brown (who passed away earlier this year), on the Southwest Michigan State Choir’s first radio hit, ...

Read More »

Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions: It’s a Soulful Christmas

Michelle David & the Gospel SessionsIt’s a Soulful Christmas(release date: November 27, 2020)http://michelledavidandthegospelsessions.com By Robert M. Marovich Holland’s Michelle David & the Gospel Sessions lend their stripped-down small-combo Sixties soul stylings to new and classic Christmas songs on It’s a Soulful Christmas. Looking a little like a Columbia Records release from the Sixties, the album art telegraphs the retro sounds within. David channels the coquettish soprano of Diana Ross throughout the project, most especially on the nearly note-for-note cover of Stevie Wonder’s quintessentially Motown “What Christmas Means to Me.” While the perky single “This Christmas (I’ll Be By Your Side)” ...

Read More »

Tasha Cobbs Leonard Named Billboard’s Top Gospel Artist Of The Decade

Singer Wraps Whirlwind Year With Holiday Programming Alongside Dolly Parton and Ne-Yo. Nashville, TN (December 11, 2020) – GRAMMY®-winning singer/songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard has been named Billboard’s Top Gospel Artist of the Decade. News of the top honor came late last week, as Billboard began announcing its year-end and decade-end charts. Cobbs Leonard was also named the Top Female Gospel Artist for the 3rd consecutive year. This year alone, Tasha Cobbs Leonard earned two additional RIAA® certifications—one Platinum certification for her hit single “Break Every Chain,” and a Gold certification (her third) for the #1 radio single “You Know My ...

Read More »

“Do You Believe” – PJ Morton feat. Yolanda Adams

“Do You Believe” PJ Morton feat. Yolanda Adams From the Morton Records CD Christmas with PJ Morton – Deluxe Edition (release date: November 20, 2020) By Robert M. Marovich Some songs sound as if you’ve heard them your whole life. “Do You Believe” is one of them. PJ Morton’s Christmas song has a buoyancy that is evocative of Donny Hathaway. Effervescent singing by Morton and Adams makes it sizzle. This is the version for others to emulate. Why it is not included among the holiday songs currently on pop radio’s Yuletide rotation is anyone’s guess. “Do You Believe” can be ...

Read More »

JGM Pick of the Week: December 7, 2020

“Born to Die” Angela Moss Poole 141st Lane Media (release date: 2014) www.AngelaMossPoole.com By Robert M. Marovich Not the Glenn Burleigh cantata, this “Born to Die” is a song written and performed by Dr. Angela Moss Poole of Miami, Florida. A bittersweet ballad, “Born to Die” reminds us of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Poole sets the song on that “special night” in Bethlehem, but she also references Christ’s ultimate sacrifice at the cross as the true gift that keeps on giving. An exceptional production and arrangement, coupled with Poole’s lithe soprano reading, sell this holiday treat, a re-release ...

Read More »

Shalom Church & Friends – Victorious (Live)

Dr. F. James Clark Presents Shalom Church & Friends Victorious (Live) EP City of Peace Music (release date: September 4, 2020) www.shalomandfriends.com By Robert M. Marovich The six-track Victorious (Live) is the latest release and the first of two new EPs by Dr. F. James Clark and Shalom Church (City of Peace) in Florissant, Missouri, a town situated north of St. Louis and near the conflux of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The megachurch choir’s five-star debut album, 2015’s Simply Amazing, lived up to its title. Dello Thedford, that album’s composer and conductor, is at the helm on Victorious. Thedford once ...

Read More »