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Gospel music has long proven to be impactful across generations and genres. Since gaining popularity in the 1930’s, listeners have relished in the unique, rhythmic style that allows them to celebrate God – quite literally – to the beat of a new drum. Black gospel in particular has taken on many forms. From its traditional sound, highly influenced by the hymnody of Thomas Dorsey, it has metamorphosed into Urban Contemporary, British, Southern, Country, and Rap variations.

Gospel greats such as Albert E. Brumley and Mahalia Jackson made way for the next era of powerhouses, like The Clark Sisters, Kirk Franklin, and Yolanda Adams. Following suit, Mary, Mary, Jonathan McReynolds, DOE, and Deitrick Haddon walk in the footsteps of those giants.

However, the gospel music legacy doesn’t just live on through the multiplication of its artists. Secular musicians have been known to show appreciation for the signature sound and message as well. Some raised in the church, others simply fans of the music, they often sample, cover, and feature gospel hits and classics.

The late Aretha Franklin was a pinnacle in the industry for her crossover style. Selections like her 1968 hit, “Think,” quickly became a Pop classic and made way for other gospel-style songs to reach mainstream media. The 70’s had “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, the 80’s, “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood, and the early 2000’s, “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.

Alternatively, the 90’s had Kirk Franklin. Though he was not a secular artist, his music was, and still is, widely accepted by listeners in various walks of life, belief systems, denominations, and races. Some of his most recognizable songs of the decade, like “Stomp,” “Revolution,” and “Melodies from Heaven,” are still enjoyed in both secular and sacred settings. Franklin’s contribution opened the door for gospel – and God – to be relatable and approachable.

SEE ALSO – Melodies From Heaven: 9 Popular Kirk Franklin Samples

Rock, soul, and R&B find their roots in gospel music. Sam Cooke, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Elvis Presley all illustrate gospel music’s influence. Hip Hop is no stranger to gospel music either. Ironically, the combo seems to work effortlessly. A prime example is Kanye West’s 2004 hit “Jesus Walks.” The critically acclaimed song took the world by storm. Sampling “Walk with Me” by the ARC Choir, the tune was met with widespread success, peaking at no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Jesus Walks” was awarded a Grammy for Best Rap Song and received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. It was also listed at no. 19 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the 2000s list and later listed no. 273 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Other notable hip hop songs with gospel samples include “Views” by Drake (sampling “The Question” by The Winans); “Higher” by DJ Khaled featuring John Legend and Nipsey Hussle (sampling “Oh Give Thanks” by Myrna Summers) and “Threat 2 Society” by 2 Chainz (sampling “So Good to Be Alive by The Truthettes)

For almost a century gospel music has been bringing people together. This Black Music Month we celebrate its continued contribution.


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From Hymns To Hip Hop: Celebrating The Influence Of Gospel Music Across Genres  was originally published on