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James Clyde Sellman

was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago, to Malcolm and Elitha Addison. Her father was an electrician, and her mother was a schoolteacher and housewife. She later recalled that “my father used to play the guitar, and my brothers were also involved in music, so music was always around me” (Blood, 2013). Her first stage appearance came in 1959 or 1960. Her brother Winston was performing at a community show in Tunapuna and called her out of the audience. She later appeared on television and on Radio Trinidad’s Sunday Serenade. While still a teenager, she made her first recording—a single for Arawak Records, featuring Paul McCartney’s “My Love” backed by her own song, “Tricked and Trapped,” on the B-side.

Her first full-length album, Born to Shine (1976 was released on the Trinidadian label KH Records It featured American style gospel inflected soul music and ...

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Alex Bradford was born in Bessemer, Alabama, where he grew up listening to the country Blues, gospel quartets, and music in the Holiness church. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, after serving in the United States Army in World War II (1939–1945). Bradford honed his singing and composing skills under the tutelage of gospel singers Mahalia Jackson and Roberta Martin. He composed “Since I Met Jesus” and “Let God Abide” for Martin. In 1954 Bradford created the Bradford Specials, an all-male gospel group. The Specials were famous for their colorful robes, soaring falsettos, and dramatic body gestures. Their biggest hit was Bradford's “Too Close to Heaven,” which sold over one million records. By 1960 Bradford had moved to New York, New York, where he began to experiment with gospel theater. Langston Hughes wrote the play Black Nativity for Bradford and Marion Williams in 1961 ...

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Dave Laing

(b Philadelphia, 1936; d Schiphol airport, Netherlands, Oct 10, 2010). American soul and gospel singer. He came from a family of Christian ministers and became known as the ‘Wonder-Boy Preacher’ after appearing on the radio in Philadelphia at the age of nine. Burke developed what he called his ‘rock and soul music’ in the early 1960s, recording hit versions of Harlan Howard's country and western song Just out of Reach (Of my Two Empty Arms) and Cry to me. Most of his best recordings were melodramatic ballads such as If You Need Me and Goodbye Baby, although the insistent dance song Everybody needs somebody to love was one of his biggest hits Like Ray Charles Burke helped to shape the soul music genre by adapting the vocal motifs of black American religious music to secular themes This approach was ...

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Marshanda Smith

During the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Shirley Ann Williams Caesar was recognized as one of the premier gospel singers in the world. In a recording career that stretched back to the 1960s, Caesar recorded more than forty albums, participated in sixteen compilations, performed in three gospel musicals, and successfully entered American popular consumer culture. The first gospel singer to win a Grammy award, Caesar won numerous other awards and accolades, including eleven Grammies, thirteen Stellar Gospel Music Awards, eighteen Dove Awards, three Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) gold certifications, a Soul Train Music Award, an Essence Magazine Award for Achievement in the Arts McDonald s Gospelfest Golden Circle Lifetime Achievement Award two NAACP Achievement Awards and a SESAC Lifetime Achievement Award as well as the prestigious James Cleveland Award The recipient of several honorary doctorate degrees and an inductee in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame ...

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Wynona Carr was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her first records were Each Day and Lord Jesus (both 1949), made after she had formed the Carr Singers, a traveling gospel quintet, in 1945. She is best known for “The Ball Game” (1952 one of a series ...

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Dave Marsh

(b Albany, GA, Sept 23, 1930; d Beverley Hills, CA, June 10, 2004). American rhythm-and-blues and soul singer, pianist and songwriter. Charles grew up in Greenville, Florida, in a poor black family, and at the age of five he contracted glaucoma; it went untreated and within a year he was blind. At the same age he also began playing the piano. Two years later he went to the St Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he studied composition and learnt to write music scores in braille. In 1945 Charles was orphaned and left school to form a combo which toured northern and central Florida He then moved to Seattle where he played in jazz trios developing a piano and vocal style heavily influenced by Charles Brown and Nat King Cole It was also at about this time that he ...

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James Sellman

During the 1950s and 1960s Ray Charles was a key figure in the development of Rhythm and Blues (R&B), an African American style that transformed American popular music. Charles and other black R&B musicians gave popular music a broader expressive range and a powerful rhythmic drive, laying the groundwork for rock and roll. In particular, Charles was a leader in incorporating the Gospel Music of the black church into secular music, investing his compositions with propulsive energy and emotional power.

Ray Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia, grew up in Greenville, Florida, where his parents, Aretha and Baily Robinson, had moved when he was three months old. The United States was experiencing the worst years of the Great Depression and Charles recalled Even compared to other blacks we were on the bottom Nothing below us except the ground At the age of four Charles developed ...

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Marc Anthony Neal

singer, bandleader, and entrepreneur, was born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia, the son of Bailey Robinson, a day worker, and Aretha (maiden name unknown). Charles's younger brother and only sibling drowned at age four. By the age of seven Charles had lost his sight to glaucoma and was sent to the State School for the Blind and Deaf in St. Augustine, Florida, where he remained until his mother's death when he was fifteen. It was during his time at the school for the blind, which was segregated by race, that he received formal piano lessons and learned to read braille. After his mother's death, he set out on his own, traveling and working as a musician around Jacksonville, Florida.

Charles's earliest influences as a musician were the jazz and blues pianist Charles Brown and the pianist and singer Nat King Cole His ability to learn the styles ...

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Donald Roe

singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Among the characters that the comedian Clerow “Flip” Wilson portrayed on his television variety show in the early 1970s was the sassy, “get you straight” Geraldine Jones, who routinely declared her love and devotion for Ray Charles. The fictional Geraldine, like legions of fans black and white, young and old, admired Charles not only for his considerable musical talent but also for his tenacity in overcoming blindness to become an American music icon.

Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Bailey Robinson, a married railroad track worker, and the teenager Aretha Williams a field hand and laundress Unwed and facing an uncertain future Williams moved with her son to Greenville Florida shortly after his birth Although his family was poor the young Ray lived a relatively happy and normal childhood until one terrible day ...

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James Edward Cleveland was born in Chicago, Illinois. A child prodigy, he began to play the piano when he was five years old. His family was too poor to afford a piano, so Cleveland practiced on his windowsill, painting the ledge with black and white keys. Growing up in Chicago, Cleveland was surrounded by the legends of the first generation of Gospel Music. At the age of eight, he sang as a soloist for the Junior Gospel Choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church directed by the “Father of Gospel Music,” Thomas Andrew Dorsey. Cleveland was also influenced by the Roberta Martin Singers, particularly Roberta Martin's piano playing.

By age fifteen Cleveland had joined the Thorne Crusaders, with whom he sang around Chicago until 1954 During this time he began composing and he wrote Grace is Sufficient for his idols the Roberta Martin Singers when he was ...

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Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Chicago, Dec 5, 1932; d Los Angeles, Feb 9, 1991). American gospel singer, composer and pianist. He started singing in Thomas A. Dorsey’s choir at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, and made his first solo appearance with it at the age of eight. He joined the Thorn Gospel Singers as a teenager, and remained with them for eight years. After his voice began to break, he strained to reach high notes, however, resulting in a throaty and gravelly quality that increased with the years. He began composing in his early teens and had his first great success, Grace is sufficient, at the age of 16. Between 1956 and 1960 he was a member of the Caravans the Gospelaires the Gospel Chimes and the Gospel All Stars During this period he was most prolific as a composer writing as many ...

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Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Los Angeles, July 1, 1942; d Los Angeles, January 8, 2015). American gospel singer, pianist and composer. As a child he served as a church pianist. After two years of study at Valley Junior College he withdrew to organize a gospel group, the Cogics (an acronym for the Church of God in Christ). This group, which included his twin sister Sandra, disbanded when their pianist Billy Preston took up a career in secular music, and in the late 1960s Crouch organized another group, the Disciples. Crouch’s performance style was varied: some songs are typical of the traditional gospel style (Soon and Very Soon, 1976 fast songs are often executed with the driving beat of secular soul music often to the accompaniment of a synthesizer with the Disciples providing a slick backing in the manner of a pop group ...

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Paul Oliver

(b between Clinton and Laurens, SC, April 30, 1896; d Hammonton, NJ, May 5, 1972). American gospel and blues singer and guitarist. He was blinded as a child, but learnt the harmonica, banjo and guitar by the age of seven. When his left wrist was broken it was incorrectly set, and the distortion enabled him to play unorthodox chords. As a member of a country string that included the legendary Blind Willie Walker, Davis acquired a broad repertory of rags, reels, carnival tunes and blues. His free-flowing blues technique, as in I’m throwin’ up my hands (1935, ARC) and recorded under the name of Blind Gary, had a great influence on other blues guitarists in the eastern USA. In 1933 Davis was ordained a minister in Washington, North Carolina, and afterwards played religious music almost exclusively. Lord stand by me (1935 ...

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Thomas A. Dorsey's name is synonymous with modern Gospel Music. Dorsey composed over 1,000 songs in his lifetime, half of which were published. With creative genius and business savvy, Dorsey popularized songs that combined the rhythm and tonality of Blues with lyrics about personal spiritual salvation. Countless gospel performers achieved their first success singing Dorsey's music. His most famous song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” is one of the most popular gospel songs in America.

Dorsey was born to Etta and Thomas Madison Dorsey. Thomas Madison was an itinerant preacher, and Etta played the organ in church. As a child, Dorsey was regularly exposed to spirituals and Baptist hymns. Extended family members introduced Dorsey to rural blues and shaped-note singing. In 1908 the family moved to Atlanta, where Dorsey learned to play the piano by watching pianists at a vaudeville theater on Decatur Street. Dorsey also saw Ma ...

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Charles Rosenberg

gospel and R&B singer, was born Marybelle Luraine Ellison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter and middle child of Thomas and Castina Ellison. Her father was a native of North Carolina, and her mother of Delaware, where the two met and married prior to 1918, when Ellison's oldest sister, Paulina was born. By 1924 the family had moved to Philadelphia, where James, Luraine, and younger siblings Jeanietta and Kenard were born. Thomas Ellison worked as a laborer on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, and later at a warehouse. It appears he never learned to write, because his World War II draft registration card is signed with a mark, and witnessed. Castina Thomas sometimes washed laundry for private homes.

Ellison began singing gospel music at the age of six, briefly with a group called the Sylvania Singers, before her family formed the Ellison Singers. In 1951 Ellison ...

Article

Kevin Brook

singer, was born Emily Drinkard in Newark, New Jersey, the youngest daughter of Nitch Drinkard, an African American sewing machine factory worker originally from Georgia, and Delia Mae McCaskill, a housewife of African American and Scottish descent who was born in Florida. Both of Houston's parents died before her nineteenth birthday. As a five-year-old she began to sing gospel music as the youngest member of her family's group, The Drinkard Four, at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Her service as the church's minister of music began in 1953 and continued into the twenty-first century. In 1954 she married Freddie Garland, with whom they had a son (Gary Garland), but they divorced two years later. After her marriage to John Houston Jr. in 1959 she officially became Emily Houston a name by which she was credited for singing and songwriting on some of the early records she worked ...

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Mahalia Jackson's father John Jackson worked on the New Orleans, Louisiana, docks during the week and preached the gospel on Sundays. Her mother, Charity Clark, died at twenty-five, four years after Jackson's birth. At her mother's death, Jackson moved in with her mother's sisters. She began singing at Plymouth Rock Baptist Church and later sang in Mount Moriah Baptist Church, as well as in several other neighborhood churches.

In addition to singing traditional church hymns on Sundays, Jackson heard the Blues and Jazz played constantly in the streets of New Orleans. Musicians like Joseph “King” Oliver played on the bandwagons in her neighborhood and in the dance halls she frequented as a child. Although jazz bands were ever present, the two most profound influences on the young woman were blues singer Bessie Smith and the music of the sanctified church She heard Smith s Careless Love and ...

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Joyce Marie Jackson

Mahalia Jackson, destined to become one of the greatest gospel singers of all time, was born in poverty in a three-room “shotgun” shack on Water Street between the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River levee in New Orleans. She was the third of six children. Her father, John A. Jackson, was a stevedore, barber, and Baptist preacher. Her mother, Charity Clark, died at twenty-five when Jackson was just a child.

Jackson began to sing at the age of four in the children’s choir at Plymouth Rock Baptist. After her mother’s death, her mother’s sisters, Mahalia “Aunt Duke” Paul, for whom Mahalia was named, and Bessie Kimble, both of New Orleans, raised Mahalia. They lived in the section of the city upriver from Audubon Park that would later be known as Black Pearl.

As a young girl growing up in New Orleans Jackson absorbed the musical sounds of ...

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Navneet Sethi

gospel singer. Mahalia Jackson was known as the Queen of Gospel; her voice was described by her friend Martin Luther King Jr. as “a voice [that] comes not once in a century but once in a millennium.” On listening to Jackson sing “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” or “Steal Away to Jesus,” one feels, not resignation at the prospect of leaving this world as a weary traveler, but rather unambiguous exultation in the anticipation of the welcome that awaits in the house of God.

Jackson's deeply experienced Christianity led her to gospel singing. Her unshakable religious bond defined the essence of her life, her vision, and her performance. Jackson's story is a testament to how the good news of the Gospel became through her voice the basis of a music not just of religious redemption but also of great power in the civil rights movement.

It was Jackson who brought ...

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After leaving the eighth grade, Sallie Martin moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and joined the Fire Baptized Holiness Church in 1916, where she learned to sing in the spontaneous and spirited manner of the church's sanctified folk. In 1932, Martin met Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father of Gospel Music,” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. This meeting spawned an eight-year business relationship, during which Martin traveled the country singing and promoting Dorsey's songs as well as organizing gospel choruses. Together they founded the Gospel Singers Convention, later known as the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. Martin and Dorsey severed their relationship in 1940, after which Martin went on to form her own singing groups and publishing company.

For a brief period, she teamed with Roberta Martin to form the Martin and Martin Gospel Singers After that she created the Sallie Martin Singers one of ...