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Form of black American music derived from Pentecostal church worship services and from spiritual and blues singing. Recordings of Pentecostal preachers' sermons were immensely popular among African Americans in the 1920s. Taking the scriptural direction Let everything that breathes praise the Lord (Psalm 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed timbrels, pianos, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and even brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in antiphonal counterpoint with the preacher's sermon. Other forms of gospel music have included the singing and acoustic guitar playing of itinerant street preachers; individual secular performers; and harmonizing male quartets, whose acts included dance routines and stylized costumes. Gospel music's principal composers and practitioners included Thomas A. Dorsey, who coined the term; the Rev. C.A. Tindley (1851–1933); the blind wandering preacher Rev. Gary Davis (1896–1972); Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–73), whose performances took gospel into nightclubs and theatres in the 1930s; and Mahalia Jackson. Gospel music was a significant influence on rhythm and blues and soul music, which have in turn strongly influenced contemporary gospel music.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on gospel music, visit Britannica.com.
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