In my hometown there is the one major Black radio station as I am sure there are in other major cities with a significant Black population that plays your standard Rhythm and Blues songs along with some gospel on Sunday mornings even sometimes a gospel song thrown into the mix of other R and B songs. It is a peculiarity of Black Americans that I would often wonder about and something I never heard on White Rock stations. Black Americans can effortlessly shift from a secular song to a gospel song without an apparent cognitive dissonance. Whereas before I thought it kind of weird, now I can partly understand why that is. As people of the tribe of Judah music is a major part of who we are and the church from slavery on provided the early expressions of our musical abilities. Black American voices are like no other in the world. I can recognize Black Americans singing a song or someone mimicking us usually on the first note. I have heard in church Black men and women do things with their voice that I could never do, but have never heard any other people group do either. The backup singers to any soul group or gospel group are often as talented and melodious as the lead singer. Pattie LaBelle’s back up singer Debbie Henry comes to mind as an example as well as Cissy Houston mother of Whitney Houston and the singer of that aerial note for Aretha Franklin on Aint No Way. I have yet to hear someone attempt that note on a remake of that song.
I recall watching a video once about Motown and one of the musical influences of their sound was from gospel black church music. It is noted as one of the features of the music that made it distinctive. In describing the Motown sound on Wikipedia it states, "Crafted with an ear towards pop appeal, the Motown Sound typically used tambourines to accent the back beat prominent and often melodic electric bass-guitar lines, distinctive melodic and chord structures, and a call-and-response singing style that originated in gospel music." Most tellingly Wiki goes on to say, “Despite the growth of popular music being written and performed by black artists, the songs would not become popular or recognized unless the music was being performed by white performers. However, the Motown Sound became so distinctly unique, making it impossible for white performers to replicate its sound. The "real" Motown Sound became more favorable than the altered, watered-down renditions.” What in all probability made the Motown sound impossible for white performers to replicate was the call-and-response singing indigenous to gospel music. That is just something unique to Black gospel and likely ancestrally a part of the people of Judah.
Aretha Franklin is known as the Queen of Soul but before she was known as that she was a gospel singer in her father’s church. I had a pastor who grew up in St. Louis and whose father was a pastor as well and he would talk about Aretha and her singing in church and his stories were always quite humorous. I assume being a preacher’s kid he witnessed many on goings in the Black church but it came across that Aretha’s singing was legendary in the Black Southern Baptist circuit. So it is somewhat amusing that in her early years she appeared on the Merv Griffin show singing a Do Right Woman in 1967 and in his introduction he called her “an unusual young singer.” I’m not really sure what was unusual about her except maybe her gospel style of singing that any Black Baptist consistent church attendee would recognize. I really came to appreciate Aretha’s musical talent recently as an adult when I discovered more of her songs and the fact that she played the piano and by ear no less.
In the movie biopic Get On Up, I was surprised to learn that even James Brown was influenced at a young age at least per the movie by Black church singing. It is intimated that he copied a preacher moves in terms of dance and although the church scene is not one I would associate with Southern Baptist, they made a point to show women in white falling back in the spirit so I assumed they must have been Pentecostal. I additionally did not know he begin his career with a gospel group so that once again the church is a major source of inspiration for what would become a legendary singer. In the movie Ray, Ray Charles incorporation of gospel sounds caused some controversy, but I suppose people got over it. It may have laid the ground work for singers going between the profane so to speak and the sacred and lend some understanding as to why some Black singers at least from the days of yore would switch between secular to gospel on a dime.
For example, the Commodores were a R&B group of the 70’s / 80’s with a compilation of great songs such as Just To Be Close To You, Brick House, Easy Like Sunday Morning et al. , but they also recorded in my opinion one the best gospel songs ever in Jesus Is Love. The fact that they were secular artist did nothing to mitigate Lionel’s Richie ability to pen and sing one of their best song’s that could easily bring a tear to the eye. Well, that must have done it for Satan and his little helper’s. They could not have these artist singing about Jesus when they needed to get rid of Black Americans and the easy slide for the early R&B singers from the mainstream back to their gospel roots needed to be whittled away. So the gold had to go and the dross of toxic criminal rap music had to be made the face of Black American music. The following below are some examples of what I deem to be gold. I am as yet undecided about showing examples of dross.