Gospel music is a religious form of music that has widespread popularity and a long history. Both white and black artists and congregations sing gospel music. However, the two groups frequently find themselves singing two distinctively different forms of the music. White gospel music is often referred to as southern gospel music; whereas, traditional gospel music is referred to as black gospel music.
Black gospel music sprang from the spiritual music of the late nineteenth century that occurred throughout the southern states of the United States. It expresses the Christian experience in a lively and meaningful manner. The words of the music portray a message of hope and salvation. Since much of the music sprang from the African-American churches of the early twentieth century, the black cultural experience is at the very center of the music.
Black gospel music is a lively expression of rural folk life blended with music, poetry, dance, and dramatic expressiveness. The manner in which the words are expressed is just as important as the words themselves. Often, gospel music is interactive in nature. The gospel experience belongs not only to the choir, but also to the congregation. Today, black gospel music choirs are larger than ever, producing an even more exuberant musical experience.
The separation between the two types of gospel music is societal rather than anything else. Although songs from the two traditions are very distinctive, artists from either tradition will sing songs belonging to the other. The expressiveness and spiritual nature of the music is apparent in both forms.
In 1971, the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame was established by the GMA foundation for the recognition of artists of gospel music and their contributions to society. Established in 1964, the GMA Foundation is dedicated to the promotion of the gospel through music. The GMA has over 4,000 members who are dedicated to the celebration and proclamation of the gospel through music.
Among the singers who have been inducted are Al Green, Billy Graham, Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pat Boone, and Petra. Most inductees have been recognized for the influence of their work or its longevity.
The GMA music awards recognize the achievements of many artists of gospel music. All genres of gospel music are considered for this award including, praise and worship, country, contemporary, pop, rock, children’s, urban, and Southern. The awards are given to several artists on an annual basis during a ceremonial function that is open to the public.