Thomas Dorsey first helped popularize black gospel music in the 1930’s. The son of a Baptist preacher, Dorsey combined shouts of praise and emotional fervor with a contemporary style.
Whether swaying with gospel choirs, tapping along with quartets, or simply raising hands to the rhythm of soul-stirring songs, gospel music can be seen and heard throughout black America.
Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago is ground zero for gospel music, the place where Dorsey first introduced the sound.
“Chicago has been known as the birthplace of gospel music primarily because when the great migration took place in 1926 and blacks came from Mississippi areas like that to Chicago,” said Don Jackson of Central City Productions. “It was a time when they had all of the blues and the R&B places on the southside and that’s where the majority of the churches were. It was a city within a city, and so Thomas Dorsey and that sound in Pilgrim grew.”
Jackson, who is also founder of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, is the mind and power behind the new National Museum of Gospel Music.
He sees gospel music as the foundation of faith for many in the black community.
“We go to church more than any other segment of our population because that’s what we need — those positive messages for the single moms, poverty-stricken areas,” explained Jackson. “What drives those churches mostly is the inspirational music that happens to be gospel music.”
He continued, “One thing I like about it is the music itself — it doesn’t apologize for using the name of Jesus.”
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