Today we are celebrating some of the most inspiring and influential African
American songwriters and
composers in gospel music.
Charles Tindley was known as a powerful preacher. He was the first composer
to copyright church songs and was sometimes called the “grandfather of black
gospel music.” His hymn “I’ll Overcome Someday” was the inspiration for the
protest song “We Shall Overcome.” Other songs by Tindley include, “Leave It
There”, “Stand by Me”, “The Storm Is Passing Over”, and “We’ll Understand It
Better By and By”.
Thomas Dorsey was born July 1, 1899 in rural Georgia. Known as the “father of
black gospel music,” he learned religion from his Baptist minister father and piano
from his music teacher mother. After his family moved to Atlanta when he was 11,
Dorsey struggled in school and found a haven listening to local black musicians.
He soon dropped out of school and began playing piano in speakeasies, later
leading Ma Rainey’s jazz band. But Dorsey’s world came crashing down in 1931 when his wife, Nettie Harper, died giving birth to their first child who died a day
later. In his devastating grief, he wrote “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
Throughout his career, he penned 3,000 songs, a third of them
gospel...including... "Peace In The Valley."
Rev. Cleavant Derricks was born May 13, 1910, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He
is perhaps most famous for writing the hymn, “Just a Little Talk with Jesus,”
which was published in 1937. Just before he died, a record producer found out
Derricks had never received a dime for his hymns. He contacted a licensing service
and got them to pay royalties for six years, a total of $14,000. It’s been said,
clearly, Derricks wrote for his love of the Lord, knowing he could tell him “all
about our troubles” and he would “hear our faintest cry and answer by and by.”
Margaret Bonds was a 20th-century American composer, pianist, arranger and
teacher born March 3, 1913. She is Perhaps best-known for ‘He’s Got the Whole
World in His Hand’, which she arranged for soprano Leontyne Price in 1963. She
also collaborated closely with the leading poet Langston Hughes, writing music
that celebrated African American culture and values at the time of the Civil Right
Doris Akers was an African American gospel composer and vocalist born in
1923 in Brookfield, Missouri. She learned to play piano at age six, and wrote her
first song, "Keep the Fires Burning in Me," when she was ten. Akers is probably
best known for composing the songs “Sweet, Sweet Spirit,” “Sweet Jesus,” and “I
Cannot Fail the Lord." She also co-wrote “Lord, Don’t Move the Mountain” with
her long-time friend, Mahalia Jackson.
God bless their memory and their soul stirring contribution to the history of gospel music.