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Roxanne R. Reed

[Delois Barrett and the Barrett Sisters]

Gospel trio. Its members were Delores [Delois] (soprano), Billie (alto), and Rhodessa (high soprano) Barrett. Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, they grew up with seven other siblings and were members of the Morning Star Baptist Church where they sang in a choir directed by their aunt. As the Barrett–Hudson Singers, Delores and Billie had performed in a group with a cousin, whom Rhodessa later replaced to form the Barrett Sisters. Delores, the eldest and the group’s leader, started singing at the age of six. Her professional career began in earnest after graduating from Englewood High School, when she became the first female to join the Roberta Martin Singers (1944; see martin, Roberta ). Billie and Rhodessa received some formal training, but it was through the Roberta Martin Singers that Delores learned technique and honed her individual style, along with the unique ensemble quality known as the Roberta Martin sound. Delores continued to sing with Martin from time to time, even as the Barrett Sisters took shape. Getting their start as an African American gospel trio, the Barrett Sisters first recorded with the label Savoy (...

Article

Shawn Young

(b Paducah, KY, Nov 21, 1962). American singer-songwriter, record producer, and social activist. His father was a guitar teacher, and Steven played and sang at an early age. A respected figure in contemporary Christian music (CCM), Chapman is known for his unique mixture of country music, bluegrass, and pop-rock. The recipient of multiple Grammy Awards and Dove Awards, Chapman (along with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith) set the standard for the burgeoning Nashville-based CCM music scene. His eclectic approach is, in part, a result of multiple collaborations throughout his career. Before becoming a CCM icon, Chapman penned songs for the Imperials, Sandi Patty, Charlie Daniels, and Glen Campbell.

Chapman’s country roots never dulled his ability to effectively emulate chart-topping artists of the mainstream. Influenced by Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis, his first albums offered CCM fans the pop sensibilities of Top-40 music of the 1980s and 90s. A reflection on tragedy and commitment, “I Will Be Here” (Sparrow, ...

Article

Shawn Young

(b Augusta, GA, Nov 25, 1960). American singer-songwriter and author. Amy Grant is one of the most successful artists in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and one of the first CCM musicians to achieve major success in the general market. Grant’s love for music was crystallized when her family moved from Augusta to Nashville, the center of the gospel and country music industries. Her rise to fame began when a demo tape she made for her parents fell into the hands of Chris Christian at the Home Sweet Home recording studio where Grant swept the floors. At 15 she was offered a contract with Word Records. Word’s subsidiary label, Myrrh, released Grant’s first set of albums, produced by Brown Bannister, former leader of Grant’s high school youth fellowship. Her breakthrough effort, Age to Age (1982) became the first CCM album to be certified platinum, in 1985. Lead Me On...

Article

Emmett G. Price III

(b Oakland, CA, Aug 18, 1943). American gospel singer, songwriter, and producer. He began piano at five and by seven accompanied the Hawkins family group. In 1967 along with Betty Watson, he founded the Northern California State Youth Choir with the aim of singing at the annual COGIC youth conference in Washington DC. As a fundraiser, the choir recorded Let Us Go Into the House. Although the group planned to sell the album locally, “Oh Happy Day,” played on San Francisco’s KSAN and became an instant hit. Renamed the Edwin Hawkins Singers, the choir signed to the Budda label in 1969 and toured worldwide, including many non-religious venues such as jazz clubs, concert halls, and stadiums. Since 1969, “Oh Happy Day” has sold over seven million copies and Hawkins’s arrangement remains the signature arrangement in gospel music.

Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s Hawkins continued to tour, compose, and record. He has produced some 20 albums, though none has matched the success of his first. In ...

Article

Emmett G. Price III

[Lady Tramaine Hawkins; The Lady]

(b San Francisco, CA, Oct 11, 1951). American gospel singer. Raised in the Ephesian Church of God in Christ, pastored by her grandfather, Bishop Elmer Elisha Cleveland, Tramaine Davis emerged as one of the most noted voices in contemporary gospel music during the 1970s. Her first recording was “I Love the Lord” as a member of the Heavenly Tones, a group that would later sing background with Sly & The Family Stone as Little Sister. In 1967 Edwin Hawkins assembled the Northern California State Youth Choir, with Tramaine as soloist. In addition to touring with the Edwin Hawkins Singers she also spent time with Andraé Crouch & the Disciples. In March of 1971 she and gospel songwriter and singer Walter Hawkins married. Although the two would later divorce, together they built a gospel music dynasty and dynamic ministry through the Love Alive album series and established the Love Center Ministries, Inc. in Oakland, California....

Article

Catherine Wojtanowski

(b Sarajevo, Yugoslavia [now Bosnia and Herzegovina], 1925). American singer and guitarist. Growing up in a Sephardic Jewish community, she learned Balkan folklore as well as traditional songs in the Ladino language with guidance from her grandmother. In 1946 she married a serviceman and immigrated to the United States, where she has become known as the Flame of Sephardic Music because of the strength of her commitment to this unique musical heritage. In addition to transcribing, performing, and teaching traditional Ladino material, Jagoda has composed and arranged new Sephardic songs. She also has performed material drawn from biblical verses, poems, and prayers. She has recorded several albums, which often recall her early experiences, including Memories of Sarajevo (1996) and Kantikas di mi Nona (Songs of my Grandmother) (1996). She also published The Flory Jagoda Songbook: Memories of Sarajevo (1996), which includes songs and stories about her family history. She is featured in the documentary ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Montgomery, AL, 1919; d New York, NY, Jan 6, 2009). American gospel singer. After leaving high school he took a job in the coal mines of West Virginia and in 1938 organized a gospel quartet, the Four Harmony Kings, with his brother and two miners. When the group became established its members were Jeter (first tenor and lead), Solomon Womack (second lead), John Myles (baritone), and Henry Bossard (bass). They performed in the traditional barbershop style, in which Jeter’s light and lyrical voice, as well as his extraordinary falsetto, contrasted well with Womack’s heavier, energetic tenor. The group moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and worked as full-time professional singers, broadcasting five days a week on WNOX. In order to advertise the bakery that sponsored their broadcasts, they changed their name to the Swan silvertones . Under this title they made their first recordings, All Alone (1947) and ...

Article

Carrie Allen Tipton

(b Henry, TN, Sept 18, 1938). American gospel music television and radio host, singer, choir director, and media executive. He began singing publicly in the Methodist church as a child, although his first exposure to gospel music came in sanctified churches. His involvement with gospel music deepened in Nashville when he served as keyboard player, singer, and director for church and civic choirs while studying at Tennessee State University. In 1978 Jones recorded the first of many albums with his small ensemble, the New Life Singers, whose aesthetic leaned more toward contemporary Christian music than black gospel. Around this time he began hosting children’s and gospel music shows on Nashville television stations. In 1980 Black Entertainment Television began broadcasting one of these programs, Bobby Jones Gospel. The popular program has featured performances by Jones’s ensembles, established gospel stars, and up-and-coming gospel artists. Firmly within the gospel entrepreneurial tradition, Jones’s other enterprises include music festivals, workshops, radio shows, the gospel opera ...

Article

(b Shoah, Ethiopia, 1949). Ethiopian singer, church musician, and liturgical scholar, naturalized American. Seyoum began studying music at the age of eight and attended various religious schools in his homeland. As he grew older, he began to learn new types of performance, including the Bethlehem style of singing, Christian chant, and sacred dance. At 17 years of age, he was already named a quanygeta, or “leader of the right hand side,” an important position among Ethiopian church musicians (also called dabrata). He quickly rose from deacon to marigeta, the leader of the musicians. He spent ten years in Greece learning more about liturgical practices and then came to the United States in 1982. Seyoum settled in Alexandria, Virgina, and joined the Debre Selam Kidist Mariam Church in Washington, DC. He became a leader there, and his remarkable musical skills have led to the preservation of many traditional elements of the Ethiopian Christian tradition in America. To codify and disseminate these practices, Seyoum released a six-CD set of liturgical materials. He has memorized the entirety of the Ethiopian Psalter (Dawit) and has intimate knowledge of other sacred books, such as the Ethiopian Hymnary. Seyoum is an expert of instrumental church practices, including those that are tied to the extremely complicated notational system from Ethiopia that includes more than 600 symbols. He is also the only living master of the prayer staff and its movements (an art called ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Winchester, ON, Feb 1, 1909; d Asheville, NC, April 16, 2013). Canadian gospel singer, naturalized American. He learned music from both of his parents; his father was a Methodist miniser who played the violin, and his mother played both piano and organ. He sang in the church choir and performed at church meetings in the Ottawa Valley. He attended Annesley College in Canada and also Houghton College in New York, where he sang in the glee club and took lessons from Herman Baker. He did not graduate and instead moved to New York, taking a job in insurance but continuing to study voice, with Gino Monaco. He won singing roles on radio, but resisted a pop career because he was uncomfortable with secular songs. He began his recording career singing gospel music for Decca Records in the late 1930s, then moved in 1939 to Chicago where he worked as a radio staff announcer and soloist. This soon led to roles on the ABC radio show “Club Time” and as featured soloist on Billy Graham’s hymn program “Song in the Night.” He has remained with Graham’s organization ever since, and his powerful baritone voice is known to many millions through his role as soloist for the Billy Graham Crusades, starting in ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Spartanburg, SC, 1925; d Philadelphia, PA, June 24, 2008). American gospel singer. He began singing at any early age, leading the devotional singing for chapel services at school, and as a teenager formed the group the Gospel Carriers. When he was 14 he attended a battle of song between a local group, the Heavenly Gospel Singers, and the traveling Dixie hummingbirds . When the latter won the contest, Tucker sought membership in the group and became first tenor and lead. Shortly afterwards the Dixie Hummingbirds began recording and soon had a hit with “Joshua journeyed to Jericho” (1939). They performed in a style similar to that of the sweet jubilee quartets of the 1930s, concentrating on well-modulated head tones and precise attacks and releases; they also made use of slight body movements. Tucker’s vocal give-and-take with tenor, James Walker, became distinctive, as did Tucker’s ecstatic scream, something he attributed to Southern preachers. After the group moved to Philadelphia in ...