What is Gospel Music?

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A genre of Christian music that can be used for many different purposes, the main one that comes to mind is the music used in worship. The basic themes of gospel music are surrounding Christian themes and messages. These Christian themes are played out as ones of testimony, persuasion, religious experience, exhortation, or warning.  This genre of music has a long history that stems from oral traditions in the seventeenth-century but gained popularity in the twentieth century with the invention of the radio. But the true popularity of contemporary gospel music stems after World War II, gospel music moved to larger venues and joined the popular stream. This led to a divergence of the types of gospel music, where the standard was no longer the traditional orchestral music we know from church services.  This developed into several different genres of gospel music; gospel blues, Christian country music, southern gospel, or bluegrass gospel to name a few. These other genres of gospel music incorporate different styles of music with the Christian themes. Additionally, these different genres of gospel music bring a variety that will suit any taste.By exploring the history of gospel music and the various genres can show how the music evolves with the times.

Gospel Blues:


  • This genre combines blues guitar with Christian lyrics. Other popular instrument choices are drums, pianos, organs, and electric guitars to create the blues sounds.
  • There have been some notable gospel blues performers such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Reverend Gary Davis.
  • Interestingly in the late fifties and sixties, there were some musicians who were devout and some even were practicing clergy. That would allow for fun services with some gospel blues from the pastor.

Christian Country:


  • The main focus of this genre is to provide an alternative to mainstream music for Christians. Interestingly this music genre is both subcategories for gospel and country music.
  • Performers write music that expresses either personal or communal belief that involves Christian life. The context varies by the culture and social context but still maintains the common themes of praise and worship to God and Christ.
  • This is one of the most popular versions of gospel music with many radio stations and artists. The most popular radio show known is the Grand Ole Opry that included Christian country music. Even popular country stars have recorded country albums such as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

Southern Gospel:


  • This genre stems from the Southeastern US and like Christian country, it provides an alternative to Christians to mainstream music.
  • Fun Fact: Southern gospel is also recognized as quartet music. This is from the traditional setup of piano and 4 men.
  • While this has developed in few decades, there are many notable artists. J.D. Sumner and The Stamps toured with Elvis Presley. Another artist is Anthony Burger, who was a piano protégée. Interestingly Burger was added to Steinway & Sons exclusive roster of endorsing artists, the first Southern gospel pianist to hold the honor.

By learning about gospel music and several of the genres, why is that important? Gospel music plays into many aspects of contemporary life. Understanding the music and where it evolved from, the influences and exchanges from outside sources show how music fills a need and responds to the times. Gospel music has developed from the seventeenth-century and now artists like Johnny Cash are utilizing the genre for their music. This brings gospel music into the mainstream and makes its various genres suited to anybody’s taste which makes its Christian music in the mainstream.


I am a lover of gospel music and one of my favorite things is to share is fun facts about. I grew up around Southern gospel as a genre and have loved it ever since I was little.