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B.B. King

Source: MANUEL CENETA / Getty

Blues and what is known commercially as Black Gospel are inextricably connected.  Blues music first emerged in the Mississippi Delta, the Piedmont Southeast, Texas and Appalachia, around the turn of the twentieth century. Thomas Dorsey (July 1, 1899 – January 23, 1993) who would become known as “the father of black gospel music” had been a leading blues pianist known as Georgia Tom. In the early 1920’s Dorsey combined Christian hymns praise with the rhythms and chord structures of jazz and the blues. He also deviated from what had been largely worship from the “me as a part of a group” perspective of worship to the “I in direct relationship to God” focused way of relating musically. It was a musical shift that revolutionized the worship experience in the black church.  Interestingly, the music was initially shunned, due to its blues connection and feel – many calling it “the devil’s music” due to the darker, richer chord structure.  Ironically that same music is now recognized as traditional, and is widely used as the barometer for what is “acceptable” in new music trends in gospel.

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