Just in time for Black History Month, PBS celebrated the historical legacy of gospel music on February 9 with the premiere of a Gospel live concert honoring how the soul-stirring sound influenced generations of Black music across an array genres.

Source: Courtesy / PBS

The lineup reflected this blend, too: Mali Music, LaTocha, Anthony Hamilton and The Ton3s, Lena Byrd Miles, Sheléa, John Legend, Tauren Wells, music director Alonzo “Zo” Harris and Erica Campbell who cohosted the show alongside Harvard scholar/documentarian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

PBS 'Gospel LIVE!'

Source: Courtesy / PBS

Erica Campbell opened the event with a traditional hymn, while Mali Music came in smooth with a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “He’s So Wonderful.” LaTocha followed with a remix to Xscape’s “Who Can I Run To,” and in what seemed effortlessly, Lena Byrd Miles embodied the beauty of the art in the delivery of gospel music, single-handedly repping all five of The Clark Sisters with covers of “Blessed and Highly Favored” and “You Brought The Sunshine.” Between Sheléa’s fermata and Tauren Wells’ spin on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” the show ended on a high note, but not before we learned about how gospel music directly impacted artists like Anthony Hamilton who honed his skills at Shiloh Baptist Church in Charlotte and John legend whose roots stem in the Pentecostal church where he learned to play the piano.

The PBS Gospel Live concert was a precursor to a 4-hour docu-series rooted in the power of gospel music.

Tying together the connection between gospel music and the Black experience, GOSPEL is a journey through decades of evolution in which the sound of gospel music shifted with the musical taste of the audience and cultural moments including the story-telling blues, the civil rights movement, the business of Black music, the emergence of hip-hop, and more.

PBS 'Gospel LIVE!'

Source: Courtesy / PBS

Gospel music was born in the slave era, but through this collective series — featuring scholars from around the nation and prominent music industry leads like Jekalyn Carr, Dionne Warwick and Vicki Mack Lataillade — we’re given a visual of how it evolved into a movement of its own and served as a starting point for many artists and traditions that connected biblical stories to the stories of Black Americans.

From the “Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who at the beginning of her career mixed her unique guitar style with blues and traditional gospel music, to Kirk Franklin’s fusion of sounds that reached the unchurched, and the “million dollar voice” of Aretha Franklin’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin who organized Detroit’s 1963 march to freedom where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an early version of his “I Have A Dream” speech, it was instances like these where preaching and singing came together in a popular form that would go on to reach billions worldwide.

PBS 'Gospel LIVE!'

Source: Courtesy / PBS

While the genre has grown into a global spiritual art form, GOSPEL even dives into the impact Chicago and Detroit had on gospel music, along with how the Martin and Morris Music Company opened a door for commercial marketing as the most successful Black-owned music publisher of gospel music in America in the mid-1900s.

PBS 'Gospel LIVE!'

Source: Courtesy / PBS

There’s a lot to learn in the combination of visuals. Check your local listing for a replay of Gospel LIVE! and the GOSPEL docu-series on PBS.

This article was contributed in partnership with our family over at Elev8.com, launching in 2024. For more Christian-center and wellness news, follow @Elev8inspo on social media.

Aliya Faust

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