Explore the Rich Diversity of Gospel Music with Southern, Urban & Other Subgenres

Gospel music enthusiasts often find themselves lost in the vast sea of its diverse and soul-stirring subgenres. From the stirring depths of traditional gospel to the spirited rhythms of southern gospel, this musical form is a rich tapestry that reflects various cultures and traditions.

This article will guide you through an exploration of these vibrant styles, extending your appreciation for each unique melody and message. Discover more, enrich your musical journey!

Key Takeaways

  • Gospel music has many different styles like Traditional, Southern, and Urban Gospel. Each one shares faith messages in its own special way.
  • Southern Gospel is often called "quartet music" and it mixes hymns with catchy tunes from Country and pop.
  • Urban Gospel started in the 1980s with beats from R&B and hip-hop to reach younger people.
  • Artists bring gospel sounds into other types of music like country, hip-hop/rap, and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).
  • Big events like Dollywood’s Southern Gospel Jubilee celebrate this kind of music with lots of fans coming together.


Genres of Gospel Music

Traditional Gospel, Southern Gospel, and Urban Gospel are just a few of the diverse genres within the world of gospel music. Each genre brings its own unique sound and style to the table, catering to different musical preferences within the community.

Traditional Gospel

Traditional Gospel music lights up the room with its powerful choir and soul-stirring soloists. Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the father of black gospel, shaped this style in the 1930s.

It's a sound that fills churches large and small, where voices blend and rise together in harmony. The lively piano matches the energy of the singers, creating an experience that touches hearts.

This genre tells stories through song, often revealing deep emotions and sharing messages of hope and faith. Singers call out while others respond, making everyone feel part of something bigger.

Traditional Gospel continues to inspire people all over the world with its timeless melodies and enduring spirit.

Southern Gospel

Southern Gospel music brings to life the spirit of Christian faith through its powerful lyrics and harmonies. Often called "quartet music," it features a group of four singers with a piano, capturing hearts in church halls across the Southeastern United States.

This style celebrates biblical teachings and the everyday lives of believers, becoming a beloved tradition among many, especially baby boomers.

Artists in Southern Gospel often mix classic hymns with catchy melodies from Country and pop music. The result is Progressive Southern Gospel that still honors time-honored sounds while embracing Cajun twangs, Celtic strings, or even Bluegrass vibes.

Fans enjoy these tunes at festivals where they can sing along to favorites and feel connected through shared beliefs and joyous song.

Urban Gospel

Urban Gospel music brings the sounds of the city into worship, blending traditional praise with modern vibes. It started shaking up the gospel world in the 1980s and 1990s, adding beats from R&B, jazz, blues, and hip-hop to create something new.

This fresh style connects with younger listeners by using electronic instruments and lively urban rhythms.

Artists in Urban Gospel often belt out strong vocals that inspire crowds to clap and stomp along. The powerful messages remain rooted in faith just like older hymns but sound completely different.

This genre celebrates its African-American heritage and thrives in Black churches across America. Fans love how it stays true to gospel themes while echoing their everyday lives on city streets.

Influences of Gospel Music on Other Genres

The powerful and soulful sound of gospel music has influenced a wide range of other genres, from the country and southern twang to the rhythmic beats of hip-hop/rap and contemporary Christian music (CCM).

This influence can be heard in the melodies, vocal styles, and lyrical themes of these diverse musical forms.

Country and Southern Sound

Southern gospel music has a special place in the hearts of many, as it eloquently expresses personal and communal faith based on biblical teachings and the Christian way of life. This genre resonates particularly with baby boomers and those residing in the Southern United States, blending traditional spirituals with country and Appalachian folk music to create uplifting melodies with inspiring messages.

Progressive Southern gospel takes this tradition even further by infusing elements of modern Country and pop music, sometimes incorporating styles such as Cajun, Celtic, Bluegrass, or Southern rock.

On the other hand, Country gospel – also known as Christian country or white gospel – seamlessly merges traditional spirituals with mainstream country sound to create a fusion that uplifts listeners' spirits while evoking feelings of hope and positivity through its inspirational lyrics.


Urban contemporary gospel has been greatly influenced by hip-hop and rap, with artists like Lecrae making waves on the Billboard charts. The fusion of Christian themes with the rhythmic beats of hip-hop has resonated strongly, attracting a diverse audience to the uplifting messages conveyed through this music.

As urban contemporary gospel continues to evolve and expand its reach, it maintains its roots in delivering positive and relatable content that speaks to people's faith and experiences.

The impact of "Oh Happy Day" by Walter Hawkins in the late 1960s ushered in a new era for urban contemporary gospel, blending traditional elements with modern sounds. This evolution has seen an influx of Christian rappers bringing their unique style to deliver inspirational messages through infectious rhythms.

Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)

Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has evolved from traditional gospel, drawing influences from R&B, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. It resonates with modern audiences while maintaining the essence of gospel music.

Artists like Lecrae have propelled Christian rap/hip-hop into mainstream popularity by charting in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. CCM reflects a polished version of traditional gospel and continues to play an integral role in shaping modern religious music.

Influenced by various genres such as R&B and hip-hop, CCM offers a vibrant musical experience that engages listeners with its fusion of contemporary elements and timeless gospel themes.

Subgenres of Gospel Music

Explore the diverse subgenres of gospel music, from the soulful sounds of Gospel Blues to the rhythmic beats of Reggae Gospel and more. Dive into the unique styles that make each subgenre distinct and captivating.

Ready to discover the rich tapestry of gospel music? Let's explore!

Gospel Blues

Gospel blues infuses the emotive sound of blues guitar with soul-stirring evangelistic lyrics, resonating deeply within its listeners. This subgenre is steeped in a rich history and serves as a compelling bridge between the profound emotions of the blues and the uplifting message of gospel music.

Pioneered by influential artists like Blind Willie Johnson, gospel blues continues to inspire and uplift souls through its powerful combination of musical styles.

Envision the captivating fusion where heartfelt musical expression meets spiritual fervor - that's what gospel blues embodies. With its roots firmly planted in both genres, this expressive style draws in listeners with its raw authenticity and offers a unique avenue for experiencing faith through music.

Soul Gospel

Soul gospel, originating in the 1950s, is a powerful variation of black gospel music. It is known for its raw and emotionally charged delivery of religious content. This genre laid the groundwork for Southern soul music, bringing a distinctive flair to the world of gospel music with its passionate expression and fervent spirituality.

Soul Gospel has deeply resonated with audiences, leaving an indelible mark on the evolution of gospel music.

The pioneering nature of soul gospel has left an enduring legacy on the broader musical landscape. Its emotive style has influenced various genres and captivated diverse audiences worldwide.

Reggae Gospel

Reggae gospel blends the uplifting message of gospel music with the distinctive off-beat rhythm of reggae. With roots in Jamaican music, it carves a unique path by infusing Christian themes into reggae melodies.

It's an enriching fusion that resonates spirituality and faith through the infectious rhythms of reggae.

This genre has become a powerful medium to convey religious devotion within a musical form that captures attention and invokes deep emotions. As you explore the vibrant landscape of gospel subgenres, consider how reggae gospel showcases the universal appeal of spiritual expression through diverse musical influences.

Sacred Harp Singing

Sacred Harp singing, rooted in seventeenth-century England, is a cappella music without instruments. It has deep religious ties and is integral to Sunday mass at Black churches. Sacred Harp has influenced other gospel styles and holds a proud history within the genre.

Its origins relate to the United House of Prayer For All People and Sacred Steel.

This tradition, mandatory in Sunday mass, resonates deeply with churchgoers and choir members alike. Since its roots trace back centuries, it enriches the fabric of religious music with its emotive power and rich historical significance.

Sacred Steel

Sacred Steel, a vibrant musical tradition rooted in African-American gospel culture, emerged within Pentecostal churches during the 1930s. It predominantly features the dynamic and soul-stirring sounds of pedal steel guitar played within worship services to enhance spiritual experiences.

While traditional gospel music relies on vocals and piano accompaniment, Sacred Steel uniquely incorporates the pedal steel guitar to infuse a distinct energy into religious gatherings, creating an uplifting environment filled with heartfelt melodies and rhythmic fervor.

African-American worshippers have embraced Sacred Steel as a powerful means of expressing their faith through music, fostering a spirited connection with their religious beliefs. The use of pedal steel guitars has added depth and intensity to the musical dimension of gospel worship, captivating congregations and inspiring devout reverence for generations.

The Evolution of Gospel Music

From its roots in spirituals to the contemporary sounds of today, gospel music has continuously evolved, with notable artists and groups shaping its unique identity. To learn more about this fascinating evolution, keep reading!

From Spirituals to Contemporary Music

Spirituals, originated by black American slaves, merged African musical traditions with Christian themes. These heartfelt and poignant songs conveyed the struggles and hope of a community in bondage.

Traditional gospel, also known as black gospel, was formalized by Thomas A. Dorsey in the 1930s and typically showcases large church choirs with soloists. Pioneered in the 1980s, contemporary gospel presents a more polished rendition of traditional gospel while integrating influences from modern R & B, jazz, blues, and hip-hop.

This evolution has continually shaped the vibrant genre into what we celebrate today.

Notable Artists and Groups

Numerous notable artists and groups have left an indelible mark on gospel music. Their contributions have shaped the genre and inspired countless individuals. Here are some of these influential figures:


  1. Elvis Presley: Known for his gospel influences and recordings, he brought a unique blend of rock and gospel, leaving an enduring impact on the music world.
  2. Aretha Franklin: Revered as the "Queen of Soul," her powerful vocals and unwavering passion elevated gospel music to new heights.
  3. The Clark Sisters: This iconic group's harmonious melodies and profound lyrics have resonated deeply within the gospel community, earning them acclaim and admiration.
  4. Andraé Crouch: A trailblazer in urban contemporary gospel, his innovative approach transformed the genre, making him a pivotal figure in its evolution.
  5. Richard Smallwood: Renowned for his emotive compositions and soul-stirring performances, he has emerged as a luminary in modern gospel music.


The Power of Lyrics

Gospel music's power lies in its heartfelt lyrics, delivering messages of faith and hope. Traditional gospel tunes carry emotive verses that express deep personal or communal beliefs.

Meanwhile, contemporary gospel draws from modern R&B, jazz, and hip-hop, making the lyrics relatable to a wide audience. The fusion of reggae with Christian lyrics gives birth to reggae gospel music - a unique and powerful form of expression.

From Gospel Blues to Sacred Steel, the varied subgenres harness the power of lyrics to convey messages of unwavering faith and optimism.

Southern Gospel Festivals and Gatherings

Southern Gospel Festivals and Gatherings celebrate the rich tradition of gospel music in vibrant events across the country. During these gatherings, passionate believers come together to rejoice in uplifting music and powerful performances.


  1. Dollywood’s Southern Gospel Jubilee: Experience the harmony-filled celebration featuring top artists, quartets, and family groups.
  2. National Quartet Convention: Witness legendary acts and emerging talents displaying vocal excellence and spiritual inspiration.
  3. Gospel Music Fan Fair: Engage with fellow enthusiasts at a week-long festival that offers live concerts, autograph sessions, and fellowship opportunities.
  4. Brumley Gospel Sing: Delight in a century-old tradition where families and friends congregate for heartening performances amidst breathtaking natural surroundings.
  5. Gaither Homecoming Tours: Enjoy soul-stirring performances by renowned singers who share cherished hymns in an intimate setting that unites worshippers.
  6. Creekside Gospel Music Convention: Immerse yourself in an inclusive gathering showcasing diverse genres within the gospel tradition, fostering unity in faith through melodious expressions.
  7. Memphis Quartet Show: Discover passionate renditions of traditional gospel music as talented individuals honor its legacy through soulful presentations.


The Gospel Message

The Gospel Message carries a profound significance in the world of gospel music. It conveys the teachings and principles of Christianity through soul-stirring lyrics and melodies, offering hope, encouragement, and spiritual reflection.

Rooted in biblical themes, this message embodies faith, love, and redemption while also serving as a source of comfort and inspiration for believers.

Gospel music serves as a powerful medium to spread The Gospel Message across diverse communities. Through its uplifting tunes and heartfelt lyrics, it seeks to unite people in faith while proclaiming the timeless truths found within Christian teachings.


In conclusion, the diverse subgenres of gospel music offer a rich tapestry of musical expression. From the powerful call-and-response singing in spirituals to the energetic rhythm and blues influences of gospel blues, each subgenre reflects a unique blend of cultural and religious influences.

These styles not only celebrate faith but also serve as a testament to the resilience and creativity of communities. Whether it's through soul-stirring vocals or lively performances, these subgenres continue to inspire and uplift listeners around the world.


1. What kinds of music are included in gospel subgenres?

Gospel music includes a variety such as Southern Gospel with its lively spirit, Urban Gospel that blends hip hop and R&B styles, and Country Music which mixes gospel hymns with country sounds.

2. Can you tell me about some famous gospel artists?

Certainly! You've got legends like Sam Cooke who brought soul to gospel; Kirk Franklin who's known for his urban contemporary sound; and Johnny Cash whose songs often touched on spiritual themes.

3. Are there other forms of traditional American Gospel music?

Yes, there's Bluegrass Gospel that features fast-paced melodies using banjo and fiddle, while Sacred Harp showcases a unique style of singing from shape notes – it’s powerful choral music!

4. How does British Black Gospel differ from American styles?

British Black Gospel has its roots in the UK's black communities where choirs sing uplifting songs influenced by both American gospel traditions and unique local flavors.

5. Did any social movements influence the development of gospel music?

Absolutely! Negro spirituals were vital during slavery for hope and resilience, shaping what is now known as traditional gospel music. This genre continues to evolve alongside social change.

6. What role do instruments play in different types of gospel music?

Instruments bring each subgenre alive: shout bands fire up worship with brass; barbershop quartets harmonize without any backing at all; Dixieland infuses jazz into more upbeat tunes – each adds something special to the mix!