Spotlighting Gospel Artists on whom the foundation was built and those who strive to carry on the legacy in their own way. We love Gospel Music!
“He Knows How Much We Can Bear”
Roberta Martin was born in 1907 in Helena, Arkansas. She was one of six children. During high school, Martin became the pianist for the youth choir at Chicago’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. This brought her into contact with Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the “Father of Gospel Music,” a Chicago-based composer and performer who influenced many of the early gospel singers. Martin later formed a group that was named “The Roberta Martin Singers” and they were as popular and well known as any gospel group of their era.
At the end of the 1940s, Martin ceased performing with the group to focus on composing, arranging, and publishing gospel music. The Roberta Martin Studio, initially founded in 1939, became one of the most successful of the several Chicago-based gospel publishing companies. She had composed more than 100 songs in her career. Some of the Roberta Martin Singers’ recorded output has been re-released, and her influence on generations of gospel singers, and on other forms of African American musical and spiritual expression, will always be remembered. She played a crucial role in the evolution of gospel music and in the development of the broad popularity that the form enjoys to this day. She combined classical piano training with profound spirituality to create a unique sound, while launching the careers of many gospel greats.
The Gospel Harmonettes featuring Dorothy Love Coates
The Spiritual Harmonettes was formed in 1940, and its first members were Mildred Madison Miller, Odessa Glasgow Edwards, Vera Conner Kolls Willie M. Brooks Newberry and their composer was Evelyn Starks. The first recording of this group was in 1949, without Dorothy Love Coates, who started her recording with the (Original) Gospel Harmonettes in 1951. In the middle 1950s, the group was composed of D. Love, M. Miller, W. Newberry, V. Kolls, O. Edwards, with Herbert “Pee Wee” Pickard, piano. Their records were under the labels Victor, Speciality, Nashboro, Andex and Savoy.
The Edwin Hawkins Singers
“My Father’s House”
A trailblazing force behind the evolution of the contemporary gospel sound, Edwin Hawkins remains best known for his 1969 classic “Oh Happy Day,” one of the biggest gospel hits of all time and a major pop radio smash as well. Born in Oakland, CA in 1943, he began singing in his church youth choir while still a toddler, and by age five was playing piano; just two years later, he assumed full-time piano accompaniment duties for the family gospel group, making their recorded debut in 1957. His remarkable career has afforded him the opportunity to travel the world and share his God-given gifts and talents.