Gospel Music in Atlanta: The Influence on African-American Culture | News

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ATLANTA (CBS46) — There’s no denying that Atlanta has spawned many heavyweights in the gospel music industry.






Dottie Peoples, Dorthy Norwood, Byron Cage and the legendary Pace Sisters are just a few of the notable names who paved the way for future generations on the underground.

But as the city welcomes more and more artists to find their place in the industry, the sound and impact of the genre goes beyond the benches.







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Between the message and the three-part harmonies, gospel music has always had a unique sound.

“It tells a story of black culture and how we were raised and how we overcame so many things,” said Kevin Lemons, an Atlanta-based choir director for more than 25 years. “It’s the good word of hope, the good word of deliverance, the word of joy, just sung verbally.”

Lemons founded Higher Calling, an energetic community choir with nearly 100 voices, in 1996. He says he’s seen the industry change over the years.

“Back then, there was a way of doing things,” Lemons said. “Now there are many charismatic flavors that come with teaching and spreading gospel music.”







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The now more incisive sound is destined to reach future generations. But despite a new style, the overall concept has been the backbone of the black church for decades.

Although community choirs are not as popular as they were in the 90s and early 2000s, those that remain active still have a purpose.

“You build character, you build relationships, you build strength, you build work ethic,” Lemons said.

For years, the sound of gospel music was usually found only in church. But now, the tunes often go beyond the four walls.







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“When secular artists involve choirs or groups on their set, I always feel like there’s a sense of family,” Lemons said. “[We’re] all on the same stage doing what we love to do, which is to sing.

And with more black secular artists using gospel music on stage to appeal to a wider audience, Lemons says there are more opportunities to spread a powerful message.

“It’s crazy how the gospel community has a way of closing the door on gospel music, but the secular side has a way of opening up and welcoming what we’re trying to push away,” Lemons said.

In a city of transplants like Atlanta, Lemons wants to lead by example every step of the way.

“I think Atlanta has a spirit of people who are easy to accept for where they are and who they are,” Lemons said. “It is very important to me to keep this gospel heritage alive.

Higher Calling released their latest project Third Round in 2021. And Lemons says the band is already working on new music to release in the future.

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