While gospel singers may not be as widely known as some of their peers in the rock and country music industries, they have fans and receive critical acclaim just the same. Male vocalists in gospel music sometimes have some of the most powerful voices in entertainment and they often come from an interesting spiritual background that they feel leads them to a calling to spread the word of God through song.
When most people think of the late Sam Cooke, they probably do not immediately think about gospel music. Songs like “You Send Me” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” were chart toppers in the genres of R&B and Pop. These were the songs that made the singer famous and his success led to Rolling Stone Magazine naming Sam Cooke number four on the list of the greatest singers of all time.
However, Cooke’s singing career is rooted firmly in Chicago’s gospel music scene. Prior to his crossover into popular music, Cooke slid into the lead singing role for the gospel group the Soul Stirrers that was vacated by Robert Harris. Cooke became a gospel superstar and remained in the genre until a recording of a pop song under the pseudonym Dale Cook alienated his gospel fan base and gave him a final push into the world of pop and R&B.
Marvin Sapp is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan where he founded Lighthouse Full Life Center Church and became a pastor. The preacher and singer started his gospel music career fronting the group Commissioned throughout the 1990s, but he has gone on to a successful solo career in which he has recorded top-selling albums and has laid claim to many Gospel Stellar Awards as well as Grammy and Soul Train Award nominations.
Sapp began singing at age four in Grand Rapids and cultivated his powerful, raspy vocal ability as he grew older to become an unmistakable vocalist in gospel music. Sapp is a lifelong student of the Bible with a firm grasp on its message, which listeners feel adds power and authority to the messages of his songs.
Growing up just outside of Houston, Texas in a town called Tomball, David Phelps was raised in a typical small-town setting where people go to school, church and work and everyone knows everyone else.
This down-to-earth style of living did not keep Phelps from reaching for the stars, however. Music was stressed as an important part of growing up for his entire family. All the kids took piano lessons each week. The kids participated in choir rehearsals at church each week. Music was always around. As he grew older, Phelps appeared to be developing talents beyond what was normally expected.
From there, Phelps’ career was off and running. He earned a music degree from Baylor and began to draw more attention the more he performed. The gospel singer’s career has now taken him to the stages of Carnegie Hall and to the White House. His solo work, including nine albums, has been critically acclaimed and he has won awards while performing with the Gaither Vocal Band.
Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.