The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards are a wrap! As the official gospel blogger for this year’s awards show, I got access to some of the hottest events of the weekend and, hopefully, represented the gospel genre for the thriving and vital part of the music community that it is.
One thing was evident throughout GRAMMY Weekend– the Recording Academy really strives to honor musical contributions across all genres and styles. From pop, country and hip-hop to classical, electronic and zydeco (check that one out on Wikipedia), every genre gets some shine during the busy weekend. And, fortunately, gospel was no exception.
At the GRAMMY Foundation’s Legacy Concert, I was honored to talk to the legendary Valerie Simpson, of singer/songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson. She was gracious as she talked of the influence of gospel music on her career—
“Gospel music played a great role in my life because I met my husband, Nick Ashford, in the church,” said Simpson, graciously. “I was playing gospel music. That’s the foundation for the pop music that we later went on to write, and it’s like the undercurrent to everything we ever did.”
I also talked to soulful R&B GRAMMY nominee Ryan Shaw about his gospel roots. I have a killer recording of him singing Donnie McClurkin’s hit, “Stand,” at NYC’s famed Village Underground, so I knew he was no stranger to the genre.
“Gospel music has been my main influence,” Shaw shared. “Growing up, I couldn’t listen to anything but gospel in the house. People think I was heavily influenced by Sam Cooke, but I attribute that to both of us really coming from the same school—gospel music.”
A quick heads-up: Ryan Shaw tells me he may release a gospel project someday, so be on the lookout for that!
Gospel also got a great look during the GRAMMY’s annual pre-telecast, held at the Nokia Theater, during which most of this year’s awards—including in the gospel categories—were announced. Tye Tribbett was a presenter during the two-hour long event, representing the genre well before taking home 2 GRAMMYs. Backstage, I heard nothing but rave reviews about how charismatic, funny and refreshing he is— that’s a good look, Tye!
In a bittersweet moment, one of gospel music’s favorite new artists, Tasha Cobbs, won the Best Gospel/CCM Performance GRAMMY for her chart-topping cover of “Break Every Chain,” which has swept the nation, scoring Cobbs success upon success. She called upon the entire audience to stand to its feet in honor of her father, who passed suddenly last week. It was an incredibly moving moment and what an honor that the entire room, full of some of the greatest names in music, would honor Bishop Fritz Cobbs.
I got tons of tweets from gospel fans about the absence of a gospel performance on this year’s awards show. I agree that some type of gospel moment would have been great to see. The GRAMMYs have, in the past, delivered some jaw-dropping performances from some of the best in gospel music, both on the main show and at the pre-telecast (click here to see our Top 5 GRAMMY Moments in Gospel Music). All I can say is… maybe next year???
All in all, I’m proud of the presence that gospel music had during GRAMMY weekend. Its influence, reach and strength cannot be overstated. The genre—from its unique sound to its deep roots—is foundational for so much of all forms of music. As the GRAMMYs gear up for next year, I hope gospel music continues to be acknowledged for what it is—an influential thread that runs inextricably throughout the entire music community.