Chicago marks Gospel Music History Month

This month Chicago is celebrating its heritage as the birth place of Gospel music.

Some of the original pioneers are still singing today.

Vernon Oliver Price is one of Chicago’s first famous Gospel singers.

"I just enjoy singing, so here I am at 91 and I'm still singing," said Price.

Her close friend is a small but mighty force in Chicago’s Gospel music scene.

For more than 70 years, Dr. Lou Della Evans Reid, known compassionately as Mama Lou, has directed some of the greatest Gospel music choirs in Chicago.

"Gospel music is so impacting. It's so empowering.  It has a story," said Evans Reid.  "They be able to see what you're singing about, feel what you're singing about and most of all to live what you are singing about," she said.


The nation’s very first Gospel music choir was created at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Bronzeville, in 1931.  

"In a time when African Americans couldn't live in certain places in Chicago for example, couldn't eat in certain restaurants, were discriminated against in every which way, Gospel music provided that uplift that you needed," said Chicago Gospel music historian Bob Marovich. "The hand clapping, the swaying, the intense attack on the lyrics and the drive, that is a real churchy sound that really developed in Chicago in the 1930's and 40's and you still hear elements of it today."

Over the years, Chicago churches have provided more opportunities for youth to embrace the music. 

"Now they have steppers, they have Gospel rap, you have praise dancers," said Malcolm Williams, a Praise and Worship Leader, who works with Price and Evans Reid. "It has done more than it was meant to do. To really impact people and just send them home feeling much better. That they want even more."

If you want to hear more of Chicago’s great Gospel choirs, many churches are holding live, virtual Sunday services.

Here are a few: 

First Church of Deliverance

Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer

Greater Harvest Baptist Church