Isn’t Her Grace Amazing! The Women Who Changed Gospel Music

Amistad. May 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780063050983. $40. MUSIC
Journalist Wills (Emancipated: My Family’s Fight for Freedom) profiles women who have made gospel music history. Songwriters, bandleaders, and pastors as well as singers, they have often walked a fine line between expressing their deep Christian faith and running the risk of appearing to court worldly success to do so. Readers not immersed in the genre are most likely to be familiar with the names mentioned in the book’s chapter on “Crossover Queens” (Aretha Franklin, Rosetta Tharpe, Mavis Staples), but every one of the remarkable singers included here merits attention. The book begins, fittingly, with Queen of Gospel Mahalia Jackson, and the final chapter highlights more contemporary artists, while the thematic arrangement of the intervening chapters speaks to gospel music’s diversity of expression and richness of community. The book’s photos of women in gospel, following the precept of Psalm 100—“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”—are uplifting all by themselves.
VERDICT An affectionate yet clear-eyed view of gospel’s brightest voices. For fans of gospel music or those who would like to know more about it.
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