Thank God It’s Friday! Living the Gospel from SA to AU by Danielle McAlpine Johnson & Ben Harrell, Global Music Link

For over 20 years, Alive 90.5 listeners have been tuning in Friday nights to the mellifluous tones of Tracy Steyn. The South African-born gospel music enthusiast, now residing in Sydney, Australia, now knows that using gospel music to reach the world is her calling, but that wasn’t always the case… 

“I grew up as the baby of nine children in Durban, during the apartheid era in South Africa. We were classified ‘Coloured’. 

I have wonderful memories of my Mum listening to the sounds of Mahalia Jackson and other gospel artists, whilst preparing our meals. I played many sports, particularly hockey. After a while, my particular team was asked to play hockey in the White league, which led to being banned from the coloured league. Despite us being ‘invited’ to play in the White league, we were subjected to racism. People would say things like ‘here come the darkies’. I think there was certainly a time when people were trying to embrace other races, but there were many who didn’t want to mix. They didn’t have any control over that aspect of integration, times were changing.

“I was very young when I first started my first job as a school secretary. At the time, the White government had started a youth improvement group and, because I was at a school that was in an underprivileged area, they paid for a few teachers and me to take these children camping for two to three days. I was surrounded by all White army personnel who, after finding out I played hockey, asked me to tour South Africa with them to coach the children.” 

Tracy soon learnt that she was the only person of colour, and couldn’t go into restaurants with the White team around her. “One night I even had to sleep in an army van, because I couldn’t sleep in some of the places they’d booked as accommodation for on tour. People have often asked me how I managed to live under the apartheid regime, but the truth is I knew no different,” she says.

With the challenges faced in this era, Tracy’s family started to migrate. Her sister moved to England; whilst her parents, sister and brother moved to Australia. Tracy followed in tow, with her husband and two sons, not knowing what was about to unfold in her life. “When we arrived in Australia, there was very little r’n’b music, and people would look at you strangely if you even spoke about it, let alone Black gospel music. It simply did not exist. People may have heard of some of the artists, like the Winans or maybe Kirk Franklin… but it was barren.” 

Finally, Tracy joined a church where she met a man who was running a Friday night radio programme called ‘Thank God It’s Friday’. “To this day, it is still called that! When the man asked me to come on board as a guest, I never would have thought I’d be hosting it two,years later for the next 20 years!” 

Although Tracy was entrenched in the unique world of gospel music in South Africa from a young age, she didn’t realise it was her calling. She was just ‘casually committing’ to what she thought was going to be a fun Friday night.

Tracy soon became the target of great spiritual warfare. She dealt with infidelity in an abusive marriage, whilst in the midst of fulfilling her ministry. She was under attack physically and spiritually. “The enemy did not want me involved with the programme. I didn’t quite understand spiritual attacks at that point.”

Tracy wanted to step away from the programme multiple times. Each time, God sent her clear signs that she was walking in her purpose. “I remember getting messages from prisoners telling me how much they loved the music and the blessing they would receive from it. They couldn’t remember my name, but they remembered my accent. There was another time, when a young lady called up and told me that I inspire her, and she hoped that I would never give up the show. I had clear intentions of resigning that night.”

Despite the state of her personal relationship, Tracy continued to touch people with the music she shared. “I was so passionate about promoting Black gospel music. Over the years, I persevered and persevered. My time on the programme has opened the door for me to counsel people privately.” Tracy knew that while there was pain emanating through her marriage, she provided joy to others in the midst of her storm. “This is the ministry God has brought into my life, despite me not understanding it at the time.” 

Tracy has been divorced for 14 years now, and she continues to shine a light. “This is where God has put me; this is my purpose. My passion is to witness to people about the gracious never-ending love of God through music.” ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ is more than a programme; it is a platform that inspires many people and changes the lives of the people who tune into the show – one listener at a time. 

“When I look back at my life, I thank God for His never-failing love and protection. Many others didn’t make it, but He protected my coming and going. Psalm 91 was and is my solitude.”

To submit music to Tracy, please email 

Danielle McAlpine Johnson is an internationally published writer, TV producer, director & humanitarian.

Ben Harrell is the founder of Ambitions of a Writer, which is dedicated to inspiring songwriters, interviewing artists and empowering entrepreneurs. He also serves as the Director of Creative Content for Spiritual Plug Entertainment. Find out more at

Signs for a new era in British Gospel by Juliet Fletcher

I have been contemplating the number of times I’ve had to say “WoW!” at some story or announcement connected to gospel music over the past twelve months and more. There have been consistent occurrences of great moments of excitement as well as great sadness, and I’ve noticed that the compound intensity of these occurrences have so impacted our creative community that it is organically generating into a driving force with the potential to catapult us into a new era of British Gospel, under God’s grace and providence. I believe this prominence is to take place on a national and global scale, and we’re almost set to go!

In reality, it’s actually quite timely, since next year, 2020, represents forty years since British Gospel became a major phenomenon of a youthful (and youth-filled, church-based) generation. The decade of the 1980s is considered to represent the Golden Age, when choirs, groups and soloists heralded a wind of change for recognising the power of our music beyond the confines of our church walls. Now we have the ability to generate and negotiate new opportunities; create and expand our own brands and platforms; engage and build new audiences, and represent and influence in culture and the arts.


There are two great signs to take us into this new era: first, the sign of the Millennials and secondly, the sign of the Legends. The first is fatally impoverished without the second, and the second fatally implodes without the first. They are therefore of equal importance to each other, intrinsically and irrevocably linked.

To give context to my view, I am using the following list as a guide to the generations:

  • Silent Generation are those born between 1925 – 1945 (73 to 93)
  • Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 – 1964 (54 to 72 years old)
  • Generation X are those born between 1965 – 1980 (38 to 53 years old)
  • Millennials are those born between 1981 – 1996 (22 – 37 years old)
  • Post Millennials are those born between 1997 to Present (0 – 21 years old)

With this list in mind, you’ll be able to locate where you stand in the generations, and how I’m using this social observation to reflect on who we are in this musical framework.


Said to be deeply opinionated, independent, confident, ambitious and achievement-oriented; pampered and focused (some would say only on themselves), the Millennials (this goes for Post Millennials, too) have a great advantage of accepting difference. Many have grown up in a culturally and ethnically diverse environment. They are quicker to break through social barriers. However, they are less inclined to recognise traditions; the importance of heritage and legacy, and holding or looking to landmarks and historical virtues to inform or sustain what they do. Everything is ‘now’ or ‘the next new’. They often think or behave as if whatever they are doing has never been done before. The exciting factor with Millennials is that they are excited about everything they do. Once convinced of an idea, they are fully convinced it must be acted upon NOW! They will take risks, and have learnt the power of compromise and collaboration quite well.


Legends. It isn’t a word used lightly. One can fulfil acts deemed ‘of legendary proportions’, however, in this context, I’m relating the term to an older generation.  It is a word to describe a person, who has contributed to such an extent that their influence – as well as their track record – speaks for itself. No floss, gloss or hype. The bare facts and evidence are like a ‘surround sound of many witnesses’, either in a local, national or international setting. The Legends class invariably speaks of two generations: the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. I’m part of the Baby Boomers (groan)! Like our parents (Silent Generation), we aren’t afraid to put in a hard day’s work. We were competitive, but invariably more towards each other and, at times, to our own detriment.

However, that competitiveness nurtured our individual personal excellence; we did team effort without financial reward. Our Silent Generation wanted us to maintain tradition, without considering strategic development – until now. Investment in ourselves was lacking – until now. We are focused, but we were not primed enough for taking on our legacy and heritage, sharing our knowledge and experiences – until now. The sad truth is that Legends and Millennials die – greats like Andrea Robinson and Solomon Facey respectively – when you least expect. We’re learning that if we don’t construct our scene, everything we have worked for will fizzle out – or, to say it plainly – die with us.


There is a consciousness out there amongst both Legends and Millennials that indeed our moment has arrived. Let’s prophesy Joel 2:23-24. It is the power of the Legends and the Millennials together: the old and the new; latter and the former rain, joined in full strength and power. We must make visible the latter and former rain.

We have a very clear and potent message, one which has saved untold numbers from a life of crime, committing suicide, destroying their families or communities. We are unashamed of THIS GOSPEL. It’s based on TRUTH that His Kingdom has come, and He, JESUS, will come again in person. Therefore, in the meantime, we live and proclaim His virtues: love, joy, peace, righteousness, mercy and justice. How does God retain His truth in the world? Read Psalm 100:5 for the answer. It is as each generation speaks/relates and connects to the other. It’s worth repeating: the Legends and the Millennials  really need each other to do this.

The evidence of our experiences over the years is that, regardless of the setting, the circumstances, the communities, the social or political policy, our music always seems to fit into the place it’s given. If we follow the move of the Holy Spirit, we will see that our music – whether in its purest of praise & worship, or whether in pure form of inspiration within popular culture – it will be and do what it is anointed and appointed to do. This new era is not a sudden happening – although it may seem like it. No. This era had a post-manifestation that began in the 90s, when everything seemed lost. All it was is planting seeds of renewal. A ‘death’ had to happen before ‘life’ could come again. We must prophesy Ezekiel 37: Can these dry bones live?  This army of entrepreneurial arts and culture creatives must arise and march boldly into the new decade.

The whole sector has so much to it now: GMIA (Gospel Music Industry Alliance) surveyed and identified over 40 creative disciplines operating in our sector. and in every one of them are professionals – they do it for a living – or are in ministry too. Take the following practitioners for example:

O’Neil Dennis, founder-leader of StepFwd/UK Christian Charts last month celebrated five landmark years of successful delivery across the spectrum of Christian and gospel scene. He informed me that they have over 500 subscribing artists on their charts system.How can we maximise the powerful potential this exempifies?

Eloho Efemuai, making inroads into the Edinburgh airwaves with, an independent online radio station, represents the self-funded entrepreneurial spirit and risk takers with a passion to share and extend the popularity of the genre.  Eloho’s business quickly drew in more than 10,000 regular listeners, and now has over 60,000 followers.

Oliver Kamau, founder of, makes filmed videos of people who’ve experienced the life-changing work of JESUS in their lives. Within weeks of operation, they had over half a million views. TBN UK now broadcasts their work. A new series features Amani Simpson, a young man who survived a vicious knife attack. At the start of 2019 he produced a powerful short film about his life. It stars Joivan Wade (Doom Patrol,Shiro’s Story) and amassed one million views in only four days! Do you think this is a growth area, since its predicted audiences are moving towards mobile and Smart TV viewing?

Later this year, Drs Pearl and Errord Jarrett (pioneering film and music distributors) and super coolproducer/vocal expert Lawrence Johnson (co-founder 80s soul group Nu Colours and presently Music Director, New Wine Church) will be launching the first Professional Gospel Theatre and Performance Training Company. Can you imagine the potential impact of this project?

All of the above adds to the ongoing success and contribution of many others, including  Roy Francis, British gospel pioneer and media consultant/author of a new book, ‘How to Make Gospel Music Work For You; Muyiwa Olarewaju, international artist and station manager of Premier Gospel Radio (and Awards); Karen Gibson & Kingdom Choir (on tour now); Mark De Lisser and Singology; choir leader Colin Anderson, conductor of NHS B-Positive Choir; John Fisher & IDMC, soul gospel choir (look up his new music venues initiative); RnB/soul artist, Ni-Cola ( – find out about her new workshops practical session on how to draw-down funding and sponsorship in the arts, and Audrey Gray, artiste management professional (see providing support for artists like Jake Isaac.

Take the time to find out more and get involved. If you haven’t got time to ‘do’, then let your financial support ‘do it’ for you. Although it’s an unpredictable future, let’s not hesitate to get the best out of it: imagine, research and implement.

The ‘Heaven 11’: Gospel Music Expert Lists 11 Most Influential Black Gospel Songs

Baylor University journalism professor and former editor gospel music editor for Billboard Magazine, is celebrating African American Music Appreciation Month in June by leading a national movement to preserve the fast-disappearing legacy of African American sacred music on vinyl.

Robert F. Darden, founder and director of Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, has compiled the “Heaven 11” – a list of the 11 most influential black gospel songs, from Freedom Songs to hit singles to the great old spirituals.

“There is no way to quantify the ‘greatest’ gospel song of all time, but certain songs have been more influential than others through the years,” said Darden, who selected songs from the 1940s through the 1980s.

(Listen to the “Heaven 11” on this Spotify playlist, created by Baylor Proud.)

The list includes Darden’s comments about each selection:

1. “I Will Move on Up A Little Higher”

“The Queen of Gospel Mahalia Jackson’s first big hit, and one of the best-selling gospel songs of all time. It was also understood to be an early ‘Freedom Song’ in the African-American community.”

2. “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”

“Perhaps the best-known, most beloved of all gospel songs. Written by Thomas Dorsey after the loss of his wife and infant child, it is still sung today at virtually every African-American funeral service in the country.”

3. “Oh Happy Day”

“This song by Edwin Hawkins was the first gospel song to be a hit single in the 1960s, and had a revolutionary combination of gospel choir, stirring chorus and a thoroughly modern beat.”

4. “The Reason Why We Sing”

“Kirk Franklin did to the ‘80s and ‘90s what Hawkins did to the ‘60s and Andrae Crouch did to the ‘70s, combined straight-ahead gospel with the beat of the day, while paying tribute to the old gospel classic, ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow.’”

5. “People Get Ready”

“This tune by Curtis Mayfield is not really a gospel song, but it was so compelling that it was adopted by both the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American church. There are a number of great versions, including the Chambers Brothers, the Blind Boys of Alabama and even Rod Stewart.”

6. “We Shall Overcome”

“This is the ‘signature’ song of the Civil Rights Movement, an adaptation of an old gospel tune that has been honed by the fire and blood of a thousand movement events and is still sung by oppressed people around the world.”

7. “Peace Be Still”

“This song by the Rev. James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir of the First Baptist Church of Nutley, New Jersey, is the song and the arrangement that made young black people want to join mass choirs and sing. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, ‘Peace Be Still’ was the gospel anthem that the black church turned to.”

8. “Through It All”

“Andrae Crouch and the Disciples forever changed gospel music, opening it up lyrically and musically. He was also a brilliant composer – you could just as easily substitute “My Tribute,” “The Blood,” “Soon and Very Soon” and any one of several other enduring classics here.”

9. “Touch the Hem of His Garment”

“This song by the Soul Stirrers, featuring Sam Cooke, helped invent the hard-charging gospel quartet sound. The popularity of this song helped convince Cooke, the writer and featured singer, to launch a mainstream performing career.”

10. “Mary, Don’t You Weep”

“The great old spirituals often make great gospel songs. This is one by the Caravans, featuring Inez Andrews, and is one of my personal favorites.”

11. The next great gospel song

“We haven’t heard it yet. Few people still alive even know of its existence. But it could be in the next batch of long-lost gospel classics by a hitherto unknown gospel artist donated to the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.”

Search-and-rescue mission to preserve black gospel music

Darden founded Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) more than a decade ago in a search-and-rescue effort to identify, acquire, preserve, digitize and catalog recordings from the black gospel music tradition. This music, from the Golden Age of Gospel from 1945 to 1975, was quickly vanishing as albums made the transition to CDs.

“Thousands of at-risk songs have been saved for future generations,” Darden said. “These recordings are priceless, irreplaceable and historic in a way that scholars are only now realizing.”

Through the work of the Baylor Libraries’ Digital Projects Group, recordings from the BGMRP are available online in the Baylor Libraries Digital Collection, and in some cases includes other materials, such as taped interviews, photographs, press packets, tour books and programs, newspaper and magazine clippings and sheet music.

Darden hosts a weekly radio feature – “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” – during which he tells stories and plays recordings from the BGMRP, exploring the distinctly African-American sound of a fertile musical period in American history from 1945 to 1975 and revealing the depth of a people, their community and the influence they have had on the rest of American music. “Shout!” – which is produced by KWBU-FM, Waco’s NPR station – airs weekly on several NPR stations throughout the country.

Music from the BGMRP also has been included in a permanent exhibit featuring African-American musical history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016 in Washington, D.C. The interactive exhibit, “Musical Crossroads,” has featured these key recordings from the BGMRP:

  • “The Old Ship of Zion” by The Mighty Wonders of Aquasco, Maryland (1972)
  • “Amen” by Wings over Jordan (1953)
  • “I Won’t Be Back” by The Caravans (1962)
  • “Over My Head” by Wings Over Jordan (1953)
  • “There’s a Tree on Each Side of the River” by The Davis Sisters (1957)

Visit Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project website to learn more and to listen to the collection of digitized recordings.

Image copyright: FanartTV

Written by: Lori Fogleman

First published:

Meet the Father of Black Gospel Music who was rejected by early mainstream churches

Thomas Andrew Dorsey, the celebrated African-American musician who was known famously as “the father of Black gospel music” was born on this day in 1899. Dorsey, a composer, pianist, conductor and conductor of choirs, was a man believed to have used music as the language of his soul.

Dorsey is famously known for composing songs such as “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley”. He was so influential in the black gospel music field and due to his impact and unique style, many new compositions of songs were categorized as “dorseys” in his honour.

Thomas Dorsey’s leadership in Gospel music is believed to be responsible for the rise of the gospel sound and the legacy carried on by the present-day Gospel artists.  

It would sound like a regular achievement but like many musicians who share stories of how they actually started singing from the church before settling down in secular music, Dorsey’s was a case in the reverse.

Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, GA on July 1, 1899, but was raised in the Atlanta area. His infantile years exposed him to the traditional Dr. Watts hymns as his father was a Baptist preacher and his mom a pianist in the church. He also got exposed to early blues and jazz – a genre of music he would soon become very active in.

Thomas Dorsey singing in church/Inspirational Christians

Dorsey was interested in music as a young boy and hence, taught himself a wide range of instruments which he went on to play blues and ragtime while he was still in his teens. As a child prodigy, he became a very prolific composer, authoring witty, slightly racy blues songs like the underground hit, “It’s Tight Like That.”

In 1916, at the age of 17, Dorsey moved north to Chicago to pursue a musical career. There, Dorsey soon learned he couldn’t earn union scale wages as a musician without a card, and he couldn’t obtain the card without a formal music education because musicians’ wages were paid according to a scale determined by their credentials with the professional Chicago union of musicians.

To pay for his education, Dorsey worked days at a steel mill in Gary, Indiana, taking evening lessons at school. He soon established his own nightly rent-party circuit. By 1918, Dorsey had settled in Chicago and within months of his arrival, he began playing with area jazz bands including the Les Hite’s Whispering Serenaders and a jazz orchestra.

In 1919, Dorsey completed his musical studies at the Chicago College of Composition and Arrangement and obtained his union card. Now, performing under the name Georgia Tom, he was free to play anywhere in Chicago.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Building on his experience and influence from such groups, Dorsey formed a group of his own known as the Wildcats Jazz Band which traveled in support of Ma Rainey, one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to ever record.

By 1928, Dorsey suffered a second nervous breakdown in many years which pushed him to opt for early retirement from the music business. However, a two-year recovery period would allow him to rethink this decision. During the period, a minister gave Dorsey enough convincing reasons to return to music. This time, though, this minister encouraged Dorsey to move from singing Blues to church music – Gospel.

Thomas Dorsey and Maggie Cavender at an awards ceremony, circa 1980s. – Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

Dorsey was equally convinced this was something he could attempt and so he made a first attempt at writing a gospel song in 1921. That song, “If I Don’t Get There,” met some success and that convicted him the more that this was a good step he was taking. He then did what was necessary: he renounced his dedication to secular music and embraced his new found love in gospel music.

Dorsey returned with a renewed sense of purpose devoting all of his talents to the church circuit. It was a truly challenging time in his life because, upon that major switch between genres, he began losing all the major blues jobs with little or no gospel offers forthcoming. He soon had to resort to peddling song sheets to make a living.

Persevering and looking for a big break, Dorsey’s luck took on an upswing by 1932. In that year, he successfully organized one of the first gospel choirs at Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church from which his pianist, Roberta Martin, would in a few years emerge among the top talents on the church circuit. In that same year, he also founded the first publishing house devoted exclusively to selling music by Black Gospel composers.

Photo Credit: Historical Markers

Dorsey’s life seemed to be gradually taking on a good turn until a tragedy of tragedies struck: on a trip to organize a choir in St. Louis, Dorsey received the shocking and devastating news of the passing of his wife while she was giving birth to their son. This son too, two days later, would die.

Awe-struck and devastated, he locked himself inside his music room for three straight days emerging with a completed draft of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” a song whose popularity in the gospel community is rivaled perhaps only by “Amazing Grace.” Setting his loss behind him, he enjoyed his most prolific period in the years that followed by authoring dozens of songs with a distinctively optimistic sensibility for audiences held in the grip of the Depression.

Initially, mainstream churches did not accept his Gospel music because of its apparent secular influence. The religious music that Dorsey proposed, called for a drastic departure from the music practices of the large protestant Black churches of Chicago. In spite of this rejection, the growth of the churches that played Dorsey’s music convinced the others to incorporate them into their churches.

Dorsey became a force to reckon with in the music industry. Soon, he became responsible for the bold innovation of a new musical style into the American church which completely changed the face of worship as we know it today.

Dorsey was also the first to write and publish a gospel song, going on to do Gospel music for over 60 years. Dorsey’s works have proliferated beyond performance into the hymnals of virtually all American churches and of English-speaking churches worldwide. In 1982, Dorsey was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Written by: Etsey Atisu

First published 01.07.19:

TEXAS Gospel Music Excellence Awards 2020

For 21 years, The Texas Gospel Music Excellence Awards has recognized independent gospel artist across the state of Texas.

This four day gospel experience has been cornerstone of Gospel Music in Texas. The award program recognizes artists and announcers in at least 22 categories each year. TGMEA also recognizes outstanding gospel music and artist across the United States. This part of the award show recognizes at least 18 categories.

Beginning in 2020 at the 22nd Texas Gospel Music Excellence Awards, artists and announcers from across the world will be recognized for their contributions in gospel music. This year three categories will be recognized:

1) International Independent Gospel Female Artist of the Year

2) International Independent Gospel Male Artist of the Year

3) International Gospel Announcer/DJ of the Year

4) International Gospel Station of the Year 

The winner of these three categories will be announced at the 22nd Annual Texas Gospel Music Excellence Awards.

The awards will be held in Houston, Texas on February 13-16, 2020 at the Houston Hobby Marriott Hotel, 9100 Gulf Freeway, Houston, Texas 77017.

Nominations to be considered are presently being accepted for these three categories. These nominations will be coming from music industry professionals and music announcers. Deadline to submit nominations is July 2, 2019.

These nominations are to be returned to Mr. Larry Davies, Executive Director at .

Voting procedures and additional information will be sent to you when you return your nominations.

Join the Texas Gospel Music Excellence Group page on facebook for more information:

Worship artist Victoria Tunde ‘God had told me that now was the time’

When Victoria Tunde, UK based singer/songwriter and worship artist released the official video for hersophomore single ‘Lost for Words’ on 16th May 2019, she had no idea it would hit 100k YouTube views within 1 month and amass the global support that it has received.Featuring Cross Worship artist Osby Berry, who shot to international attention when his version of Hillsong’s ‘So will I’ went viral ‘Lost For Words’ was recorded live at Victoria Tunde’s event ‘The Awakening Live’ which took place in March 2019.

Victoria Tunde said:

“Its so scary to put yourself out there as a new artist – bringing to light a song that has remained hidden in my heart and songbook for years. I really didn’t know what to expect. My only surety was the knowledge that God had told me that now was the time. It’s overwhelming to see so many
people connecting with ‘Lost for Words’. But beyond the numbers, the comments and testimoniesof how the song is touching people in a real way makes facing my fears worthwhile.”

Stay Connected with Victoria Tunde:

Facebook: /officialvictoriatunde Instagram: @VictoriaTunde Twitter:@VictoriaTunde_