Southern Gospel’s most successful soloists
On Monday, Daywind announced that it had signed Joseph Habedank to a solo recording contract. Ever since, I have been pondering the question of what, if anything, Southern Gospel’s most popular soloists have in common.
It’s not too hard to identify Southern Gospel’s most popular soloists over the last quarter-century or so. Ever since Singing News added a Favorite Soloist award in 1997, only three soloists have won: Kirk Talley, Mark Bishop, and Ivan Parker. If the award had been launched five years earlier—when Kirk was still with The Talleys, Ivan was still with Gold City, and Mark was still with The Bishops—it is quite probable that Squire Parsons would have picked up the first few awards, given his popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.
There are, of course, any number of common threads here, including that these are all male singers who came to prominence singing lead or tenor for the genre’s leading vocal groups. But one common thread stands above the rest: With one exception (Ivan Parker), these singers were all songwriters writing most of their material, as acclaimed for their pen as for their voice. All three had written #1 hits; in fact, Kirk and Squire both wrote #1 hits for groups they weren’t traveling with at the time (“Wedding Music” and “I’m Not Giving Up,” respectively).
It’s not hard to see the similarities in Joseph Habedank’s career. He was a longtime lead singer for one of the genre’s most popular vocal groups, but by the time he left, he was as acclaimed for his writing as for his voice. He had written a #1 hit for his own group (“If You Knew Him”) and a #1 hit for another group (“That’s All I Need / He’s Everything I Need,” The Kingsmen).
Southern Gospel fans appreciate soloists from a variety of backgrounds and specialties. But it seems there is a special place in a Southern Gospel fan’s heart for soloists who are both one of the genre’s finest vocalists and one of the genre’s finest songwriters.