Borrowing Country Songs
I’m disturbed by something I’m seeing. There are some well-known Southern Gospel groups which have recently recorded songs on their new CDs which I really wouldn’t consider Gospel songs. In some of the cases that come to mind these artists have dug back into secular music to find a feel-good song that, although it has a fine message from a human standpoint, really doesn’t include, per se, the Gospel. There’s no mention of Jesus or His saving power or the Good News that He came to save and redeem a sin-sick, lost and dying world, or even about our daily walk with the Lord. They’re just, well, nice little ditties. Infectious ditties, at that. And, in at least two cases that spring to mind, these songs have been put out to radio as current singles.
I just don’t understand it . . . I could hear such things on the local oldies station, if I chose to do so. Which I don’t. There are plenty of good, meaty songs available today in Southern Gospel music, from what is arguably the strongest universe of songwriters Southern Gospel music has ever enjoyed — songs that are solid in their presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why pass over them? Why dilute our representation of the Gospel to the world?
Many in Southern Gospel music used to criticize Contemporary Christian music — especially when it first spun off into its own genre in the early 1980s — as being just so much fluff and not overtly Gospel. Well, now we’re doing it. Shame on us.
Gospel music, at the risk of being redundant, should carry the Gospel message.
And I couldn’t agree more with that conclusion. But it’s expressed so well that I don’t see any particular need to try to say the same thing in different words. So I’d like to address a related theme, one I had already been pondering when his column came out.
Quite frankly, I don’t understand Southern Gospel’s fascination with country music—almost as though it was a better genre. And I don’t quite understand why Southern Gospel artists feel a need to borrow non-Gospel songs from country artists.
I’ve been pondering this for months, and I’ve come up with a few possible reasons.
Does it draw country fans into the genre? I don’t think so. After all, why bother with going out to see a group that sings a song almost as good as your favorite country singer sings it? Now if the group is singing other high-quality songs with the same style, perhaps a secular country fan could be drawn in to the concert and hear the Gospel message in those songs.
Is there a Southern Gospel inferiority complex? Just because country sells more units doesn’t necessarily make it any better. I’d take Mark Trammell, Doug Anderson, or Pat Barker (even as a soloist, though I prefer group harmonies) over any country singer, any day.
Are the Southern Gospel songs and songwriters just not good enough? I doubt anyone seriously advocates this.
Is there just not enough supply of great (not just good) Southern Gospel songs? Of the four options, perhaps this one is the most reasonable. Maybe there just aren’t enough good songs?
There’s so much good in Southern Gospel music. Why bother with country?