Every now and then, the topic of groups recording songs introduced by other groups comes up. When a major group records a song that another major group recorded and singled, the first group’s fans often take offense and complain on message boards that the second group’s rendition simply doesn’t measure up.
Fewer object when a major group recycles a song that never got singled from another group’s project or when a good Christmas song starts making the rounds. The main objections seem to take place when a second group starts doing a song that the first group and its fans think was a good song.
This isn’t the way it used to be. Look at Southern Gospel’s roots; back in the 20s and 30s, when the songbook companies were the driving force behind keeping Southern Gospel quartets on the road, that company’s quartets would sing any song from the songbook, and nobody seemed to mind.
In the 1940s and 1950s, when the genre became more artist-driven, performers would think nothing of it if twenty other groups started singing a good song they’d introduced. It honestly didn’t take all that long for songs like “How Long Has it Been,” “Oh What a Savior,” “Happy Rhythm,” “His Hand in Mine,” or “The Old Country Church” to become classics. The songs were good, but it wasn’t just that the songs were good. If a good song gets buried and forgotten, nobody knows it was good. They became classics because they were good–and because they were widely performed.
This attitude continued well into the 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when Southern Gospel became a more radio-driven genre, that the practice began to be frowned upon. Today, things have changed so much that personnel from major groups are sometimes bothered or offended when another major group takes a song they had recorded and starts performing it.
But the idea that good songs are limited to one group comes out of CCM or secular music, not out of Southern Gospel’s heritage.