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Best 3 Older Gospel Songs You Have Never Heard of


Let’s review the best three (3) older gospel songs you have never heard of.

Table of Contents

My Love for Black Gospel Music

I was born to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ but I also have a love for black gospel music as well.

Currently, I host a black gospel show on a radio station in Waterloo, Iowa called “KBBG 88.1 FM.” In our local area, this radio station is a legendary as well as its founder Mr. Jimmie Porter.

Having grown up listening to black gospel on this radio station, I consider myself an expert in the subject.

I must admit, however, I have a blind spot where it concerns any gospel music after the year 2000. At that time, our music began a drift into a place that is almost unrecognizable to me.

This does not say it is not good music, just that I have no interest in listening to it necessarily.

In my world, gospel music should have twinges of “pain” and modern Black spiritual music lacks this quality. It is the music of those who have reaped the benefit of "overcoming" without the pain of struggling through it.

Of course, there are outliers to this statement.

Before getting into our first song, let’s define terms. By 'gospel', I am indicating music that is African American in origin and quasi-sermonic in presentation. This does not suggest there is not white gospel, just that I wouldn’t even know what it is necessarily.

Next, “older gospel music” I will define as pre-1998. To be more specific, I will stick with music created between 1970 and 1998.

Let’s get this review underway.

Older Gospel Song #1: God’s Radar

This song is sung by a man named Rev. Dan Smith. Rev. Dan Smith has the unusual testimony of having come to Jesus after the age of 60.

Understanding he was born several years before 1920, he is an outlier in the African American experience.

Most, though not all of course, Black people grew up attending some form of black worship experience back then. Although this is not true anymore, from the time of slavery up until around 1995, it was true.

I grew up in a small city, in the black section of town.

It is fair to say that I only knew a handful of kids who didn’t attend church.

Nevertheless, Rev. Dan Smith recorded a bluesy sounding song called “God’s Radar.” I was introduced to this song not many months ago and have been addicted to it ever since.

It’s earnestness, delivery, and Delta blues style combines to provide an authentic testimony of the African American experience in the church.

The language used in this song’s delivery is of note as well. The song opens by stating: “God’s radar is fixed on you.” In the African American experience, “fixed” is another way of saying “pointed.”

Another phrase “fixing to” (or ‘fin too’ for short) is another way of saying: “I am preparing to.”

Black church music not only provides an experience of pain and hoped for deliverance, but it also speaks in nuanced language.

Another endearing quality of this song is its total lack of high production skill.

We live in a time where high-level production has robbed our music of any heartfelt earnestness. I am not saying we should do things without excellence.

However, when excellence replaces soul and power of delivery, it must be avoided. Check out Rev. Dan Smith’s song and be transported back to a different time in our experience.

Older Gospel Song #2: I Must Tell Jesus

Sarah Jordan Powell is the artist who sang this song in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The original recording was made in the Cook County jail of Chicago, Illinois. Sister Jordan-Powell was singing to male inmates when she belted out this gospel classic.

What fascinated me about this song was not where it was produced nor even the lyrics. It was how the song was sung. The old black church has a certain sound and Sister Jordan-Powell, while capturing the spirit, has a unique sound!

There is a genre of black gospel music that’s older, and more traditional, yet different from the longing for freedom sound. I do not even know what to call it! I only know it sounds so much different.

Throughout the African American experience, there have been Black people who haven’t suffered extreme poverty. Although very rare, they still existed.

They were the early pioneers of the Black middle class. We now refer to these sorts as ‘bougie.’ Yet even in their bougie lifestyle, they still suffered racism as did any other Black person.

Out of their experience came a sound like Sarah Jordan-Powell’s. It is black gospel music, without the traditional broken English, or colloquialisms used in our speech. It is, for the lack of a better term, much more dignified than the music of a slave.

However, it is still decidedly black.

When I first listened to this song while producing my gospel show, I listen to it over and over and over again. In the most literal sense, I had never heard music of this sort. I had heard something similar in a local church by a woman.

I might have even heard a song or two in the late 1990s by another group whose name escapes me. However, I had not heard such elegant, yet decidedly bougie black delivery as I had with Ms. Jordan-Powell.

I love it!

I did not know such music could make me shout just like the more classical sounds of old-school gospel music.

“I Must Tell Jesus” is worth a listen and if you do not shout listening to it, your soul has frosted over friend.

Older Gospel Song #3: Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There

While the title may be familiar to fans of gospel music, who sung this version may not be.

We all know Jennifer Hudson as the failed American idol contestant who went on to win an Academy Award for acting. Her story, as well as voice, are legendary in the Black community.

Here is the reality, however. God's plan and out plan is as different as night is from day!

What most may not be aware of however, is Jennifer has the most powerfully gifted gospel voice since Whitney Houston. They are different sounds obviously, yet Hudson has the power of voice not heard since the days of Aretha Franklin singing gospel.

She sings a song called “Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There” which will take any music lover to a place of your meditation and worship. I must admit that I could not stop listening to this song once I heard it.

Her rendition of this song also makes my heart heavy for one reason. So many who were born to sing the gospel only do so every now and again. There’s no money in singing for Jesus, so they sing secular music for money’s sake.

It is no different than the rest of us honestly.

We grow up in church, leave to experience the world, and when the world is done with us, we run back to God. I don’t frown at this; I rather glorify in it. That Jesus would take us back when we know we were wrong should give anyone comfort.

Over the years I have heard some of the most stirring gospel sang by people who have no interest in it. Among them are Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Luther Vandross, as well as others.

Nevertheless, Jennifer Hudson sings another well-known gospel classic titled “A Wonderful Change.”


These three songs should be listened to. Once you have, I am sure you will be as blessed as I was.

Although not a part of these three, there was also another song you should check out as well.

The song is titled “I Saw the Light” sung LC Ulmer. This is for the hard-core, Delta blues sounding gospel lovers among us only! If you can imagine your old Black uncle with either his harmonica or guitar, sitting on the porch of a shotgun shack in Mississippi - Ulmer is it!

For those of us having grown up around such men, you will also notice, just by listening to him, he probably doesn’t have any teeth in his mouth.

This is not a put down at all. But those of us who were raised by sharecroppers from the Delta will understand what that sounds like.

Header Image Courtesy of StockSnap @ Pixabay

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