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Christian Gospel Crossover Hits

There haven't been all that many Gospel crossover hits in terms of Christian artists singing Christian songs and reaching the secular top 40 charts. There are more if we consider secular artists who have sung Gospel songs and seen chart success e.g. Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.

So what Gospel crossover songs have been hits in the secular charts?

The Staples Singers The Staples Singers
The Staples Singers have had fifteen US Billboard 100 hits. These include:
- 'For What It's Worth' 1967
- 'Heaven Makes You Happy' 1971
- 'Respect Yourself' 1971
- 'I'll Take You There' 1972
- 'Touch A Hand, Make A Friend' 1974
- 'If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)' 1974.

'I'll Take You There' became a US Billboard Pop chart No. 1. The Staples Singers included daughters Mavis, Yvonne, and Cleotha and son Pervis Staples, under the leadership of father Roebuck 'Pop' Staples. They are the most successful Gospel artists in terms of crossover hits. Despite their success in the secular charts they were never seen as 'selling out'. In 1992 they received a Rhythm n' Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award and in 1999 were inducted in to the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame.
O Happy Day by the Edwin hawkins Singers 'Oh Happy Day' by the Edwin Hawkins Singers 1969 Buddah Records
'O Happy Day' by the Edwin Hawkins Singers became probably the the most famous Gospel crossover hit in history. It sold 7 million records and reached high positions in the R &B charts and the Pop-charts across the world, including No.2 in the UK Pop Charts. Edwin Hawkins received a Grammy (Best Soul Gospel Performance) in 1970 for this track. The song is still a popular favourite with choirs and churches across the globe today.
London Community Gospel Choir 'Oh Happy Day' by the London Community Gospel Choir
The London Community Gospel Choir had a British crossover hit with their rendition of the Walter Hawkins crossover hit 'Oh Happy Day'. This was Britain's first Gospel Choir and was set up by Reverend Bazil Meade, with the assistance of Lawrence Johnson, Delroy Powell and John Francis. They have since gone on to release several albums and have appeared on mainstream TV on a regular basis.
The Mighty Clouds of Joy '(Ride The) Mighty High' by The Mighty Clouds of Joy 1976
The Mighty Clouds Of Joy scored a massive soul hit in 1976 with '(Ride The) Mighty High'. The LA based group are the best selling Gospel Quartet of all time. The group was formed in 1960 and made up of Joe Ligon (lead), the late Johnny Martin (tenor), Elmo Franklin (bass), and Richard Wallace (baritone). Leon Polk and David Walker became essential members of the quartet later. They have had many hit albums.
You're The Inspiration by The New Jersey Mass Choir 'You're The Inspiration' by The New Jersey Mass Choir 1985
This was a cover version of Peter Cetera and David Foster's song that became a number 3 hit on the US Billboard US Chart for the group Chicago in 1984. This choir also sang backing vocals on Foreigner's number 1 hit 'I Want To Know What Love Is' in 1985.
The Search Is Over by Tramaine 'Fall Down' by Tramaine 1986 A&M Records
This record reached number 1 in the US Billboard Dance Chart. Tramaine Hawkins was criticised by some sections of the church for doing a commercial record although the lyrics are still Christian. It came from the album 'The Search Is Over' that also produced other dance gospel hits 'Child Of The King', and 'In The Morning Time'. Tramaine, of course, sang earlier with the Edwin Hawkins Singers. Kelli Williams did another version of this song in her 'In the myx (of your will)' album in 2000.
Women Hold Up Half The Sky by Ruby Turner 'If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)' by Ruby Turner 1986
This was a cover version of the Staples Singers hit originally written by Banks, Jackson and Hampton. It reached number 30 in the UK singles chart. Ruby was born in Jamaican and then lived in Birmingham, England from the age of 9. She has since gone on to work successfully with various artists including LCGC and Jools Holland. This song was also recorded as a duet with South African soul singer Jonathan Butler.
Intervention by Lavine Hudson 'Intervention' by Lavine Hudson 1988 Virgin Records.
British born Lavine Hudson had UK chart success with her soul styled 'Intervention'.
You Got The Love by Candi Staton 'You Got The Love' by Candi Staton 1990-1
This song was originally recorded by Candi Staton (pronounced "stayeton") in 1986 but it became a massive dance floor hit in 1990/91 when it was used for a bootleg remix by 'The Source'.
Candi began singing Gospel at seven years old in a local group called the 'Golden Echoes'. She joined the Jewel Gospel Trio when she was ten. In 1960 she began a highly successful career singing soul/disco and had 14 Pop chart hits. Candi returned to Gospel singing between 1969 and 1981. Candi and her husband John founded Beracah Ministries in Atlanta.
The Evolution of Gospel by The Sounds of Blackness Sounds of Blackness
Sounds of Blackness have had several crossover hits including:
- 'Optimistic' 1992 Perspective
- 'I Believe' 1994 A&M
- 'I'm Going All The Way' 1995 A&M.
See the 'Sounds of Blackness' page.
Angie and Debbie Winans 'Light of Love' by Angie and Debbie Winans 1993 Capital/Chordant
This song was ranked in the US Billboard 100. The debut album 'Angie & Debbie Winans' sold over 100,000 copies. See the Angie & Debbie Winans page.
The Preacher's Wife soundrack 'The Preacher's Wife soundrack' by Whitney Houston and other artists 1996
The best selling gospel album of all time. It stayed at No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard gospel charts for 26 weeks, reached number 1 in the R&B charts in 1997 and went platinum. It also included songs from the Georgia Mass Choir.
Thankful by Mary Mary 'Shackles (Praise You)' by Mary Mary 2000
Mary Mary (aka Erica and Tina Atkins) had a huge crossover hit 'Shackles (Praise You)' from their Platinum album 'Thankful'. The single became a top 10 R&B hit and Top 40 pop hit.
Their parents were Gospel singers and Erica and Tina and their five other sisters began singing in the local church choir in Inglewood, California. Their first Gospel best-seller was on the They first sang publicly in the local church choir and received their first break in 1998 with a song on the 'Prince of Egypt' movie soundtrack. Their CD,Mary Mary, debuted at No. 8 on Billboard's Top 200 best-selling album chart. Mary Mary have won many awards including:
- Grammy for Best Contemporary Gospel Album, for 'Thankful'
- Three Dove Awards
- Six Stellar Awards
- A Lady Of Soul Award and
- A Soul Train Award.
The Fighting Temptations Soundtrack The Fighting Temptations Soundtrack (4 Oct - 1 Nov 2003)
This comedy film starred Beyonce Knowles alongside various gospel and R&B artists. Beyone Knowles sang the title-track, 'Everything I Do', 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot', 'He Still Loves Me', 'Time To Come Home' and 'Fever'. Destiny's Child sang 'I Know'.
Amongst the gospel singers were Ann Nesby who sang 'I'm Getting Ready', Shirley Ceasar who sang 'The Stone' and 'The Church Is In Mourning', and Mary Mary who sang 'Won't Ever Change'. Ann Nesby and Shirley Caeser were nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for the song 'The Stone'. The soundtrack became the best selling Gospel Album and Movie Soundtrack and reached number 19 in the U.S. Billboard 200 Album Chart. It was declared the Top Gospel Album and Top Soundtrack of 2003 by Billboard.
Here I Am Here I Am (May 2010)
This record breaking eighth solo album from Marvin Sapp reached number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 Charts: the first time a gospel album has reached number two in the 54 year history of the Billboard chart. It also debuted at number 1 on the Top Gospel Charts, Top Christian/Gospel Charts, Top R&B Charts, Top Christian/Gospel Digital Albums Charts, and Top Christian Music Video Chart. By late June 2010 it had spent 13 weeks on top of the Billboard Gospel Charts. The lead single "The Best In Me" was a partnership with Aaron Lindsey and was the most popular played gospel single on U.S. radio. It rose from 78 to 14 on the Hot R&B/Hot Songs Chart: the largest jump by a gospel song in 18 years.


The London Community Gospel Choir

The Mightly Clouds of Joy

Sounds of Blackness

The Winans




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