Shirley Caesar performs with the Morgan State University Choir for President Obama at the White House. (Photo: Morgan State University)

Shirley Caesar performs with the Morgan State University Choir for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. (Photo: Morgan State University)

Since you love our playlists and June is Black Music Month, we thought we’d try gospel and come up with a little list of, say, 10 inspirational songs. But as soon as we put out the call, you responded in a big way.

As one Fierce sister put it: “Gospel songs are like Lay’s Potato Chips. You can’t have just one!” Right off the top of her head, she came up with this list:

CeCe Winans Alabaster Box

  • Old timey spiritual: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Aretha’s version)
  • Old timey gospel: “Yes God Is Real” (Morgan State University choir)
  • Throwback gospel: “God Is Good” (Regina Belle)
  • Fave by a gospel legend (tie): “Bless the Lord” (Andrae Crouch), “In the Upper Room” (Mahalia Jackson)
  • Contemporary gospel: Alabaster Box (CeCe Winans)
  • Song that makes me wish she had done a gospel album before she died: “I Love the Lord” (Whitney Houston)
  • There’s something about these two instrumentals that just strike me deep in my soul: Sweet Hour of Prayer (Cyrus Chestnut) and Because You Loved Me (Kirk Whalum with George Duke)

“When the chips are down,” Angela Johnson says, “nothing fixes it like a dose of ‘Encourage Yourself'” (Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers.”

And “Lord I Thank You” by Andrae Crouch is the “very best morning wake-up anthem,” Johnson adds. “Go ahead and play it and see if you are not immediately uplifted.”

In fact, studies indicate that joyful music may be good for your heart. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore asked participants in their study to listen to their favorite music, which increased blood flow through their cardiovascular system in many cases.

What works for one woman is “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”

“It is the song I turn to when I’m in the greatest need, and a song of great praise,” she said. “There aren’t many lyrics, but when I hear the words — ‘How marvelous, his grace that caught my falling soul’ — it comforts me to no end.

“After that, I turn to even more traditional hymns: ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’”

Fierce co-founder Yanick Rice Lamb was comforted by “Speak to My Heart” last Easter when her mother died. She and her siblings selected it as one of the songs for a photo tribute to celebrate her life.

“I also like ‘We’ve Come This Far by Faith,’” she said. “We sing it every year at our annual Peter Rice Family Reunion. We applaud our relatives when they stand as we go through all the states represented, such as ‘Ohio has come this far by faith!”

Charlyne McWilliams said that “Fred Hammond is my favorite artist, because he sings the word. So any song by him and then ‘Praise is What I Do’ by the Shekinah Glory.”

Another reader said, “Everything James Cleveland sings.” And for someone else: “God Is Trying to Tell You Something”  She said should could “see Shug walking across that bridge to her daddy’s church in Color Purple.” She also suggested “I Need You Now” by Smokie Norful. “Every time I hear Smokie’s song, I give thanks.”

Every time Kendra Lee hears “Why We Sing” by Kirk Franklin and the Family, she’s moved to tears (not an easy feat). Franklin’s hit is included on Baylor University’s “Heaven 11” listing of influential gospel songs.

“Kirk Franklin did to the ’80s and ’90s what Hawkins did to the ’60s and Andrae Crouch did to the ’70s — combined straight-ahead gospel with the beat of the day,” says Robert F. Darden, who’s over the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor, which attempts to preserve music on vinyl and tapes. Darden is also working with the Smithsonian on gospel for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

“It always moves me when I hear a choir sing ‘Soon and Very Soon’ by Andrae Crouch,” Marcia Caster says. “Donnie McClurkin’s ‘Stand‘ lifts and boosts that inner strength.”

In submitting more than a few suggestions for this playlist, one contributor said, “I have to stop because I’m catching the spirit at work!” Here are your other favorites:

Tasha Cobbs cover170x170

“Ain’t No Need to Worry” (BeBe and CeCe Winans with Anita Baker)

“Break Every Chain” (Tasha Cobbs)

“Come Sunday” (Duke Ellington)

“Dance Like David” (Fred Hammond)

“I Believe” (Sounds of Blackness)

“In the Upper Room” (Mahalia Jackson)

“Just As I Am” (Charlotte Elliott*)

“Never Give Up” and “Still I Rise” (Yolanda Adams)

“Oh Happy Day” (Edwin Hawkins Singers)

“Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior” (Frances J. Crosby*)

“Shackles (Praise You)” (Mary, Mary)

“Silver & Gold” (Kirk Franklin)

Thank You Lord ” (Walter Hawkins)

Donnie McClurkin

“The Corinthian Song” (Micah Stampley)

“They That Wait” (Fred Hammond featuring John P. Kee)

“This Battle Is the Lord’s” (Yolanda Adams)

“This Little Light of Mine” (Avis Burgeson Christiansen*)

“Through the Storm”  (Yolanda Adams)

“Total Praise” (Donnie McClurkin, featuring Richard Smallwood)

“Walking” (Mary, Mary)

“You Brought the Sunshine” (The Clark Sisters)

“You’re Next in Line for a Miracle” (Shirley Caesar)

* We listed the person who wrote the lyrics when no singer was specified. 

A Spotify playlist that includes songs above and below:


MUSICAL PICK-ME-UP: “When the chips are down,” Angela Johnson says, “nothing fixes it like a dose of ‘Encourage Yourself’,” performed here by Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers.


Some people said they love anything that Yolanda Adams sings. (White House photo by Paul Morse/Public Domain)

Like many people, Lottie Joiner loves anything that Yolanda Adams sings. (Public Domain Photo: Paul Morse/White House)

The Lottie List

We gave our resident expert, Lottie Joiner, her own list, since she used to be a radio announcer for a gospel station in Jackson, Miss. (Who knew?)

“I like the old stuff (Rev. Milton Brunson, Yolanda Adams),” she says, but I like the new folks, too, (Jason Nelson, Israel & New Breed) Tamela Mann, Erica Campbell of Mary, Mary).”

Here’s what she calls “a few of my favorites”:

1. My favorite hymn is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” (I like the version by CeCe Winans.)

The late Mahalia Jackson was the go-to singer when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needed inspiration through music. (Public Domain Photo: Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress)

The late Mahalia Jackson was the go-to singer when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needed inspiration through music. (Public Domain Photo: Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress)

What stirs your soul?

2. Mahalia Jackson – “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” or “If I Can Help Somebody” 3. “Amazing Grace” (Aretha Franklin does a great job on one of her first gospel albums)

Favorite Songs:

4. Anything by Yolanda Adams (Her Mountain High, Valley Low album is one of my favorites.)

5. For the Good of Them (Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers)

6. “I Need You Now” (Smokie Norful)

7. “Nothing Without You” (Jason Nelson)

8. “You’re All I Need” (Hezekiah Walker)

9. “Stand Still Until His Will Is Clear” (Wilmington Chester Mass Choir)

10. “It’s Not Over” (Israel & New Breed)

11. “Great Is Your Mercy “(Donnie McClurkin). Also “The Prayer” (Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams)

12. Grace and Mercy (Mississippi Mass Choir)

13. “Thank You” (Walter Hawkins)

14. “He’s Preparing Me” (Dallas Fort Worth Mass Choir featuring Daryl Coley)

15. “No Weapon Formed Against Me” (Fred Hammond)

16. “When Sunday Comes” (Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers featuring Daryl Coley)

17. “Saved” (Tarralyn Ramsey)

Lottie Joiner is a D.C.-based writer and fitness instructor who coordinates the “Let’s Move” events at the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va. She also wrote a piece for Fierce about health and fitness ministries, “Churches Focus on a New You and Healthier Temple.”


About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being

We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.

To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life, or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.