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Origin of Praise and Worship Songs People Know and Love
If you’re a fan of today’s praise and worship songs, it’s important to first understand where they came from in order to truly appreciate them today. It’s one thing to be a fan of the Christian songs that people know and love today, but it’s another thing to truly appreciate the history of church songs.
The date of origin of church chants is disputed and will likely continue to be for years to come, but the original songs date back to the early 300s when they were called “plain songs” or hymns. These were merely replies between the congregation and the cantor, relating to the synagogue at that time. These were essentially arrangements of Hebrew and Greek poetry in song form. Later, an antiphon was added to these responsorial chants, which later became the basis of what we know today as a chorus.
Then, in the 1500s and 1600s, a shift occurred as more composers began writing more praise and worship songs that had a more individual religious feel and quoted less directly from Scripture. It wasn’t until the 1700s that instruments began to be used more widely. Many shorter songs with hymns and hymns were born during this period. This is where the songs began to take on a new sound and feel that would continue to change as time went on.
Back then, in the 1800s and 1900s, gospel songs really started to take over the sound of the music of that time, especially here in America. American traveling preachers began using country-themed songs, and in the early 1920s, this type of worship music became the beginning of gospel music. Much of this music has deep roots in bluegrass, black gospel, and jazz. The spread of this musical style continued in the 1950s. In the 1950s, with the introduction of rock ‘n roll, which inspired many musical genres, praise and worship songs began to take shape as a genre of the day.
With each passing decade, a new version or genre of music began to develop, and songs followed suit. In the 60s and 70s there was a hippie music movement and in the 70s it was more classic rock and a lot of worship artists got their start there. The 80s brought heavy metal and the 90s blended country and rock to bring a new generation of reggae, rap and urban gospel artists.
Some of today’s most popular gospel artists are the pinnacle of Christian music’s collective history spanning hundreds of years. Today’s and yesterday’s popular artists like Carmen, Chris Tomlin and David Crowder are all by-products of the great history that preceded them. So being a fan of gospel music today is more than just being an average fan, it’s about understanding the true story of the praise and worship songs that we humans have known and loved ever since.
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