Another musical powerhouse with a pivotal role in the legacy of gospel is Mattie Moss Clark. Born in Selma, Alabama and raised Methodist, she relocated to Detroit, discovering a spiritual and musical home in COGIC. Her ability to compose, play piano and organ, and direct choirs led to her appointment as Music Director of the Southwest Michigan Jurisdiction of COGIC, and later, as Director of the Music Department of COGIC, International.
Clark is known for her Midnight Musicals at the COGIC Convocations, for separating out three-part harmonies in choirs, and for being the matriarch of one of gospel music's few dynasties: Her brother, Bill Moss, led Bill Moss and the Celestials, and her recording artist granddaughter Kierra Clark Sheard, and grandnephew and producer Jay Moss, dominate today's gospel music scene.
However, it is Moss' four daughters, The Clark Sisters - a phenomenon in their own right - who best reflect her musical legacy. Twinkie, Dorinda, Karen, and Jacky have delighted and amazed audiences in over fifteen recordings and countless live performances since the 1970s. Each sister adds her unique layer to the incomparable musical mosaic that is the "Clark sound": Twinkie is the group's creative force, best-selling songwriter, powerful vocalist, and gifted organist; Dorinda fuses jazz scats, riffs, and runs into her singing; Karen's vocal acrobatics are beloved and emulated by singers of all stripes; and Jacky's welcoming vocal presence is sweet and soothing. Together, The Clark Sisters' body of work exemplifies musicianship excellence and a commitment to music foremost as a tool of ministry.
Once introduced as "without question, the greatest female voice to ever sing gospel music," the legendary Tramaine Hawkins lives up to the distinction. Born Tramaine Davis in San Francisco, she was raised in COGIC, singing "I Come to the Garden Alone" as a four-year-old at the Ephesians COGIC pastored by her grandfather, Bishop E.E. Cleveland, a co-founder of COGIC. Her marital and musical partnership with COGIC pastor and gospel music artist Walter Hawkins in the early 1970s propelled her to household name status. A successful series of recordings (Love Alive and Love Alive II) filled with rousing songs featuring Tramaine's pure, impassioned, soprano, were popularized during that period. These gospel classics bear her indelible vocal signature: "Changed," "Goin' Up Yonder," "Dear Jesus I Love You," and "Jesus Christ is the Way."
When she and Walter divorced, Tramaine launched her solo career. Her ensuing albums reflected a variety of musical styles - from gutsy blues songs, to lush ballads, to funky up-tempo pieces, to Country & Western - all while the message stayed uncompromisingly Christian. In addition to her two Grammy Awards, Tramaine has received a Gospel Music Excellence Award from the GMWA. In 2005, Tramaine was the only soloist in the funeral for Rosa Parks, the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.
Photo courtesy of www.judahmusic4u.org