Gospel music has its roots in many forms of music - from early hymns and folk songs to blues music. When Thomas A. Dorsey found his inspiration from God to develop this unique music genre, it happened in Chicago at the National Baptist Convention in 1930. By 1932, gospel music had become a staple in American Culture, particularly in Chicago.
Inspired by Dorsey, as well as the festivals celebrating jazz and blues music, the first Chicago Gospel Music festival was actually called The Thomas A. Dorsey Gospel Fest and held at the South Shore Country Club Park (now South Shore Cultural Center) in June 1985.
Held two years on the south side, the festival then moved to Grant Park in the summer of 1987 where it remained a June tradition for many years until 2005, when that tradition moved to beautiful Millennium Park.
Following the 2010 event, the Gospel Music festival was incorporated into an afternoon and evening of music at the 2011 Taste of Chicago, but the event was renewed, restored and revamped in 2012.
For more than a quarter century, this festival has remained free and it continues to present high caliber gospel music performers that over the years have included: Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Yolanda Adams, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Sapp, Albertina Walker, The Canton Spirituals, Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond and others.
The 2015 celebration was a milestone year. The 30th Gospel Music Festival honored the genre's deep Chicago roots with traditional choirs and contemporary urban gospel music in the city where the genre was born more than 80 years ago.