Setting the Intention Part II

Beginning 2023 with a look back at the intention behind the work of this newsletter & a look at what's ahead in the new year.


In the very first essay at God’s Music Is My Life back in May of 2021, I wrote about the life experiences, spiritual path and musical foundations that undergird the work that I proposed to do here. Since that first essay, I’ve been amazed at how many people have subscribed, what articles have particularly resonated and the ways you’ve landed here.

As the end of 2022 approached, I realized the size of the archive that I’ve accumulated since I began doing active historical work in 2006 for my internet-radio show Out the Box with Tim Dillinger. When my academic work about gospel and CCM started in 2015, that archive of audio interviews grew substantially. Launching Have You Ever Heard….? at the beginning of the pandemic expanded the archive with the addition of video interviews with creators of gospel, CCM and Women’s Music.

Last month, I edited excerpts from my sixteen years of audio and video interviews and shared them with my friend Odu Adamu, a talented filmmaker, and proposed a trailer that might showcase in three short minutes the breadth of what God’s Music Is My Life is all about. The result is at the top of this page! If you enjoy this newsletter, I humbly ask that you consider sharing this particular post with your friends and inviting them to join us here.

For the new subscribers, I’d like to point you to three articles that serve as an introduction to the foundational elements of this newsletter.

  1. “New Time Religion: The Holy Ghost Falls Down In The Club”

    In 1985, Tramaine Hawkins shocked the gospel world when she scored at #1 hit on the Billboard’s Dance Music Chart with “Fall Down (Spirit of Love)” and began performing in venues like the Paradise Garage. The year 1985 and the word “crossover” will emerge frequently at God’s Music is My Life and no story expresses why both are important more than this story. For this article, I interviewed some of the producers and musicians who played a part in this moment of Tramaine’s career and explore the consequences of daring to go into the world.

  2. I Don’t Wanna Be a Solder: Teri DeSario Heeds the Call

    My pursuit of this story began in 2007. I was hosting an internet radio show that had a companion blog and I wrote a brief post about how important Teri DeSario’s music had been to me and asked “Where are you Teri DeSario?”

    Her music first found me as a ten-year-old gay kid in the church who needed every single word she wrote and sang about a deep, abounding love that transcended faith labels and challenged a rigid, militaristic idea of God. She recorded two CCM albums and seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

    She saw my blog post and we began a correspondence and a friendship that I treasure. She graciously shared her story of how those songs and her career in CCM came to be—and the price she paid for them. It’s one of the lesser-read pieces here, but one of the most important.

  3. “Testimony: Consciousness Raising in Women’s Music: 9 Songs That Just Might Change How You See The World”

    Much of my coverage is about the ways that women in gospel and CCM are under-explored in historical re-tellings of the genres. But Women’s Music is the lens through which I do that. The women who created Women’s Culture/Women’s Music took the reins of control away from the men who ran the music business and imagined (and created!) their own ways of recording, performing, distributing and promoting their music with their own self-determined message. I’ve interviewed innovators like Margie Adam, Teresa Trull and Rhiannon and written/talked about Meg Christian, Therese Edell and Jade & Sarsaparilla, but I plan on covering more about this powerful music in 2023. The “Testimony” post serves as a ‘starter kit’ to this great music that will change the way you envision the world.

    Now. What is coming in 2023?

    Well, the long-awaited essay and video interview with Pam Mark Hall which will coincide with our deeper look into the crossover albums of the 1985-1986 window that we talked about in last week’s newsletter as well as interviews with Wanda Nero Butler, Lois Snead and Candi Staton—in addition to some long-archived interviews with Deniece Williams (previewed in the video at the top of this post!), Daryl Coley and others…so stay tuned!