Sounds of Blackness Biography

Led by bodybuilder Gary Hines, a former Mr. Minnesota, Sounds Of Blackness is a US gospel/soul 40-piece choir whose work has crossed over to the R&B and dance music charts. Stranger still, perhaps, is the fact that the choir broke through so late in their career; they were 20 years old as an outfit when they came to prominence in 1991. Hines took them over from their original incarnation as the Malcalaster College Black Choir in January 1971, running the group on a strict ethical code of professional practices. The rulebook is sustained by the long waiting list of aspiring members, and Hines’ self-appointed role as ‘benevolent dictator’. They first made the charts under the aegis of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had spotted the group and used them for backing vocals on their productions for Alexander O’Neal. The celebrated production duo, who had been advised to sign the choir on the advice of their major client Janet Jackson, used Sounds Of Blackness to launch their new record label, Perspective Records, succeeding almost immediately with ‘Optimistic’. Released in 1990, it single-handedly sparked off a revival in the fortunes of gospel music. The album that accompanied it subsequently won a Grammy award, as ‘The Pressure’ and ‘Testify’ also charted. Subsequent singles were also successful, and included remixes from noted dance music producers such as Sasha. The distinctive, emotive vocals from Ann Nesby proved extremely popular in the secular arena of the club scene. Hines was pleased with this exposure, insisting that their message could permeate people’s consciences regardless of the environment. Sounds Of Blackness sang ‘Gloryland’, alongside Daryl Hall, as the official theme to the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament. They have also appeared on the soundtracks to the moviesPosse and Demolition Man, and have recorded with John Mellencamp, Elton John and Stevie Wonder.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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