PBS Books host Heather-Marie Montilla sits down with author and journalist Cheryl Wills to discuss her book Isn’t Her Grace Amazing! The Women Who Changed Gospel Music. Join us as Cheryl reflects on her inspiration and motivation behind this stunning portrayal of these legendary women, with powerful accounts of their resilience and strength in their words. We’ll explore the books’ gorgeous photographs of these dynamic women, which capture their importance and prominence, and hear more about the stories behind these icons of the gospel and why their timeless messages have held strong for generations.
Nothing in the world soothes the soul better than Gospel music. From the foot-stomping, hand-clapping melodies of yesterday to the head-bobbing, bass-thumping hits of today, Gospel music ignites the spirit and delivers the inspiration that takes us from the rough side of the mountain to the peak of God’s love and grace. That feeling of joy, peace, love, and contentment is amplified when it’s ringing through the voice of a sister who can SANG, Cheryl Wills reminds us. The remedy for a tough day at work can be alleviated with Mary Mary’s uplifting jam Shackles, the answer to your heart’s desires can be found in the harmonies of The Clark Sisters Name It, Claim It, and if you need a reminder of God’s love, there is nothing more timeless that Aretha Franklin’s stirring rendition of Amazing Grace.
Some talented performers, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe have faded from history, while singers like Yolanda Adams are at the top of her game. During the twentieth century, Willie Mae Ford spent most of her life encouraging and uplifting Christians both in church and on stage and composed more than 100 Gospel songs, yet it was men like her co-writer, Thomas A. Dorsey, who received the accolades and fame. Many women in the Gospel music industry go unnoticed, unpaid, and under-appreciated for their contributions, yet it is these women who are often the bedrock for songwriting, arranging, directing, and developing singers.
Cheryl Wills, the granddaughter of a Gospel singer, at last shines a spotlight on these spectacular women of song. The only book of its kind, Isn’t Her Grace Amazing! showcase the talents, gifts, and skills of women in the Gospel music industry. It celebrates these heroines, chronicles their journeys from the choir loft to the world’s largest stages, and reveals how they revolutionized this sacred music that is beloved worldwide. From the matriarchs of this movement to today’s chart-topping divas, Wills offers in-depth portraits of twenty-five amazing women of Gospel music–based on interviews and extensive research–behind-the-scenes stories of favorite gospel hits, and illuminates what makes each of them shine.
Cheryl Wills is a veteran journalist with Spectrum News NY1. The Emmy Award winning reporter and author has written a series of books about her enslaved great-grandfather who was a Union Soldier during The Civil War. Cheryl has interviewed some of the most influential figures in the world, including the first woman president of Africa: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and the late great writer and activist Maya Angelou.
She lives in New York City. For more than a decade she was the host of the Essence Festival’s All-Star Gospel Tribute, a standing room only event that has honored Cissy Houston, Kim Burrell, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dorinda Clark-Cole among many others.