Doris Akers

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Doris Akers
Background information
Birth nameDoris Mae Akers
Born(1923-05-21)May 21, 1923
Brookfield, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJuly 26, 1995(1995-07-26) (aged 72)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresGospel
Occupation(s)Composer, arranger, recording artist
Instrument(s)Piano, Voice
Years active1945–1995
LabelsScore, Superb, Songs of the Cross, Imperial, RCA Victor, Christian Faith, Manna Records, Praise, Worship
Formerly ofSimmons-Akers Singers

Doris Mae Akers (May 21, 1923 – July 26, 1995)[1] was an American gospel music composer, arranger and singer who is considered to be "one of the most underrated gospel composers of the 20th century [who] wrote more than 500 songs".[2] Known for her work with the Sky Pilot Choir, she was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.[3]

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Doris Akers was born in Brookfield, Missouri to parents Floyd Akers (1887-1958) and Pearl M. Kelly (1896-1988). "Floyd and Pearl had married 21 June 1909 in Linn County, Missouri, an interracial marriage. They divorced some time after the birth of Bernice in 1926. When Pearl remarried to John Lawson (1892–1974) on 24 Feb. 1929, Doris and some of her siblings became part of that household, living in Kirksville, Adair County, Missouri, while three of her brothers stayed with their father."[4] She had nine siblings: Edward, Floyd, Evelyn, Marian, Donald, Nellie, Bernice, Harley, and Charles. She learned to play the piano by ear at age six and wrote her first song, "Keep the Fire Burning in Me," when she was ten years old.[5] During the 1930s, she formed a group with her siblings, Edward, Marian and Donald, who went by the name of "Dot and The Swingsters".[citation needed]

Bethel A.M.E. Church in Kirksville, Missouri, where Doris Akers first learned to sing and play Gospel music.

Early career[edit]

According to ASCAP documentation, in 1958, along with her friend Mahalia Jackson, Doris co-wrote the song, "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain", which sold over a million records. This composition also became a hit for another gospel superstar, Inez Andrews, over a decade later.[citation needed]

While in Los Angeles, she became director of the Sky Pilot Choir, an integrated choir, which was also featured on recordings, television shows, and radio broadcasts across the country. Her fresh, modern arrangements of traditional Negro spirituals drew large crowds from far and near and increased attendance at the church dramatically. They released three albums, "The Sky Pilot Choir", "The Sky Pilot Choir Vol. 2" (with the Sutton Sisters), and "Doris Akers Sings with The Sky Pilot Choir". Their organist on many occasions was a young Billy Preston. She ended her collaboration with the Sky Pilot Choir in 1965, but they reunited again in 1974 to record their fourth effort, "Doris Akers and the Original Members of the Sky Pilot Choir".[citation needed]

Akers continued recording for RCA Victor into the mid-sixties, cutting such albums as "Forever Faithful" (1963), a collaboration with The Statesmen Quartet entitled, "Sing for You" in 1964, and "Highway to Heaven".[citation needed]

After having lived in Los Angeles since the mid-forties, she moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1970. On the "He Touched Me" track of her album "All God's Children" she recounts an incident of playing the song at the St. James Pentecostal Church in that city. She continued recording, composing and traveling. An album, "The Artistry of Doris Akers", was released in 1979.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

In the 1980s, Akers issued a new gospel album every year on a regional midwest label. Each album cover featured a new color photograph of the artist to confirm it was a current production. She also recorded a few albums in Canada which were not distributed in the United States, such as Crusade LP 2702 with Glad Tidings Temple's Harvest Time Choir.[citation needed]

In the United States, she began recording for the Gaither label and appeared at some of their concerts and in TV productions. In the early 1990s she was featured in Bill Gaither's gospel videos Old Friends, Turn Your Radio On, and Precious Memories.[6]

She was affectionately known as "Miss Gospel Music" because she was admired and respected by everyone in the music industry over the years, she had mastered every aspect of gospel music including vocals, keyboards, choir directing, arranging, composing and publishing, she had worked with many of the pioneers of the Golden Age of Gospel Music, she had authored many standard gospel compositions, and she moved freely and successfully in all spheres of gospel music. Many of her compositions such as "Lead Me and Guide Me", "I Cannot Fail The Lord", "You Can't Beat God Giving", and "Sweet, Sweet Spirit", sold millions for other gospel artists and evangelists. She was interviewed by Lindsay Terry for the book: "Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites" and she explained how the hit song "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" was revealed to her during a prayer session with one of her choirs before a church service. [7]

Last years and death[edit]

Akers lived out the final years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serving as Minister of Music at Grace Temple Deliverance Center. She discovered she had spinal cancer when she visited the doctor after breaking her ankle in August 1994. Akers died on July 26, 1995, in Edina, Minnesota. She was survived by two of her sisters, Nellie & Bernice, and her brother, Donald Akers.[8]

Works[edit]

Collections[edit]

  • The Doris Akers Choral Series Vol. 1: Special Arrangements (1965)
  • The Doris Akers Choral Series Vol. 2: Special Arrangements (1967) [9]
  • The Doris Akers Choral Series Vol. 3: Special Arrangements
  • The Songs of Doris Akers for Voice and Piano with Guitar (1981) [10]
  • Doris Akers Favorite Gospel Songs Vol. 1 (1965) [11]
  • Doris Akers Favorite Gospel Songs Vol. 2 (1966) [12]
  • Doris Akers Favorite Gospel Songs Vol. 3
  • Doris Akers Favorite Gospel Songs Vol. 4

Breakdown of Published Collections[edit]

Title Year Instrumentation Collection Published by
Ask what you will 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Don't stop using me 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Grow closer 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Heaven (Happy home above) 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Honey in that rock 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
I was there when the Spirit came 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
I'm not satisfied yet 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Lord, keep my mind on Thee 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Sweet, sweet Spirit 1967 Solo voice, chorus (SATB), and piano The Doris Akers Choral Series Volume 2: Special Arrangements. Manna Music
Grow closer 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
God is so good 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
He's a light unto my pathway 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
How big is God? 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
I sure do love the Lord 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
I just got religion 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
I was there when the spirit came 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
I'm not satisfied yet 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
Lead on, Lord Jesus 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
Mine just for the asking 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
No one but the Lord 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
Sweet Jesus 1966 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2 Manna Music
Sweet, sweet spirit 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
I cannot fail the Lord 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
He know and He cares 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Don't stop using me 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Is there any peace anywhere 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
You can't beat God giving 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Prayer is the answer 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
My song of assurance 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Ask what you will 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
How great thou art 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Lord, don't move the mountain 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Lord, keep my mind on thee 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music
Trouble 1965 Solo voice and piano Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 1 Manna Music

Legacy and honors[edit]

Akers received many awards including back-to-back "Gospel Music Composer of the Year" in both 1960 and 1961. "Doris Akers Day" was held in Kirksville, Missouri in July, 1976. Akers was the headline act of the city's American Bicentennial celebration, with approximately 20,000 people attending an evening concert.[13]

In 1992, Akers was honored by the Smithsonian Institution as "the foremost black gospel songwriter in the United States". She was posthumously inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2011 Doris Akers was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Virgie W Murray (3 August 1995). "Music Lovers Mourn Akers". Los Angeles Sentinel. p. A3.
  2. ^ Carpenter, Bil (2005). Uncloudy days : the gospel music encyclopedia. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-841-9. OCLC 60375463.
  3. ^ "Doris Akers bio". Manna Music Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  4. ^ "Doris Akers". Hymnology Archive. Retrieved 2022-02-26.
  5. ^ "Honored by the Smithsonian". Christian Broadcasting Network website. 2005. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  6. ^ W.K. McNeil, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. ISBN 9780415941792. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  7. ^ Terry, Lindsay (2002–2005). Stories behind 50 southern gospel favorites. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. ISBN 0-8254-3819-5. OCLC 50270749.
  8. ^ "Doris Akers dies: composed more than 500 gospel songs" Minneapolis Star-Tribune July 28, 1995, p. 6B.
  9. ^ The Doris Akers choral series. special arrangements. Volume 2 Volume 2, Hollywood, Calif.: Manna Music, 1967, OCLC 31714380, retrieved 2022-02-26
  10. ^ The songs of Doris Akers., Burbank, CA: Manna Music, 1981, OCLC 11427771, retrieved 2022-02-26
  11. ^ Favorite gospel songs: volume 1, Hollywood, CA: Manna Music, Inc., 1965, OCLC 783785070, retrieved 2022-02-26
  12. ^ Doris Akers favorite gospel songs. Volume 2. Volume 2., Hollywood, CA: Manna Music, 1966, OCLC 41073964, retrieved 2022-02-26
  13. ^ A Book of Adair County History. Published by the Kirksville-Adair County Bicentennial Committee, 1976.
  14. ^ "Southern Gospel Music Association Salutes Hall of Fame Inductees for 2011". BMNN. October 10, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2012.

Further reading[edit]