Sounds of Blackness

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This article is about musical group. For the Canadian music awards, see Sounds of Blackness Award.
Sounds of Blackness
Origin Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Genres Gospel, R&B
Years active 1969–present
Labels Perspective Records
A&M Records
Zinc Records
Atomic K Records
Malaco Music Group
Associated acts Paris Bennett, Cynthia Johnson, Alexander O'Neal
Past members Ann Nesby
James "Big Jim" Wright
Jamecia Bennett

Sounds of Blackness is a Grammy Award-winning vocal and instrumental ensemble from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota who perform music from several genres music including gospel, R&B, soul, and jazz.[1] The group scored several hits on the Billboard R&B chart and Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the 1990s. Cynthia Johnson of Lipps Inc. fame and Grammy winner Ann Nesby are the group's most prominent alumni.



The group was founded in 1969 by Russell Knighton at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the group was called the Macalester College Black Voices. It was in 1971 when current director Gary Hines took leadership over the ensemble, and the group name was officially changed to Sounds of Blackness (SOB). The group had acquired local celebrity status throughout the years though never signed with a record company because of various reasons including the fact that many companies were not comfortable with the group's name. Some companies even suggested to Hines that the group's name be changed to "The Sounds of Music."[citation needed]

The chief lead singer of the group was Ann Nesby until 1995 when Nesby left the group to pursue a solo career. The group continues to perform internationally. The group performed the original songs for the 1999 Disney animated short John Henry (based on the folklore character) as part of Disney's American Legends, the short was re-released in 2015 as part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection. The original songs were written by Gary Hines and Billy Steele, with a score by Stephen James Taylor

Awards and honors[edit]

The group has received three Grammy Awards, four Stellar Awards, one Emmy nomination, the International Time for Peace Award, the International Dance Music Award, five NAACP Image Award nominations and 1 NAACP Image Award.

Sounds of Blackness's "Time For Love" was nominated for the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for R&B Song of the year.

Members (The Perspective Records Lineup)[edit]


First Sopranos: Jamecia Bennett, Dorothy A. Brown, Sandra Harris, Angela Henderson, Wanda Lewis, Renee J. McCall

Second Sopranos: Jayn R. Bell, Ann Nesby, Kellie Hickman, Cheryl D. Warder- Reeves, Elizabeth J. Turner

First Altos: Kimberly Gayle Brown, Coré Cotton, Shirley Marie Graham, Carrie Harrington, Wendy Ingram, Valarie Johnson, Regina Williams, Cynthia Johnson

Second Altos: Patricia Lacy, Lisa D. Russell, Dorothy Shelby, Dorothy J. Towns, Jennifer Whitlock

First Tenors: Michael L. Bowens, Robert Edwards, Terence O. Frierson, William H. Smith

Second Tenors: Dr. Robert J. Jones, Russell B. Knighton, Jr., Otis Montgomery, Willie Wesley

Baritones: Freddie Winston, David Brim Young

Basses: Reverend Ira Conley, Timothy W. Lee, Rojeem Taylor

Spirit V[edit]

Gordon Bruce, Gregory Sears (Second basses)

Geoffrey Jones (First baritone)

Minneapolis Gospel Sound[edit]

Billy Steele - Organ

Robert "Speedy" Pittman - Bass

Chico Cockrell - Drum programming

The Sounds Of Blackness Orchestra[edit]

Gary Hines - musical director, conductor, arranger, piano, congas, tympani, drum programming

Deevo, Soli Hughes - guitar

Brandon Commodore, Larry Robinson- drums, percussion

Billy Steele- keyboards

James "Big Jim" Wright - keyboards, organ, additional vocals

Kevin Whitlock - congas, tympani

Reverend Joseph Young, Jr. - bass


Studio Albums[edit]

  • The Evolution of Gospel (Perspective, 1991)
  • The Night Before Christmas...A Musical Fantasy (Perspective, 1992)
  • Africa To America - The Journey Of The Drum (Perspective, 1994)
  • Time For Healing (Perspective, 1997)
  • Reconciliation (Zinc, 1999)
  • Soul Symphony (Sounds Of Blackness, 2002)
  • The Night Before Christmas II (Atomic K, 2004)
  • Unity (SLR/Lightyear, 2005)
  • Kings & Queens - Message Music From The Movement (P-Vine, 2007)
  • The 3rd Gift - Story, Song & Spirit (CC Entertainment, 2009)
  • The Sounds of Blackness (Atomic K, 2011)


  • Journey Of The Drum Remix Collection (Perspective, 1995)
  • The Very Best Of Sounds Of Blackness (A&M, 2001)
  • The Collection (Spectrum, 2003)
  • The Best Of Sounds Of Blackness - The Millennium Collection (20th Century Masters) (A&M, 2007)

Other appearances[edit]


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US 100
US R&B HipHop
US Dance
US Gospel
1991 "Optimistic" 3 17 45 The Evolution Of Gospel
"The Pressure Part 1" 16 1 71
1992 "Testify" (US only) 12 7
"Optimistic / Testify" (UK only) 28
"Pressure (Pt. 1) (CJ Mackintosh Remix)" (UK only) 49
"Joy" (US only) 27 Mo' Money OST
"Soul Holidays / Joy" (UK only) 79 The Night Before Christmas - A Musical Fantasy
1993 "I'm Going All The Way" (UK only) 27 Africa To America; The Journey Of The Drum
1994 "I Believe" 99 15 1 17
"Gloryland" (with Daryl Hall) 37 36 Official Theme Song Of World Cup USA 94
"Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" 29 10 29 Africa To America; The Journey Of The Drum
"I'm Going All The Way" 39 41 14
1995 "Black Butterfly" (US only) 86
1996 "Children Of The World" 90 19 141 People: A Musical Celebration Of Diversity OST
1997 "Spirit" 29 35 Time For Healing
1998 "The Pressure (new remixes)" (UK only) 46 single only
"Try" Reconciliation
2005 "Unity" 29 Unity
2011 "Fly Again" 93 22 The Sounds Of Blackness
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official Website of Sounds of Blackness". Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - US Hot 100". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - US Dance Club Songs". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - US Hot Gospel Songs". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - Swiss chart". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Sounds Of Blackness - UK Chart". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 

External links[edit]