Why are many Gospel singers over-weight? (hint: it ain’t because it makes them sing better)

Let me start right off the bat by saying that I’ve spent more of my adult life over-weight than anywhere near something “sexy” or even average. And I’m never more than a few hamburgers away from being right back there again. Many of the people I love most struggle with weight. So this is not some derogatory  demeaning, insensitive blog meant to simply poke fun at larger-sized people. There but by the grace of God go I.  Let me tell you what prompted this article. It was something I saw quoted in an interview article. It was said by the owner of one of the top vocal training studios here in the area.

I won’t mention the name of this company, but they have a stellar reputation here in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. The company is a full service provider of not only vocal training but the full ride. Everything you need from artist development performance, grooming, demos, you name it.  What she said in this interview blew my mind. She was talking about the requirements of working with her company, spelling out what she’s learned over the years to be the must-have attributes anyone who hopes to make it in the music business must possess.

She began breaking it down into various genres of music and the importance of appearance to be successful in those genres. That’s when it got interesting. If you’ll allow me to paraphrase here, what she said was that if you have any hope at all of making it in the pop music world you have to be in great shape physically. She went on to say that this is so critical to success in this genre that she won’t even accept someone over-weight who wants to sing pop, no matter how good they are. But then she began to compare that to the acceptable norm in Gospel music. In Gospel music, she said, being overweight is almost a requirement. In fact, she added, she won’t  accept a Gospel singer who isn’t over-weight. Yes, you read that right.

No matter how you feel about what she said, it’s hard to deny that over-weight singers are far more common in Gospel music than any other genre except one.  Classical/Opera.  People have been asking, debating, researching and puzzling for years over the propensity of Opera singers to be over-weight. All kinds of theories have been offered to explain it.  And all of it, centering around the question of whether or not being over-weight helps Classical vocalists sing better. Ask Google this question and you’ll get hundreds of results. Experts, vocal coaches, doctors, all weighing in (no pun intended). But all debate aside, the general feeling you’ll come way with is that whether or not it actually does, most classical singers are overweight because they believe it gives them some advantage vocally. History of the genre plays a role there too.

But ask Google why are most Gospel singers overweight  and you’ll get almost nothing back. You may pull up blogs like mine here, but your results certainly won’t include any experts debating about whether or not there there is any real advantage for Gospel singers to being overweight. Why? I suspect it’s because nobody really believes that any overweight person, group or ensemble singing Gospel is overweight because they think  it helps their singing in any way. No, I’m afraid the answer isn’t that deep. Listen, family. The truth is we as a people simply have a history of not eating very healthy- and not really caring much about it’s effects on our well-being. And over the years not only has our diet gotten worse, our lifestyles have become more and more sedentary thanks to modern technology and conveniences.

When you look at the number of successful Gospel artists who are overweight, you realize that obesity is an epidemic in our culture. That would be bad enough if most of us weren’t believers.  But our knowledge of the word and our tendency to use it  to judge other people makes it worse. We’re so quick to take others to task for what they’re doing to their bodies, aren’t we? We love to quote that scripture in 1 Cor. 16; 9 about how your body is God’s temple. We use it to preach against sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Smoking. Tattoos.  The “COGIC” people like to use it to condemn the “Baptist” people for smoking; right before we head over to the nearest after-church gathering spot to partake of all kinds of fattening, fried, gravy-laden foods until we can barely drive ourselves home.

Do you see the irony here? The hypocrisy? We’ll pretty-much attach any vice we want to preach against to that scripture as a sure-fire way to biblically lam-bast someone for doing it; everything that is, but gluttony. Yet a recent Google search I did using “scriptures about gluttony” pulled up more than 160 scriptures related to it.; including the one we like to quote for everything else.

Look, I didn’t write this blog to preach at anybody. I really wrote it to point out two things. Number one. Being over-weight doesn’t help your singing at all. In fact it make singing harder. But that’s a subject for another blog. Number two. We need to take better of ourselves as a people.  A quote from the studio owner like the one I posted at the top of this article conjures up so many different emotions for me. I could get mad, but at whom?  Is her statement unfair? Is it based on something she”s making up? Some unfair stereo-type? Or is it it based on something she’s seen over and over?

Look, guys. We as a people and family of believers have GOT to start taking better care of ourselves this year. We need to start caring about what we eat. Get some activity in our lives. Go to the doctor more. We need to get real honest about the fact that when we don’t care what we put into our bodies or how we treat them, we are violating our temples on the same level as any smoker or drug addict. If you don’t think so, try to stop eating fattening food for one week. Most wouldn’t make it a couple of days, let alone one week. Why? Because we’re addicted to it. Most of us would rather knowingly consume things we know are bad for us than give up the joy and comfort we get from consuming them. I have a hard time seeing the difference between that and any drug.

I’ve been trying to be healthier overall for years now. Even if it’s just eating it less often, or eating smaller portions. All my siblings are juicing now. My mom is in on it too. There is never a better time than the beginning of a new year to start trying to be healthier. At no other time will you find it easier to find support and others who are trying to do the same thing. There’s a move of God going on around the world, family.  And I for one, want to be sure I’m healthy enough to be used of God.

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12 Responses to Why are many Gospel singers over-weight? (hint: it ain’t because it makes them sing better)

  1. Great article!!! I have always been petite, 5’3″ and 110lbs. I had the problem of people assuming I wouldn’t have a strong voice. Audio engineers have even set up the wrong microphone for me under that assumption. People are surprised when I open my mouth. Lol. It’s funny…this white girl never had that problem in black church. Singing with a gospel choir was the best. They even made me sing a solo, when I was just trying to blend in…hilarious, I know!

    Anyway, thank you, Ron, for sharing this! I want to encourage people to take care of themselves, so they can live their best lives for Jesus!

    Here are some helpful, encouraging books: Darren Hardy, “The Compound Effect,” and “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson! They address taking small steps to set up good habits for life in every area: health, practice, education, investing, etc.

  2. Andrew says:

    Wow! Great article, Ron. I’ve had many of the same thoughts…great read. Will reach post!

  3. alyce says:

    Keep beating this drum. This message needs to be shed abroad. Saints committing ‘suicide by food’ has got to stop.

  4. Tammi says:

    Ron, thank you for this article. Not only am a gospel singer I used to be an opera singer in my younger years. So I understand weight has nothing to do with making you sound better. I am an overweight gospel singer. I don’t like it and am trying my best to change. I’ve been overweight for most of my life, but it has to stop! I have been praying for a change for years, but I wouldn’t do the work to initiate the change. I wanted God to change my appetite, but that’s not how it works. The Lord said, “Let a man examine himself,” and I have and I come up short. I can’t blame prednisone or the other two medications that cause weight gain for me. I must be more disciplined, obedient to the Holy Spirit and remind myself that my body IS a temple of the Holy Spirit and I should treat it as such. I’m on my way to a new lifestyle! Please pray for me. I have elicited the prayers of my church and prayer ministry as well. I have spoken publicly about my problem and I’m ready for the change! I will not wait/weight for the change. I will make the change! In the Name of Jesus!

    • Ron Cross says:

      Tammi I really appreciate your candor here. I can tell you that learning to eat right is the key. I can also tell you that you can eat food that you enjoy and eat healthy. It’s really not about the fat-free this, fat-free that method that used to be so popular. Now it’s about eating more natural foods, including quality proteins in your diet and just getting away from so much processed stuff.

      Someone once said to me that if you go to the grocery store and shop only from the perimeter you’ll automatically be eating healthier. A healthy diet can even include a cheat day if you want. It keeps you from being deprived. But I stand with you sis. I know you can do it! Your mind is made up and that’s biggest challenge of all. May God bless you and strengthen you on your journey.

      Take care,

  5. Chris D. says:

    Being less active is not a big a deal. Replace bread, cereal, pasta and oatmeal with pork rinds and bacon, and of course, vegetables (not too many white potatoes, but sweet potatoes aren’t bad). Give up sugar and see how sweet green beans taste! Get rid of fake corn oil and margerine and use real butter, lard and whole milk (if you care for milk). Grains, even “heart healthywholegrains” are what we feed livestock to fatten them up. Why is it going to make you thin? Grains are great for lean famine times, it lasts and you don’t die, but it was never to be our main food source. Because of the fall, God gave Adam the curse of eating bread, and we are supposed to have our reminder of death in the world because of our sin by using innocent animals as food.

  6. Niambis says:

    I was reading your post to my sister. I wondered why Gospel singers most of them seem to be
    overweight….I thought being overweight di make you sing better…Thanks for giving me the 411 on that misguided thought. Thanks to your post..We talked and came up with this plan: I love bread—I’m giving up bread. My sister loves soda…She’s giving up soda….
    We can change I want to be healthier and get off of the ‘obese chart’. thank you so much
    for not be ‘A-scared of the ‘White Elephant’ in the room’. God Bless You.

    • Ron Cross says:

      Niambis, I think this is incredible news! The fact that this blog prompted you and your sister to make just one change is amazing to me. We gotta do something sis. We’re killing ourselves.
      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Ron says:

    It’s simply a case of numbers, Tekoa. And that’s the point I’m trying to make here. If I gave you a twelve pack of soda with 9 Grape sodas in it and only 4 Strawberry sodas, chances are you’re gonna end up with a Grape soda.

    As far as your other on why male choir directors and group leaders are more prominent, I have some theories about that too. Perhaps I’ll cover it in a future blog post.

  8. Milton Kelly says:

    Ron, Your Blog is a wake up call for the gospel community. Everybody needs to read this blog. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am a member of GMWA and every year I go to the convention and you see so many overweight singers and the worst part they are young adults. Some of them I saw them in wheelchairs. We as the Christian Community that we need to start to have a health seminar such as healthy diets, exercise and etc. Also we need to start to serve healthy dishes such as more fiber, Fruits,Vegetables, Whole Grains and cut down on the fried foods. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Ron says:

      Milton, thanks for checking in. It’s sad, man. I just hate that it’s such a wide-spread lack of concern among our people. I mean make even the simplest of changes. We’re not even talking strict diets and hour-long workouts here. Some people won’t do things as simple as give up one item, like soda. We’ll say we “can’t do it”. That’s bad enough, but to be that way and then be lambasting other people for what they put in their bodies? Something’s wrong with that in my opinion.

  9. Tekoa says:

    This was an observation that I made a sometime ago. I didn’t have any factual literature to support what I my theory. For female gospel artists who are successful, the common denominator is there weight. I aways wondered why overweight gospel singers were more prominent in that genre. I’d be interested to hear what your take is on why male choir directors or group leaders are dominate that area in gospel. i.e. Kirk Franklin, Tye Tribbett, JJ Hairston, and James Fortune. This was a great post!

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