Bill Gaither has done more to promote Southern Gospel music than anyone else in the last thirty or forty years. In fact, he is probably somewhere on an all-time top five list that would also include James Vaughan, V.O. Stamps, James Blackwood, and Hovie Lister. And of those five, he has done the most to promote Southern Gospel internationally and in several regions of the country outside of the South.
Whether or not you like his stylistic preferences or his business model—and fact is, he can’t include everyone on the Homecoming series, so he has to make choices—let’s not forget to appreciate him while we have him. Even aside from his contributions to the genre, the fact that the greatest living hymn-writer would choose to devote his talents and energies to promoting the genre is no small thing.
A post-Gaither genre is harder to imagine than than a post-anyone else genre. James Blackwood and Hovie Lister transitioned off the road slowly enough that by their retirement years, other people from their group’s peak years were carrying the banner. (And, in fact, Blackwood and Lister were both featured artists on the Gaither Homecoming tour). On the other hand, Gaither is still so personally involved in the Homecoming Tours that it’s hard to see them continuing at the same level after he retires.
Perhaps the foundation he’s laid, where it’s not even headline news when the Homecoming Tour, Signature Sound, the Talleys, or the Isaacs announce an overseas tour, and it’s barely headlines when a Southern Gospel DVD out-sells any other music DVD period the week it’s released—perhaps this will last till Christ’s return. But we can’t count on it, so let’s not forget to appreciate him while he’s here.