14 July 1884
Hogansville, Troup County, Georgia, United States
18 August 1945 (aged 61)
The Reverend J.M. Gates (July 14, 1884 – August 18, 1945) was an American Christian preacher and Gospel music singer.
From 1914 to his death, Gates was the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park, Atlanta, Georgia. He had a very prolific recording career, recording over 200 sides between 1926 and 1941, including frequent rerecordings. Experts estimate that at least a quarter of all sermons commercially released on record before 1943 were recorded by Gates.
His first best-seller, 1926's "Death's Black Train Is Coming", sold 35,000 copies by the end of its release year. Many of his recordings were strong warnings of the hellish punishments that awaited sinners.
Gates is credited with introducing the gospel music of former blues artist Thomas A. Dorsey into the black gospel market via his crusades. His funeral drew the largest crowd of any memorial service in the city before Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to a Columbia Records collection and a "complete works" set from Document Records, Gates' work has been frequently featured in gospel and roots music anthologies, including Harry Smith's influential Anthology of American Folk Music.
A modified version of his song "Death's Black Train Is Coming" was performed by the band Gob Iron on their debut album, Death Songs For The Living. An uncredited cover can also be heard on the DVD release of the television series Day Break starring Taye Diggs near the end of the thirteenth and final episode.
His final recording, the 1941 sermon "Getting Ready for Christmas Day", is sampled in and inspired the lyrics to Paul Simon's song of the same name, which is featured on Simon's album, So Beautiful or So What, released in April 2011.
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