Worthy to be imitated

Dorothy Love Coates rose to stardom in the 1950s as a member of The Original Gospel Harmonettes. [Photo: Tbonecope – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0]

BY KEISHA BELL | Visionary Brief

What may work for one person may not work for you. Are you bold enough to be your authentic self?

Meet Dorothy Love Coates, a gospel singer and composer. Born Dorothy McGriff, Coates lived from Jan. 30, 1928, to April 9, 2002. She was a member of “The Original Gospel Harmonettes” and wrote gospel songs such as: “99 and a Half Won’t Do,” “You Can’t Hurry God (He’s Right On Time),” and “That’s Enough.”

Coates had a hard beginning. Like many others, she quit school to scrub floors and to work in laundries and dry cleaners. These were standard jobs for African Americans in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1940s. Around the same time, Coates began singing with the “Gospel Harmonettes.” Much of the group’s success has been associated with Coates.


Coates exuded her authentic self. She sang with such spirit that it moved both herself and those who listened to her. Sometimes, her group members had to lead her back onto the stage to close out songs. Reportedly, James Brown copied this and made it a part of his act, but Coates was not acting. She was operating in her bona fide self. People connected.

Over the course of her career, Coates received numerous offers to cross over to pop or soul music. She rejected them all.

Does it seem odd that offers would come to alter one’s presentation, especially when one’s presentation uplifts and inspires a mass number of people in a positive way? Is it even stranger to reject them all?

People rarely talk about it, but there is a price one pays for accepting an offer to change completely. At the same time, there is a price that is paid for rejecting an offer to change completely. If you are given an offer, you must decide whether you are worthy to be imitated or will you imitate? Remember, what may work for one person may not work for you.

Coates remained true to herself. As a result, numerous artists —inclusive of Little Richard— imitated her sanctified singing style. Others copied her song titles and or lyrics.

Keisha Bell

Keisha Bell

Between 1959 and 1961, Coates became active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. Again illustrating her authenticity, she was different from many other gospel artists in that she addressed political issues. For example, Coates spoke out against racism and other evils. She was courageous. Others found her worthy to be imitated. Are you?

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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