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About the Dove Awards
The Dove Awards are given annually by the Gospel Music Association. The organization was formed by southern gospel music groups, and though it's membership represents a more diverse audience today, the early award shows lean heavily toward that style.
The first award ceremony was held 10 October, 1969 at the Skyway Ballroom of the Peabody Hotel, in Memphis, Tennessee. The show was held in Memphis one further year, then made its home in Nashville. In 2011 and 2012 the ceremonies were held in Atlanta, Georiga but have returned to Nashville in 2013.
Many of the same pressures and controversies that influence Christian music industry are reflected by the Dove Awards. Ethical and racial issues, lyrical controversies, and charges of irrelevance have from time to time been leveled. These are sometimes a result of controversies, and have lead to various changes.
Early in their history, the Dove awards fell prey to ethical issues. In each of the first two years the The Blackwood Brothers were reprimanded for alleged improprieties regarding voting. In 1971, the third year of the show, this became a full-blown scandal. That year The Blackwoods swept the ceremony, winning ten out of the fourteen categories.
An investigation revealed that the group, and possibly others, had participated in vote tampering schemes with the intent to influence the outcome of award ceremonies. The results were investigated by the board, which James Blackwood was a member of. The eventual outcome was to strike the years' results from the record and to make adjustments to the balloting process.
Early award shows focused primarily on Southern Gospel music, reflecting the shows origins within the National Quartet Convention. By the late 1970s the ceremonies grew away from their roots, separating from the Quartet Convention and in 1978 creating Gospel Music Week, an industry-oriented convention. They also began to recognize more contemporary forms of expression.
These would expand further in the 1980s to include praise and worship, metal, and music videos. This expansion, though largely a reflection of music market conditions, has also been a source of conflict. As representation of contemporary music forms grew, traditional gospel groups sometimes felt marginalized.
In a sense, this was a reversal of the earlier positions, where Gospel music took the center stage and Jesus Music, rock, and other emerging forms had been ignored. Following the 1978 show, the awards were moved from the fall to spring. In order to avoid having two ceremonies within mere months of each other, no ceremony was held in 1979. This schedule was maintained until 2013, when the awards were again placed in the fall.
Television has been another source of tension for the Dove awards. Following an announcement that the 1981 awards would be telecast, an editorial in CCM magazine expressed concern that such exposure could be detrimental to Gospel music. The tension expressed is that if artists were chasing awards (as in the 1971 incident) rather than spiritual or evangelistic ideals, television exposure would only amplify those pressures.
Although the 1970 ceremony had been broadcast on the program "Gospel Singing Jubilee" in 1984 the show was broadcast for the first time under it's own auspices, on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Since then, television coverage has been an on-again, off-again affair, with carriage on various media outlets.
Some categories carried the label "black gospel" into the mid 1990s, until multiracial (and non-black) artist Angelo and Veronica won in the "Contemporary Black Gospel Recorded Song" category. An article which appeared in Ebony caused a change in the category name, to "Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song." However, the next year a Michael W. Smith song was nominated, leading to charges that the category was now overly broad.
Another controversy, this one about what the definition of "Christian music" should entail, was brought to bear by Amy Grant's project Behind The Eyes. The album's 1997 release sparked debate because it's lyrics had what one critic described as a "complete absence of explicitly Christian lyrical content."
Though this was not the first time similar issues had been controversial, in this instance resistance from retail and radio interests caused the Gospel Music Association to change the criteria for Christian music albums and songs. Previously, the general criteria for albums had simply been distribution at Christian retail outlets. In mid 1998 this was changed to include subjective criteria. The adopted formal definition was:
"Gospel music is music in any style whose lyric is: substantially based upon historically orthodox Christian truth contained in or derived from the Holy Bible; and/or an expression of worship of God or praise for His works; and/or testimony of relationship with God through Christ; and/or obviously prompted and informed by a Christian world view."
This definition lead to the disqualification of several works for the 1999 ceremony. These included Michael W. Smith for the song "Love Me Good," and Sixpence None the Richer. The band's eponymous album had been released in 1997 and garnered the band several nominations for the 1998 ceremony. However, their 1998 radio single "Kiss Me," which charted in over ten countries, appeared in TV shows and movies, and propelled it's album to platinum status, was disqualified for not meeting the new criteria. Ironically, despite the disqualification of the single, the music video version still received a nomination.
Those criteria were changed again for the following year. At present the criteria reads:
"For purposes of GMA Dove Award eligibility, the content of all entries will be: based upon the historically orthodox Christian faith contained in or derived from the Holy Bible; or apparently prompted and informed by a Christian worldview."
Other criticisms flow from perceptions that certain artists are too often favored, dominating while leaving newcomers unrecognized and under-appreciated. Still others claim that the Doves are a cheap imitation of the Grammy Awards.
The Dove Awards are presented each fall in Nashville.
Articles about the Dove Awards
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