Sounds of Blackness, a 40-person choir and ten-piece orchestra led by Gary Hines, combined traditional African music with urban soul to become one of the most distinctive and popular contemporary gospel groups. Over the course of their career, the group won many awards, from organizations as diverse as the Grammies and the NAACP.
Russel Knight formed the group that would prove to be the origins of Sounds of Blackness in 1969 at St. Paul, Minnesota's Macalester College in 1971. It wasn't until 1971, when Gary Hines was hired as their musical director, that the group developed its own identity. Hines opened the group up to the entire community and expanded their musical scope to concentrate on all aspects of black music. He designed the group as a way to embrace all manners of African-American music and create rich, diverse music to celebrate God and the human spirit, as well as make social statements. With their new direction in mind, the group renamed themselves Sounds of Blackness.