Vestal Goodman, known as the "Queen of Gospel Music" by her peers, died Saturday, December 27, 2003, at 11:00 p.m. EST from complications of the flu. She was 74 years old.
Born Vestal Freeman in the town of Fyffe, Alabama, Goodman had desired to study for the Metropolitan Opera at an early age, but her upbringing in church life led Vestal to shift her focus to gospel music. A chance meeting at a local tent revival introduced Vestal to Howard Goodman, and their union led to one of gospel music's most successful vocal groups.
In a music career that spanned over five decades, Goodman became one of the most revered and honored singers in her genre. Vestal, as part of the Happy Goodman Family, was one of the founding members of the Gospel Music Association (GMA), and had recently been informed that she was going to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in the spring of 2004. The Happy Goodmans were inducted into the GMA Hall Of Fame in 1998.
Vestal Goodman was honored as the first Female Vocalist Of The Year by the prestigious Dove Awards (gospel music's Grammy equivalent) in 1969, and as part of the Happy Goodmans, went on to win the first Grammy Award ever given to a gospel act. Over the years, Goodman received multiple Dove and Grammy Awards, as well as achieving numerous hit radio songs.
Goodman's career experienced a resurgence in the mid-90s with the creation of the Gaither Homecoming Video series. Vestal became an integral part of the Homecoming videos and concert tours, and was called a "national treasure" by the Homecoming series founder, Bill Gaither. The Gaither Video Series has produced over 50 videos to date; over 30 of the videos having garnered gold, platinum or multi-platinum sales status, achieving several #1 titles on the Billboard Magazine Video Sales Charts. An estimated 75 million viewers see the Gaither Gospel Series each week on various cable networks, including PBS.
Goodman was also an author of three books including her 1998 autobiography entitled Vestal!, as well as two cookbooks, Cooking With Vestal & Friends and Second Helpings: Cooking With Vestal & Friends 2.
Goodman was spending Christmas with her family in Florida when she passed away. She was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Howard Goodman, who passed away in November of last year. Goodman is survived by her son, Rick; a daughter, Vicki, four grandchildren and three great- granddaughters.
Visitation will be Wednesday, December 31 at Christ Church, 15354 Old Hickory Blvd. in Nashville, from 6-8 p.m. On Thursday, January 1, there will be another visitation at 10 a.m., followed by a memorial service at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at Christ Church Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Goodman Rose Garden Bench in care of Christ Church Memorial Gardens.
"She has been an inspiration to my family and me for many years." -- Reba McEntire
"She was a spirit of optimism, a spirit of joy. Even when there were so many negative things happening, the glass was always half-full to Vestal. She was a bigger-than-life character." -- Bill Gaither
"Besides being talented, she loved people and people loved her. In her later years, she developed a kind of hipness - even in the contemporary (Christian music) crowd. She was bigger than her genre." -- John Styll, President of the Gospel Music Association
"Vestal Goodman was a beloved icon in the gospel music industry. Her big smile could light up a room and her influence will be felt for years to come." -- Kathryn E. Darden, Publisher Christian Activities Publications
For further information on Vestal Goodman, visit www.VestalAndFriends.com.
From our archives 12/30/04