Gospel Star Jessy Dixon Dies at 73

The singer-songwriter's career spanned more than 50 years.

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Jessy Dixon, a gospel singer and songwriter whose career spanned more than 50 years, died Monday. He was 73.

Dixon wrote songs for several popular singers, including Randy Crawford, Cher, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole and Amy Grant; opened for Paul Simon; and played keyboard with Earth Wind & Fire. But he was best known for his own gospel singing.

Dixon, who began studying music at age 5,originally aspired to be classical pianist, but he told the Associated Press in a 1997 interview that he knew early on that he wanted to use his talent in the church. "Going to church was like going to school," Dixon said. At church, he heard the likes of Mahalia Jackson and blues pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey, who is credited with creating modern gospel singing.

Several of his early songs have become classics, sung in churches across America, including "Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed," "These Old Heavy Burdens" and "I Love to Praise His Name." Dixon's 1993 hit, "I Am Redeemed," held a place on Billboard magazine's gospel chart for more than five years.

Dixon rode a wave of increased gospel music interest during the 1980s to build a following in Europe. Back in the United States, he was a fixture on composer and singer Bill Gaither's Gospel Series, video concerts broadcast on religious-oriented cable television stations.

During his career, Dixon produced five gold records and garnered several Grammy nominations.

In his 1997 interview with the AP, Dixon noted that when he first began touring on his own outside the United States in the 1980s, the small audiences didn't have much respect for gospel as religious expression. "At first it was viewed as entertainment," he said. "But now when I go, they ask me to share my faith as a Christian."

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