Possibly the world's greatest Gospel group, the Dixie Hummingbirds (who recently celebrated their
70th anniversary) have managed to keep the sound of modern Gospel vital in popular music, and have been hugely influential in both the secular and the non-secular world. The quartet began performing in the late '30s, blessed with a firery young singer named Ira Tucker who shook the Gospel foundation with his spirited performances for which every soul singer from James Brown to Chris Robinson ought to cough up royalties. Tucker was innovative for his ability to sing several notes on a single syllable. The group's repertoire encompasses both jubilee-style rave-ups and laconic soul-savers. The material from their prime in the '40s to the '60s has maintained its soul-stirring, knee-dropping quality. The group attained a wider audience in '73 when they sang on Paul Simon's hit, "Loves Me Like a Rock." They have more recently begun to recruit younger members and have been the subject of an all-star tribute featuring Simon as well as Isaac Hayes and Stevie Wonder, among others.