Lari Goss, one of the most influential creative minds in the history of Gospel Music, passed away on Saturday, January 10th 2015. He was 69, passing just short of his 70th birthday. Today, Thursday January 15th, his funeral will be held in Nashville. I have always been an admirer of Lari’s work and it has only grown in time. I wanted to take an opportunity to remember this wonderful gentleman and honor him for all of his contributions to Gospel Music over 50 plus years. He began his musical journey with his family, singing with his brothers James and Roni. The Goss Brothers started off initially as a quartet, but found they’re niche as a trio. They were one of the most innovative groups to come along in the 1960’s, with vocal & musical arrangements light years ahead of their contemporaries.
The Brothers also held many distinctions, many would change the industry for years, like when they were the first artist to perform with a soundtrack. The Goss Brothers were not only great singers, but fabulous musicians as well. With Lari on piano, Roni on bass, and James on guitar, the brothers cut their teeth in the Lefevres recording studio in Atlanta, as well as Don Baldwin’s Hymntone label in Pennsylvania, working on hundreds of recordings for both national and regional artists. However, in 1980 The Goss Brothers musical journey took a detour, due to James tragic death in an airplane crash.
Lari continued his work as a producer, becoming one of the most illustrious producers and arrangers in the gospel music. Chances are if you look at the credits of any recording in the 80s and 90s, Lari was either the producer or the arranger. Among the groups Lari produced that would be most notable are The Cathedrals, Singing Americans, Hemphills, Hoppers, The Sound, Masters V, Friends IV and so many others. Lari also changed the game and the way that artists thought about arranging, most evidently shown in the Nelons “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”. and The Cathedrals “For What Earthly Reason”. Because of Goss’ ability as arranger, he took Gospel Music to another level. As a musician, his sound was so identifiable. Not just his piano playing, but his orchestrations.
Lari was not also just a great arranger, but his accomplishment’s as a songwriter should also be noted. Many of the songs that the Goss Brothers recorded were written by Lari, one of the most notable being “Shout Brother Shout”. But he also wrote such wonderful songs as “How Green Is Your Valley”, “For Thy Will I Pray”, Leading To Calvary“, and many other great songs. However, one of Lari’s most popular compositions was recorded by the Speers in the 70’s, “Cornerstone“.
Lari has not just been a great contributor to Southern Gospel, but to the body of Christ overall. His numerous choral arrangements that he has put together over the years have been used by church choirs & ensembles across the country. He won numerous Dove Awards, and Grammy’s for his work throughout the years. He even worked with such secular artists such as Glen Campbell, Ray Price, and B.J. Thomas. Lari was also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
In recent years, Lari continued to work even through illness, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Some of his most acclaimed work came with artists such as the Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, The Whisnants, and most recently The Guardians and Jim Brady Trio. Although he has tutored many producers and his style has often been imitated by others, it will never be duplicated. It is not an overstatement to say that will never be another Lari Goss.
Now I’m not worshipping Lari, he was a human being just like the rest of us. But Lari was special, and his death is the end of an era. Lari was our last link from the legends of yesterday; there are not many men who can say that they stood in the same control room as J.D., James, Jake, Hovie, George, Glen, Rusty, Rex, Ben and Brock, up to today’s artists. I would say there is no one who has done more to mold and fashion Gospel Music as much as Lari Goss. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to meet Lari and explain to him how much he impacted my life. But one day I will tell him face-to-face, and I can’t help but feeling now that he knows.
For all his success, Goss had a humility about himself. When a friend complimented him on all the awards in his home, he said, “All this means nothing if my music does not win people to Jesus, or draw them closer to Him“. There is no doubt in my mind that God has used this man so mightily because of that humility and passion that his music be used to the glory of God.
Lari’s music will live on, whenever choirs singing the music he arranged, or people listen to Pillars of Faith by Gold City or the Cathedrals Symphony of Praise and hear the majestic arrangements of that album or the countless others he produced and or arranged. He will live within the grooves of the records and within that great music as long as it is listened to. Lari, I never met you but your music was the soundtrack to my life. Thank You and God Bless You for your contributions that have blessed the body of Christ. Rest well.
To Lari’s wife Carolyn and their children, and his brother Roni, I offer my condolences and my prayers that the Holy Spirit will hold all of you so close in these days. Thank You all for taking the time to read this tribute to a hero of mine.