Vestal Goodman was a singer who performed in the Southern gospel genre for more than half a century. She was known for her work as a solo performer and as a member of the Happy Goodman Family, one of the pioneering groups in Southern gospel music. She was also honored with the title “The Queen of Southern Gospel Music” by various magazines and fans. She had a distinctive voice, a charismatic personality, and a trademark handkerchief that she waved during her performances. She won numerous awards, including a Grammy and several Dove Awards, and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998. She also collaborated with many well-known musicians on the Gaither Homecoming music projects in the 1990s.
Early Life and Career
Vestal Goodman was born as Vestal Freeman on December 13, 1929, in Fyffe, Alabama. She was the fourth of six children and grew up in a religious family. She started singing in church as a child and dreamed of becoming an opera singer. However, she felt called to sing gospel music and joined her husband Howard Goodman, a preacher, in his ministry. They married on November 7, 1949, and had two children, Rick and Vicki.
Along with Howard’s brothers Sam and Rusty, they formed the Happy Goodman Family, which became one of the most popular and influential groups in Southern gospel music. They recorded several albums, charted many hit songs, and performed thousands of concerts across the country. They also appeared on television shows such as The Gospel Singing Jubilee and The PTL Club. They were known for their energetic and joyful style of singing, as well as their harmonies and humor.
Solo Success and Recognition
In addition to her work with the Happy Goodman Family, Vestal Goodman also pursued a solo career. She released her first solo album, Hallelujah!, in 1971, which featured the hit single “It’ll All Be Over But the Shoutin’”. She won the first ever Female Vocalist of the Year Dove Award in 1969 and received several more nominations and awards throughout her career. She also recorded songs in other genres, such as country, blues, and pop.
Vestal Goodman was widely respected and admired by her peers and fans. She was praised for her powerful voice, her sincere faith, and her warm personality. She was given the title “The Queen of Southern Gospel Music” by various magazines, such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, Time, People, and The Singing News. She was also invited to perform at the White House for President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
Health Problems and Death
Vestal Goodman faced several health challenges in her life. She suffered from heart problems and had a quadruple bypass surgery in 1991. She also battled cancer and underwent chemotherapy in 1998. She revealed her struggles with these illnesses and her addiction to prescription drugs in her autobiography, Vestal! ‘Lord I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now’, which was published in 1999.
Vestal Goodman died on December 27, 2003, at the age of 74. She had been vacationing with her family in Celebration, Florida, for the Christmas holidays when she developed a case of influenza. She died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Her death came just over a year after her husband Howard passed away on November 30, 2002. They had been married for 53 years and had recorded their farewell album The Final Stand shortly before his death.
Vestal Goodman’s funeral was held on January 1, 2004, at Christ Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. Many gospel singers and friends attended the service and paid tribute to her legacy. She was buried next to her husband at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville.
Vestal Goodman’s Impact and Legacy
Vestal Goodman left behind a rich legacy of music and ministry that continues to inspire and touch many people today. She is regarded as one of the greatest singers in Southern gospel history and one of the most influential women in Christian music. Her songs have been covered by many artists, such as Dolly Parton, George Jones, Vince Gill, Sandi Patty, Andrae Crouch, Bill Gaither, and others. Her recordings are still widely available and played on radio stations and online platforms.
Vestal Goodman is also remembered for her faithfulness to God, her love for people, and her joyfulness in life. She touched many lives with her testimony, her prayers, and her generosity. She was a mentor to many young singers and a friend to many fellow artists. She was a devoted wife to Howard Goodman, a loving mother to Rick and Vicki Goodman, a proud grandmother to four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and a beloved sister to the gospel music community.
According to Wikipedia, a portion of Alabama Highway 75 near Vestal Goodman’s birthplace of Fyffe, Alabama, is designated “Vestal Goodman Highway”. She also has a dress on display at the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame in Dollywood Theme Park. She is honored as a legend and a pioneer in the gospel music industry and as a woman of God who lived her life with passion and purpose.