Gospel legend Daryl Coley is known not only by songs but by experiences. You know him by the song he sang that made you feel a certain way. Whether you got saved, delivered or simply made the ‘stank-face’ listening to his perfectly placed gospel riffs, you knew him and loved him for being “Just Daryl”. Following a lengthy illness, Daryl Coley has passed in California. News of his passing spread erroneously a number of times over the last five years and was even announced prematurely yesterday, but he later passed late in the evening last night, as noted by Jawn Murray’s alwaysalist.com. Pastor Daryl Coley, dead at 60 leaves behind his wife and three children. Prayers for the Coley family are appreciated at this time as funeral arrangements are being prepared.
Daryl Coley interview with GospelFlava.com
In gospel music, the incomparable voice of Daryl Coley is synonymous with greatness. Of all the many singers and personalities in the industry, there was none quite like Daryl Coley. Inimitable, Coley will forever be treasured for the powerful lyrics encapsulated in his timeless songs like: “He’s Preparing Me“, “Sovereign” and Donald Lawrence‘s “When Sunday Comes” from which this article’s title is derived. Gospel opinion would say that his best pairing was with Vanessa Bell Armstrong, the only singer who could match his musical wit and riffs.
Behind the Veil
Daryl Coley was much more than a gifted singer. Coley cut his teeth as a musician for The Hawkins Family and served as Music Director for Tramaine Hawkins before moving on to work with the late Rev. James Cleveland and others. Though she kept strong Christian values in their home, Coley credits his mother with his introduction to gospel, jazz and classical music. Coley learned piano early but but also mastered the clarinet and remained a student of music for many years. Coley’s immersion in numerous genres kept him in the company of great artists. Singing gospel and secular music, Coley worked with the likes of Sylvester, Philip Bailey (Earth Wind and Fire), Pete Escovedo (Pete Jr., Sheila E) patriarch of the Escovedo family and famed jazz singer Nancy Wilson who remains a close family friend.
For years, Coley was unsure about a return to gospel music but credits an encounter with Daniebelle Hall with helping him make the decision to pursue gospel music exclusively.
I was at the Gospel Music Workshop of American in Houston, TX and for the first two or three days Danniebelle and I just hung out and she really ministered to me. The Spirit of the Lord had her there for that purpose. She talked to me. She felt the pull. -Pastor Daryl Coley (Cross Rhythms, February 1, 1995)
Gospel music was immediately impacted upon Coley’s return to the genre. With his heart and mind set on a full scale gospel music career, Coley quickly became a vivid voice and signature sound of the genre.
So who was Daryl Coley? More than a singer, Daryl Coley was wise well beyond the years of the genre that loved him so much. Heralded as one of the industry’s most ‘down to earth’ singers, Coley’s multi-generational fans tell the same story. Coley didn’t hide behind music, but was vocal away from the stage and equally impactful as well. In 1995, Coley went on record with Cross Rhythms (published in the United Kingdom) to discuss his debilitating battle with diabetes as well as his past struggle with homosexuality. In contrast to Coley’s transparency, there remains a shroud of secrecy in the lives of many top gospel acts in regard to their physical sins.
Pastor Coley spoke candidly about his former struggle and battle to the UK mag saying:
The Enemy really makes himself prevalent in (sexual) situations and it takes the Lord to help you overcome…We’ve got to deal with sexuality across the board. Not just the gay life. Sometimes we feel like (when) we get wrapped up in a person, (then) maybe the Lord will make allowances, but if it’s not the way the Word says, it stems from unrighteousness. As a church, we preach against homosexuality, but we don’t deal with the subtleness of the Enemy. How it can woo you and get you at your lowest point. -Pastor Daryl Coley, (Cross Rhythms Magazine February 1,1995)
Coley’s words, more than 20 years ago still ring true today in regard to ministry and what many artists and musicians struggle with. Coley’s candor reached beyond his struggle within the industry to the actual gospel music industry. Though more than 20 years ago, his words ring ever true today:
We’re still, as a people, trying to get somebody else’s approval for the music that God has given us. I think we should start validating ourselves and supporting ourselves. Sometimes the gospel community wants to act so aloof and so ‘grand’. But they’re not supporting the ones who are (only) singing gospel. The same ones who complain about paying $10 to hear somebody sing gospel, feel nothing about paying $40-$50 to hear Whitney Houston or Anita Baker…We take the ministry and the artistry for granted. And 99.9 per cent of the artists out there came out of the church! But the church in its ignorance has run them away! -Pastor Daryl Coley, (Cross Rhythms Magazine February 1,1995)
Pastor Coley has influenced many singers and musicians but crafted his sound by the influence of great singers like: Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, The Caravans, Thomas Whitfield, The Rev. James Cleveland and many more. The smorgasbord of influences came through in many of his iconic performances. In turn, artists like John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence, Earnest Pugh and countless artists herald his voice as their inspiration and his career their first major opportunity. The gospel community has celebrated Coley and his amazing vocals through the years.
He’s described by the Richard de la Font Booking Agency website as: “smooth yet agile, confident but wholly anointed”. Truer words have never been spoken and the music community at large mourns the passing of yet another gospel great, Pastor Daryl Coley for whom eternal Sunday has finally come.
Funeral details are forthcoming and will be published along with a formal announcement of Pastor Coley’s passing.