(December 13, 1929 – December 27, 2003) was a singer who
performed in the Southern Gospel genre for more than half a
century. She is known both as a solo performer and as a founding
member of The Happy Goodman Family, one of the pioneering groups
in southern Gospel.
Vestal Goodman was the fourth of six children. She began singing
in her home church. Her original intent was to study for the
Metropolitan Opera, but being raised in church she felt
compelled to sing Gospel music.
She married Howard Goodman, a preacher nine years her senior, in
1949. They had a son Rick, and a daughter Vicki. They pastored
churches and sang for congregations across the country, and
they, along with Howard's two brothers Sam and Rusty, soon
became known as "The Happy Goodman Family," helping pave the way
for Southern Gospel music during the 1960s.
With the formation of Word Records in the early 1960s, Vestal
and The Happy Goodman Family were the flagship artists signed to
the company. In 1969, she won the first ever Female Vocalist of
the Year Dove Award. As a natural step in her career, Vestal
Goodman released her first solo album, "Hallelujah!" in 1971,
from which came the well-known single, "It'll All Be Over But
Her autobiography, Vestal!'Lord I Wouldn't Take Nothin' For
My Journey Now' details her life in Southern Gospel music,
her heart problems and her subsequent bout with cancer.
Additionally, Goodman revealed that she had struggled with drug
addiction in the mid-70s in the form of dependence of the
prescription drug, Valium.
Vestal Goodman was honored repeatedly as "The Queen of Southern
Gospel Music" and was one of the most beloved artists in the
genre. The Happy Goodmans won multiple Grammy and Dove awards,
charted 15 #1 hit songs including “I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For
My Journey Now," and performed more than 3,500 concerts,
including performing at the White House for President Jimmy
Carter in 1979.
Her title of “Queen of Southern Gospel Music" was proclaimed in
a wide array of magazines, from Rolling Stone,
Billboard Magazine, Time, People, and
The Singing News. She and Howard worked with many well-known
musicians on the Gaither Homecoming music projects in the 1990s.
Her autobiography was released in 1999, and she was inducted
into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
The Happy Goodmans group was inducted in 1998.
Vestal Goodman was known for her trademark handkerchief, which
she held in her hand during virtually every performance,
sometimes waving it over her head. Comedian/singer Mark Lowry
used to joke, "The anointing's in the hanky," during their
Gaither Homecoming concert appearances.
Howard Goodman died on November 30, 2002, after the couple made
a farewell recording and singing tour dubbed "The Final Stand."
Vestal Goodman died at the age 74 of complications from
influenza while on Christmas vacation in Florida with her
family. She died in the ambulance on the way to Celebration
Hospital in Celebration, Florida. Her son Rick said it was very
appropriate for her passing that it would happen in a place
Worthington Music Group and Goodman Family Ministries partnered
to release a collection of recordings from the family archive
entitled Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 1 in 2008. The critically
acclaimed album gives listeners a behind the scenes glimpse into
ministry of Howard and Vestal Goodman.