Is it OK to sing along with traditional black gospel music? I was raised in the south and in many ways raised by black women (think the movie The Help). While I am an observant Jew, I find the music happy, hopeful and it gives me peace when I am depressed.
Jewish tradition recognizes music as a Divine gift with exactly the properties you describe, and furthermore emphasizes the value of cheerfulness and the importance of avoiding extended depression. For that reason my strong inclination is to find as much room as possible to enable you to continue to enjoy the music you love.
On the other hand, there are clear prohibitions in Jewish law against participating, praising, and benefiting from the aesthetic accoutrements of what Judaism views as illegitimate religious practice. The questions here are
whether all performances and expressions of gospel music should be presumptively seen as religiously intended
how Judaism regards the forms of Christianity generally expressed in gospel music
the nature and status of recordings/electronic reproductions in Jewish law
I want to establish at the outset that singing along with recordings that explicitly express adoration of Jesus is certainly forbidden for Jews. I also want to make clear that I am bracketing the issues of men listening to female vocalists.
1) My sense is that gospel music as a genre nowadays has “crossed over” to a limited extent and is no longer sung only in Christian religious contexts and/or with religious intent. Therefore, if one is in a context that has no other explicitly religious content, and the lyrics of the relevant songs have no explicit references to Jesus, I think the genre of music is not inherently problematic. However, I hasten to add that I think in most settings such religious content and context will be introduced, and that I would assume religious context in most circumstances absent clear evidence to the contrary.
2) My understanding is that Jewish law regards belief in a divisible or divided Divinity (as opposed to multiple divinities) as prohibited for Jews and not for Gentiles (despite being false), and that the prohibition for Jews is profound and serious but not at the level of idolatry (although participation in Christian ritual can violate prohibitions of idolatry). This means in practice that it is certainly forbidden for a Jews to sing along with lyrics that explicitly refer to Jesus or other elements of a trinitarian theology, but that there may be no prohibition against singing along with other songs found on the same album (if the concept of album is at all relevant in the mp3 era) . At the same time, music arouses sympathy and identification, and if you are passionately attached to the music, it may be hard for you to avoid identifying with the specific emotions and ideas of the singer while listening.
3) Recordings of music do not automatically assume the legal status of the original performance, or the intent of the composer. From a formalistic legal perspective, the performer of a music CD, for example, is whoever turned on the player. Therefore the sound of a recording of gospel music, if you turned on the player, does not have any intrinsic prohibition attached to it – the question is what subjective impact it may have on you, or what impression it may create of you in others' minds. But if the lyrics are not inherently problematic, and it is clear to you that you can do so without for a moment sacrificing your Jewish commitment to an indivisible God, I don't see any prohibition with singing along to a recording.
You may be interested in a series of responsa written by Fellows of the Summer Beit Midrash of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership some years ago addressing similar issues with regard to the song Amazing Grace. They can be found here. Full disclosure: I am Dean of the Center and Rosh Beit Midrash of SBM.