Singer and songwriter Jessy Dixon, a regular fixture in gospel giant Bill Gaither’s popular “Homecoming” series, has died. He was 73.

Miriam Dixon said her brother died Monday morning at his Chicago home. She said he had been sick, but did not give any further details.

During Dixon’s more than 50-year career, he wrote songs for several popular singers, including Cher, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole and Amy Grant.

He first introduced his energetic gospel style that combined the rhythmic beat of blues, jazz and soul to wider audiences by being singer Paul Simon’s opening act.

Simon first noticed Dixon during his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972 with the Jessy Dixon Singers.

Jessy Dixon performs ‘Gone at Last’ with gospel singer Yolanda Adams.

“Jessy has a rare and joyous musical gift. I have loved gospel music and during the years I have been associated with Jessy-my appreciation of the gospel has grown,” Simon said.

Dixon finished more than 20 recordings, four that went gold. He had seven Grammy nominations.

His talent helped bridge cultural divides in musical styles. He became a regular feature on Gaither’s Homecoming gospel video series.

“Christian music isn’t just one style,” Bill Gaither said on Dixon’s bio on his website. “It’s a theology wrapped up in a lot of different styles

“I have traveled with Jessy Dixon for the past 10 years and never have I been with an artist with more heart. He is the real thing,” Gaither said, according to Dixon’s website.

On June 14, 2008, Dixon was inducted into the “Christian Music Hall of Fame.”

Dixon was also an ordained minister with Calvary Ministries International and earned a doctorate in divinity from Faith Theological Seminary in Tampa, Fla., in 2006.

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