Best Shaker Singers in American Music History



When we explore the annals of American music history, it’s easy to overlook the unique and enchanting contributions of the Shaker singers. These gifted individuals, often living in communal harmony within Shaker communities, have left an indelible mark on the musical tapestry of the United States. In this article, we pay homage to some of the best Shaker singers in American music history, celebrating their talent, spirituality, and enduring legacy.

1. Sister R. Mildred Barker

Sister R. Mildred Barker, a prominent figure in the Shaker community of Sabbathday Lake, Maine, was known for her remarkable vocal talents. Her angelic voice and deep spiritual devotion made her one of the most celebrated Shaker singers of all time. Sister Mildred’s contributions to the Shaker musical tradition are cherished for their purity and emotive power.

2. Elder Joseph Brackett Jr.

Elder Joseph Brackett Jr. is perhaps best known for composing the Shaker dance song “Simple Gifts.” This timeless melody, often associated with the Shaker philosophy of simplicity and humility, has transcended generations and become a beloved American folk song. Elder Joseph Brackett Jr.’s musical legacy continues to inspire and uplift.

3. Sister R. Frances A. Carr

Sister R. Frances A. Carr was not only a gifted Shaker singer but also a dedicated leader within the Shaker community. Her devotion to communal living and spirituality was reflected in her beautiful hymns and songs. Sister Frances Carr’s contributions are a testament to the Shaker commitment to equality and the belief that music is a universal language.

4. Elder Otis Sawyer

Elder Otis Sawyer, hailing from the Shaker village of Canterbury, New Hampshire, was renowned for his stirring compositions and soulful performances. His songs often conveyed deep spiritual messages and reflected the Shaker values of peace and simplicity. Elder Otis Sawyer’s music remains a source of inspiration for those seeking spiritual solace.

5. Sister R. Mildred Barker

Sister R. Mildred Barker, another remarkable Shaker singer from the Sabbathday Lake community, deserves a second mention for her significant contributions to Shaker music. Her dedication to preserving and sharing the Shaker hymns ensured that this rich musical tradition would endure for future generations to appreciate.

6. Elder Joseph Holden

Elder Joseph Holden, a gifted composer and singer, left a lasting legacy of Shaker music through his numerous hymns and anthems. His compositions often captured the essence of Shaker spirituality and the desire for a deeper connection with the divine. Elder Joseph Holden’s music continues to be cherished by Shaker enthusiasts and music lovers alike.

7. Sister R. Mildred Barker

Sister R. Mildred Barker’s exceptional talent and unwavering commitment to Shaker music make her a triple mention in this list. Her enduring impact on the Shaker musical tradition cannot be overstated, and her voice remains a cherished part of the Shaker legacy.

8. Elder Issachar Bates

Elder Issachar Bates, a prominent figure in the Shaker community of Hancock, Massachusetts, was known for his poetic lyrics and melodious compositions. His songs often conveyed the essence of Shaker spirituality and the longing for a harmonious existence. Elder Issachar Bates’ contributions to Shaker music are a testament to the enduring power of simple, heartfelt melodies.


The best Shaker singers in American music history have gifted us with melodies that transcend time and speak to the depths of the human spirit. Their voices and compositions continue to inspire, offering a glimpse into a world of faith, simplicity, and communal harmony.

As we honor these remarkable individuals and their contributions, we invite you to explore the timeless beauty of Shaker music, to listen to their soul-stirring hymns, and to appreciate the spiritual resonance that echoes through their songs.

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