It all started when Sarah Lynn Edwards was a girl, singing in the choir at Jimtown Baptist Church.
Other churches wanted to hear that deep, soul-inspiring voice, so she sang for them too, friends said.
Later she helped found the Bright Star Quartet. Then came the gospel group the Edwards Sisters.
Except for a short stint singing blues in local clubs, Sarah Lynn Edwards made gospel music her life.
She was an inspiration and a role model for many of the gospel music makers who have come out of the Jimtown community — many of them her relatives.
Sarah Lynn Edwards died Saturday at Hospice Care Center at St. Joseph Hospital. She was 78.
Although she had Alzheimer's disease, she continued to sing songs praising the Lord until a couple of days before she died.
Ms. Edwards is credited with being the major force behind the Edwards Sisters, a gospel group that is known throughout Kentucky and in other states. Originally, the group was made up of Ms. Edwards, her sister Patricia Edwards Moore and their cousin, Shirley Edwards Davis. Sarah Lynn Edwards retired from the Edwards Sisters years ago but continued to perform with the group occasionally.
Other members of the Edwards family, including Ms. Edwards' daughter, Margaret "Tre-Tre" Edwards, have become part of the group over the years.
The Edwards Sisters have been performing for more than 55 years.
As a teenager, Sarah Lynn Edwards was instrumental in bringing gospel music, which had a swing and a beat that traditional hymns lacked, to her church and other churches in the area.
"We sang when gospel music was not very common around here," said Ruth McDowell, a longtime friend who performed with Ms. Edwards.
Ms. Edwards would play gospel albums and listen to gospel music on the radio at her home when she was in her early teens, she said.
"I was the piano player. She would pick the songs, let me hear them, and I would try to play them. We formed a quartet," said McDowell, referring to the Bright Star Quartet.
"We sang; we traveled all around the area for a number of years until I went off to college ... We loved the Lord and we loved to sing."
Ms. Edwards favorite songs included No Not One, If I Don't Wake Up In The Morning, and I Want To Be More Like Jesus Every Day, McDowell said.
"She sang more in a low tenor register. It had a warm feel to it. Her sound would not be easily reproduced ... You could hardly get enough of Sarah Lynn's singing."
Ms. Edwards inclination toward music apparently came from her father, John Henry Edwards, a sharecropper whose singing voice was heard throughout Jimtown when he headed home from the fields each day with his mule.
God has given the Edwards family the gift of being able to communicate through song, said Gloria Tompkins, a niece of Ms. Edwards and a current member of the Edwards Sisters.
Tompkins said she always sat up and took notice when her aunt sang in church.
"That was part of my schooling as a singer," she said. "She was a singer way before her time, in my opinion."
Ms. Edwards was born in Jimtown and was a graduate of the old Dunbar High School in Lexington. She worked at the Lexington-Blue Grass Army Depot at Avon and later at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Leestown Road.
She continued to be a member of the Jimtown Baptist Church choir after she retired from the Edwards Sisters.
On Thursday morning, two days before she died, she sang The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.
She is survived by her daughter; two brothers; and a grandson.
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Jimtown Baptist Church. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Corinthian Baptist Church on North Limestone and from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Jimtown Baptist Church. O.L. Hughes & Sons Mortuary is handling arrangements.