We finish this week of Gospel music with Kirk Franklin, The Winans, Bebe Winans, CeCe Winans.
I hope you have enjoyed this week full of music praising the Lord.
Kirk Dwayne Franklin (born January 26, 1970) is an American gospel musician, choir director, and author. He is known for leading urban contemporary gospel choirs such as The Family, God’s Property and One Nation Crew (1NC), and has won multiple awards, including seven Grammy Awards.
Kirk Franklin & The Family (1992–2000)
In 1992, Franklin organized “The Family”, which is a seventeen-voice choir, formed from neighborhood friends and associates. In 1992, Vicki Mack-Lataillade, the co-founder of fledgling record label GospoCentric, heard one of their demo tapes and was so impressed she immediately signed up Kirk & The Family to a recording contract.
In 1993, the group, now known as “Kirk Franklin & The Family,” released their debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family. It spent almost two years on the Gospel music charts and charted on the R&B charts, eventually earning platinum sales status. It remained at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart for 42 weeks. It was the first gospel music album to sell over a million units.
Two years later, after releasing a 1995 Christmas album entitled Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas, the group released Whatcha Lookin’ 4 in 1996. The album was certified 2x platinum and earned Franklin his first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. 1997 brought another album, a collaboration with the vocal ensemble God’s Property, aptly named God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation. The lead single, “Stomp”, featuring Cheryl “Salt” James (of Salt-N-Pepa), was a big hit, enjoying heavy rotation on MTV and other music channels, and charting at No. 1 on the R&B Singles Airplay chart for two weeks, even making it into the Top 40. God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation was No. 1 on the R&B Albums chart for five weeks, No. 3 on the Pop charts, and would go on to be certified 3x platinum. It also brought Franklin another Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, as well as three Grammy nominations.
In 1996, Franklin’s song “Joy” was recorded by Whitney Houston and the Georgia Mass Choir. With production by Houston and Mervyn Warren, the composition was included on the best-selling soundtrack to the movie The Preacher’s Wife.
On November 2, 1998, God’s Property sued Franklin. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Franklin induced God’s Property founder Linda Searight into signing an “onerous and one-sided” contract with B-Rite Music.
The Nu Nation Project was released in 1998. The first single, an interpretation of the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me” and produced by Franklin and pop producer Dan Shea, controversially featured several mainstream artists, including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Bono of U2. Together with Crystal Lewis, and the Family, “Lean On Me” and the second single “Revolution” (featuring Rodney Jerkins) were considerable hits, and the album contained a version of another Withers song “Gonna Be a Lovely Day”. The Nu Nation Project went on to top the Billboard Contemporary Christian Albums chart for 23 weeks and the Billboard Gospel Albums chart for 49 weeks, and brought Franklin his third Grammy.
Also in 1998, Franklin had made a guest appearance on the hit television sitcom Sister, Sister.
In, 2000, The Family filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit for royalties for their work on The Nu Nation Project against Franklin and GospoCentric Records. This saw the end of the “Kirk Franklin & The Family” records, as Kirk went on to become a solo artist, except for his CD Kirk Franklin presents 1NC, which he did in collaboration with One Nation Crew, and was released that same year.
On January 16, 2010 at the 25th Annual Stellar Awards show taping, in Nashville, Tennessee, Kirk Franklin & The Family reunited briefly on stage to perform songs made popular by them in the 1990s.
Solo artist (2001–present)
In 2001, Franklin ventured into new territory, scoring and producing the soundtrack for the film Kingdom Come. The soundtrack featured gospel artists Mary Mary, Crystal Lewis, and 1NC, as well as secular artists Az Yet, Jill Scott, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and others. A notable song from the soundtrack was “Thank You” (Kirk Franklin feat Mary Mary).
2002’s The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin topped the Gospel Albums chart for 29 weeks, was No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and was certified Platinum. The album featured collaborations with Bishop T.D. Jakes, Shirley Caesar, TobyMac, Crystal Lewis, Jaci Velasquez, Papa San, Alvin Slaughter, and Yolanda Adams. This was Kirk’s first major release not to garner him a Grammy Award.
On October 4, 2005, Hero was released in the United States. The album was certified Gold on December 2, 2005 and Platinum on December 14, 2006 by the Recording Industry Association of America. It made No. 1 on both the Billboard Top Christian and Top Gospel albums. The first single, “Looking for You”, was a hit, as was the follow-up “Imagine Me”, which made it onto the R&B Charts. In December 2006, Kirk Franklin won two 2007 Grammy Awards for Hero. Additionally, Hero was the 2007 Stellar Awards CD of the Year.
Kirk Franklin’s 10th album, The Fight of My Life, was released in the United States on December 18, 2007. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 33 with 74,000 copies sold in the first week. It reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Top Gospel and Top Christian albums charts, and also peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The first single, “Declaration (This is It),” was released on October 23, 2007 and peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. The album features guest appearances from Rance Allen, Isaac Carree, TobyMac, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Doug Williams, and Melvin Williams. The song “Jesus” was released as the album’s second single in 2008 and was sent to Urban AC radio on July 15, 2008. In January 2010 after Haiti had a devastating earthquake, Kirk Franklin got an ensemble of gospel artists together to sing the song he wrote, called “Are You Listening”. They included: Yolanda Adams, Jeremy Camp, Shirley Caesar, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Natalie Grant, Fred Hammond, Tamela Mann, David Mann, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Paul S. Morton, J. Moss, Smokie Norful, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kierra Sheard, BeBe Winans, Cece Winans, and Marvin Winans.
Kirk Franklin is the host and co-executive producer of the BET original series Sunday Best and the musical co-host of GSN’s The American Bible Challenge with Jeff Foxworthy. Franklin’s eleventh studio album called Hello Fear was released on March 22, 2011. The album features Marvin Sapp, Mali Music, Marvin Winans, John P. Kee and Rance Allen. The first single off the album is “I Smile”, which peaked at No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it his first appearance on that chart in six years.
Brothers Ronald, Marvin, Carvin, and Michael Winans (the second, third, fourth and fifth siblings of the Winans family) grew up in Detroit, Michigan and were discovered by Andrae Crouch, who signed them to Light Records.
Their first record, Introducing The Winans was produced in 1981. They performed vocals in This is America, Charlie Brown’s segment “The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad” in 1989. Their style was noted for its crossover efforts and received airplay on R&B radio. The group’s last recording was in 1995, but they have subsequently been involved in various Winans family projects where they are credited as “The Winans” (e.g. November 2000’s Christmas: Our Gifts To You).
In 1989, BeBe won His First Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Male for his contribution to “Abundant Life”, a track on his brother Ronald’s Family & Friends Choir.
BeBe signed with Atlantic records and delivered a self-titled solo debut in 1997. The album featured the singles “In Harms’ Way”, “Thank You”, and the international crossover hit “I Wanna Be the Only One” featuring British soul trio Eternal.
The next album released was the fruit of a new deal with Motown Records. Love & Freedom was released in 2000 and featured production from Warryn Campbell, Brian McKnight, Masters At Work and others. The lead single “Coming Back Home” was a slow swinging ballad featuring R&B luminaries Brian McKnight and Joe. Another single was BeBe’s remake of the Stevie Wonder classic “Jesus Children of America” featuring his older brother Marvin (The Winans, Winans family) and Stevie Wonder himself.
Two years later, a live album Live & Up Close followed. The album was recorded live at BET studios and featured guests such as his sister Debra Winans-Lowe and Stephanie Mills. The set was released on both CD & DVD. The CD included the studio version of “Do You Know Him?” which served as the album’s first single.
By 2003, BeBe had started his own record label, The Movement Group, and partnered with Still Waters, an inspirational and gospel imprint of Hidden Beach Recordings. The first album under this deal was 2004’s largely orchestral holiday album entitled My Christmas Prayer which first appeared exclusively for sale at Starbucks coffee shops nationwide. Between releases, BeBe made his film debut with a small role in the 2004 remake (featuring Denzel Washington) of The Manchurian Candidate.
Early the next year, BeBe released his third proper solo album Dream featuring the single “I Have A Dream”. The song featured samples of the historic speech by Martin Luther King, and was released to several radio stations to coincide with King’s birthday celebrations. The cover of the album features a hand painted portrait of BeBe standing in front of a Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. street sign. Also “Miracle Of Love,” a duet with Angie Stone included on the album, also appeared on a soundtrack of songs inspired by the film The Passion Of The Christ.
Winans performed a duet with Eden Espinosa on the 2008 Alma Awards which was broadcast on ABC on September 12. 2008. WInans and Espinosa sang “I Don’t Know Much” as a tribute to honoree Linda Ronstadt. Bebe performed “Born for This” on the Obama/Biden Inauguration tribute Change is Now CD+DVD set. BeBe & CeCe Winans have confirmed a reunion album scheduled for early 2009.
Winans hosts his own nationally syndicated radio program, The BeBe Winans Radio Show. BeBe Winans has starred in Broadway’s The Color Purple as Harpo as of January 9, 2008. He is starring alongside Chaka Khan who is playing his wife, Sofia.
Winans was one of the judges for a gospel music competition show on BET called Sunday Best, along with gospel duo Mary Mary. He was invited to participate in the remake of “We Are The World” to benefit Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Bebe together with Cece and Mary Mary featuring the West Angeles Choir performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. 
Priscilla “CeCe” Marie Winans Love (born October 8, 1964) is an American gospel singer, who has won numerous awards, including ten Grammy Awards and seven Stellar Awards. She has sold 16 million records world wide. Cece is also the best selling female gospel artist of all time.
CeCe began her solo career with the Platinum certified album Alone in His Presence. It was released in 1995 and earned her a Grammy Award and two Dove Awards, including the Female Vocalist of the Year, an award she earned again in 1997. Winans’ next release, the Gold certified Everlasting Love was released in 1998 and featured Winans highest to date Billboard charting solo singles “Well Alright” and “Slippin”. The song “On That Day” from the album was written and produced by R&B singer Lauryn Hill. Later that year, Winans released His Gift a holiday album.
In 1999, Winans started her own recording company, “PureSprings Gospel”. Her first album on the label was Alabaster Box in 1999. Some production of the disc was done by Gospel singer and musician, Fred Hammond. It included a guest appearance by Take 6. In 2000 Cece released a concert VHS titled Live at the Lambs Theater in New York. The concert contained songs from her previous albums. Winans released her next album, the self-titled CeCe Winans, in 2001. The single “Anybody Wanna Pray” included a guest appearance by GRITS. The second single, “Say A Prayer” crossed over into the CCM market.
Winans took a two-year break from releasing albums and returned in 2003 with Throne Room. The first 1,000 copies were issued with a bonus CD that contained exclusive interviews with the artist, the making of the CD, some touring footage, and the music video “More Than What I Wanted” (which came from the 2001 release). In 2004, the 25-city tour Throne Room with the group Anointed featured free admission and was followed with a DVD release of the concert recorded in Tennessee near CeCe’s place of residence. Live in the Throne Room contained tracks from all of Winans’ albums. Around September 2004, Winans experienced what she thought was a flu but turned out to be a serious stomach infection and was hospitalized immediately for surgery. Due to the extended recovery time, the second half of the Throne Room Tour was postponed to early 2005.
Winans’ seventh album Purified was released in 2005. Producers on board for the project were longtime BeBe & CeCe collaborator Keith Thomas, and CeCe’s nephew Mario Winans. Winans’ son Alvin III also co-writes several songs on the album and younger sisters Angie and Debbie Winans make an appearance as well.
CeCe’s collection of Top Ten R&B radio hits include “Count on Me”, her duet with Whitney Houston, from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. The single was certified Gold in the US and reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 8 on the Billboard R&B Singles charts.
Winans released her eighth album, Thy Kingdom Come on April 1, 2008, featuring the single “Waging War”. On October 6, 2009, a BeBe & CeCe reunion album named Still was released. It is the ninth album released by the brother / sister duo. The album was released under Malaco Records and features collaborations with Marvin Winans and contemporary gospel sisters duo Mary Mary.
On December 23, 2010, Cece along with Bebe Winans & Mary Mary, featuring the West Angeles Choir, performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.