Sibling recording artists BeBe and CeCe Winans and Mary Mary were both recognized by performance rights organization BMI at this years Trailblazer of Gospel Music Honors. The ceremony held at Atlantas Rialto Center for the Arts brought together nonsecular talent, along with soul and R&B artists, to pay tribute to both faith-based, inspirational family duos.
Gospel music is the ladder to the soul, says Mike O Neill, BMIs President and CEO, prior to the show. Every year, we like to start off being refreshed and renewed with gospel music. It doesnt get better than that.
Originally hailing from Detroit, the Winans pair released nine studio albums together, yielding memorable singles like I.O.U. Me, Heaven, Addictive Love, Lost Without You, If Anything Ever Happened to You and Its OK. Born the seventh (BeBe) and eighth (CeCe) of 10 children and raised Pentecostal, the multiple Grammy winners and Gospel Music Hall of Famers made their debut in 1982 via televangelist Jim Bakkers program, The PTL Club, where they stayed on until the release of their self-titled 1987 major label debut effort.
Holding hands as they walk the red carpet, the brother-and-sister act express their gratitude for receiving the accolade. This is fun, says BeBe, whose life story has been adapted into a stage musical, Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story, debuting in Atlanta this coming April. I can sit back in the chair and enjoy, but its an honor to know our music has touched lives. Its worth it.
CeCe chimes in, overlapping BeBes responses. It feels amazing, continues CeCe. Were gonna have so much fun.
Singer Tamia performed Its OK and Heaven along with gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds. The vocalist made it known that she didnt hesitate accepting the offer to perform as part of the Winans tribute. Theres no bad BeBe and CeCe song, says the Stranger in My House and So Into You songstress. Music connects with the heart, so to be able to connect on such an emotional level is a powerful, wonderful thing.
Mary Mary, composed of sisters Erica and Tina Atkins-Campbell, meshed together relatable messages with uptempo beats and melodic grooves. Coming from a family of nine children, the chart-topping pair out of Inglewood, CA credited for songs like Shackles (Praise You), Go Get It, Get Up, God in Me, Walking and Yesterday were equally as appreciative for receiving the award as their Winans cohorts.
Im thankful, emotional and overwhelmed, confirms Erica, who enjoyed solo success with her 2014 solo debut LP, Help, and all I could think about was that God is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Erica, who co-stars with her sister on the pairs hit WEtv reality show, “Mary Mary”, continues, Youre trying to please God. No matter what that is, my aim is to glorify God, to please him and tell the world about him. Thats all Im trying to do.
Grammy-winning producer Warryn Campbell (Yolanda Adams, Alicia Keys, Dru Hill, Brandy, Jamie Foxx, Kanye West and Jennifer Hudson) frequently collaborates with Mary Mary. Also Ericas husband, he shares how his wife and sister-in-law allowed him to develop his sound outside of producing for hip-hop and R&B performers. For the first time in my career, I had to think about what I was saying as far as the lyrical content, says Warryn as Mary Mary poses for photo opps.
To curtail that to be faith-based wasnt a far stretch. I dont think I had to change much. They were very gracious, and they didnt try to make me do something that I didnt want to do.
Vocalists KeKe Wyatt, Tasha Cobbs, YAnna Crawley, Tamela Mann, Kierra KiKi Sheard, Tasha Page-Lockhart and Lisa Page Brooks paid homage to Mary Mary before the sisters performed their breakthrough single, Shackles (Praise You). For BeBe and CeCes tribute, singers Yolanda Adams, Brian Courtney Wilson, Kelly Price, Deborah Cox, Fred Hammond and Winans siblings Marvin and Debbie Winans performed a medley of Winans staples before the honorees performed Hold Up the Light.
Erica defines what makes both her group and the Winans trailblazers for gospel and inspirational music. Were somebody that done something new that hasnt been done before in a way that is challenging and isnt easy, she says on the red carpet.
Christopher A. Daniel is an award-winning freelance journalist, cultural critic and ethnomusicologist currently based in Atlanta. He is also pop cultural critic and deputy editor at the award-winning news site, The Burton Wire. Follow Christopher on Twitter @Journalistorian.