BeBe Winans has never cared what people — including the church — thought about him or his artistry.
“I was never afraid — and to this day, I’m never afraid to try something new or to go where I believe I need to go,” Winans told me when I sat down with him recently. “I’ve never been afraid of what people thought. I’ve never been driven by success. I enjoy it, but that’s not my driving force. I need to tell the story of where I am.”
Winans’ story is quite the page-turner. His family is a dynasty of sorts within the gospel music community. Four of his older brothers formed the legendary group The Winans and quickly moved from the Detroit music scene to the national stage with 1981’s landmark “The Question Is.”
BeBe followed a few years later, with a cover of a song from the soundtrack of the feature film An Officer And A Gentleman, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. Winans and his sister CeCe transformed the pop romantic ballad into a stirring plea to our Father that foretold their amazing musical ministry.
A couple of years later, BeBe & CeCe released the first of a series of slickly produced, genre-defying albums — BeBe & CeCe Winans, Heaven, Different Lifestyles, First Christmas, and Relationships — that featured singles that topped both the gospel and R & B charts, at a time when that type of cross-over success was frowned upon by the church.
The duo enjoyed massive R & B, Christian, and Gospel radio hits like “I.O.U. Me”, “Heaven”, “Lost Without You”, “Addictive Love”, and “I’ll Take You There”, and Winans collaborated with “secular” artists like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Luther Vandross. Winans seemingly thumbed his nose at those who judged him for being “unequally yoked” with his “worldly” collaborators.
Let me be very clear here: I was not one of those people. At a time when I didn’t want to hear anything that traditional gospel singers like Shirley Caesar or Yolanda Adams had to sing, Winans’ early music gently led me to a closer relationship with God by pairing a new inspirational message with the R & B grooves I was used to.
I started my conversation with Winans by thanking him for music that had helped me through some very difficult times.
“That means a lot,” the 53-year old legend warmly shared. “People ask why I do what I do, and what you just said is the reason why I do what I do. What you heard on your end is the same thing I experienced on my end before it came to you. I learned early on to not be afraid to let people know me through my songwriting.”
The six-time Grammy winner recalled a particular song, “Don’t Cry For Me”, and the impact that it had on him years after he wrote it for his 1988 Heaven album.
“When my brother Ronald passed, it was one of the most devastating moments that has happened to me. The day after he passed, I was to the point where I was so devastated I couldn’t even cry. I was driving, and what comes on the radio? “Don’t Cry For Me”. I had to pull the car over. It was as if my brother was saying ‘don’t cry for me, don’t shed a tear…’. All of those songs are my life. [They are] my journey, and the journey continues.”
Winans’ road ahead includes a song related to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The legend told me that his son inspired him to write it.
“When my son turned 17, it hit me like a brick: my son was a candidate for catastrophe, and I could go through what other parents had gone through and experienced. I went back into the piano room and I wrote this song entitled ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And man, I wept.”
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SOURCE: EUR ThisNThat – Michael P. Coleman