“Satan Is Defeated” – Jonathan Willis & Zion City

“Satan Is Defeated”
Jonathan Willis & Zion City (2022)

Jonathan Willis Satan is Defeated cover art

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Jonathan Willis & Zion City are giving Sunday morning pentecostal congregational praise with “Satan Is Defeated,” and it sounds to me like that’s exactly what Willis and the song’s co-writer and producer Patrick Shorts intended. “Satan Is Defeated” offers foot-stomping, hand-clapping, call-and-response, led by Willis. Zion City begins in unison before branching into three-part harmony in time for the vamp, making it a number that even non-singers will find enjoyably easy to sing.

The message is as simple as the melody: Satan loses and Christ’s followers win, for God’s Word declares it to be so. “I’ve got it – the victory!” the aggregation proclaims.

Willis is the senior pastor of Prayer of Faith Temple Zion City Church of God in Christ in Lynchburg, VA.

Keith ‘Wonderboy’ Johnson dies suddenly at 50

Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson is dead at 50

September 30, 2022 – One of the current kings of gospel quartet music, Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, has died suddenly at the age of 50. Johnson was found dead in his Atlanta, GA home this morning. An autopsy is scheduled. Johnson was known for big gospel radio hits such as “Let Go and Let God Have His Way,” “Be Right,” and “Hide Behind the Mountain.”

“I’m in total disbelief,” says Black Smoke Music Worldwide founder Kerry Douglas, who first discovered Johnson when he was performing at the American Gospel Quartet Convention in Birmingham, AL in the late 1990s. “I saw Keith perform there and I was just taken by how he moved the audience,” Douglas recalls. “He was an electrifying performer. He was the second act I ever signed, and he was my first signing to become a major artist. We used to sell CDs and The Gospel Truth magazines out of the trunks of our cars. We sold over 10,000 copies back in the day. Keith was like a brother. I was there when his first child was born. We fussed and fought with each other since we met, but that relationship built this company. A lot of the big artists today stand on Keith’s shoulders because of those sacrifices we both made in those early days. Keith began his career with Black Smoke and ended with Black Smoke.”

Johnson was born Keith Lamar Johnson on May 17, 1972, in Brooklyn, NY.  When he was five years old, Johnson’s family started calling him “Wonderboy” for his wonderous musical talents. As a teenager, he enjoyed going to Harlem’s Apollo Theater to see great gospel acts such as John P. Kee and the Rev. James Cleveland. During his teens, he sang with the Boys Choir of Harlem and with his father’s quartet group,  The Spiritual Voices.

Johnson’s first Black Smoke Music Worldwide hit was 1998’s “Hide Behind the Mountain,” a rootsy a cappella track with a steady drumbeat. Then came other hits such as the massive “Be Right,” “Send A Revival,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” which showcased the singer’s gravelly tenor. In 2004, he moved on to RCA-owned Verity Records  where he released two albums and scored his biggest hit of all, “Let Go and Let God.” Over the years, Johnson’s bouncy rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” has become an annual favorite on gospel radio stations.

After one-off albums with Malaco Records and Motown Gospel, Johnson scored a production deal with SRT Entertainment which released his album, Keep Pushin’, through a distribution deal with Shanachie Records. “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Keith ‘Wonderboy’ Johnson,” says Shanachie General Manager, Randall Grass. “I first heard his song ‘Let Go and Let God’ around 20 years ago and was immediately impressed; here was an artist injecting the quartet tradition into a contemporary style and it was great. A few years ago, we had the opportunity to release a new album by him which was an equally satisfying melding of traditional and contemporary gospel. His contribution has been great, and he will be missed.”

Homegoing Arrangements flyer for Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson

This past spring, Johnson returned to Black Smoke Worldwide where he released the album, Restructure, Renew & Reunion, which featured the radio single, “It Was You.” Johnson has also acted in touring musicals such as “PMS” and “What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs.” “He had a bubbly personality,” says Glinda Perkins, Program Director for WXVI in Montgomery, AL. “He was very personable and very serious about music. He was his own best pitchman and even though he had people who worked for him, he was always the best promoter for his music.”

A wake and musical tribute will take place Friday, October 14, 2022, at 6 PM ET, with a homegoing service (funeral) taking place on Friday, October 15, 2022, at 9 AM ET. Both events take place at The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, 833 Gardner C. Taylor Blvd. (Formerly Marcy Avenue) in Brooklyn, NY 11216. Attendees should enter through the red doors on Madison Street. Interment will take place immediately after the Saturday service at The Evergreens Cemetery at 1629 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, NY 11207. The Evergreens is the resting place of entertainment giants such as tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Jazz musician Lester Young. The service will stream live via YouTube: @ConcordBrooklyn

Johnson is survived by his parents, Susan and Phillip Johnson; a sister, Attorney Sonya Denise Johnson; and two daughters, Brianna Destiny Johnson and Elyse Victoria Johnson.

– From a media release

7th Annual Avidity Awards set for October 13-15

7th Annual Avidity Awards graphic

Memphis, TN – The nominees have been announced, and the date for the annual celebration honoring excellence in independent Gospel music has been set! The 7th Annual Avidity Awards is coming to Memphis, Tennessee, for the show’s live taping on Friday, October 14, 2022, at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts and Education.  The exciting weekend of events will include an emphasis on mental health awareness in the Black community and the forthcoming launch of Avidity TV. The Avidity Awards celebrate the accomplishments of independent artists and artists signed to an independent record label. This night of excellence boasts a production that has a reach extending to non-traditional gospel audiences.  The Avidity Awards will assemble an array of independent gospel music artists, groups, and spiritual leaders on one stage for an explosive evening of great performances and excitement! 

Leading this year’s nominations is award-winning choirmaster Zak Williams (& 1AKORD) of Philadelphia, PA.  Williams has five nominations – Community Choir of the Year, Choir Director of the Year, and Artist of the Year, all stemming from his Billboard chart-topping single, “Jehovah Jireh,” which is also in the running for Song of the Year.

Kim Person, a multiple 2021 Avidity Award nominee, has received four nominations this year for Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year, all derived from her #1 Billboard Gospel Indicator Chart single, “Wonderful.”  Other artists with several nominations for this year’s Avidity Awards are Cardell Booker and Michael Dixon, who received three nominations each. For the complete list of the 2022 nominees, click here.

The 7th Annual Avidity Awards will feature performances by Robyn McGhee, Dr. James Mable, Jr., Kim Person, Cardell Booker, Gia Wyre, Lamont Sanders, The Exciting Holy Sons, and others to be announced at a later date.

“There’s very little doubt that gospel music has been tremendously influenced and enhanced by the creative genius of independent artists,” says Derrick Huggins, Founder and CEO of The Elite Gospel Music & Ministry Academy (TEGMMA) and Avidity TV. “This has especially been the case since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Avidity Awards will continue to amplify the gospel through musical expressions emanating from our outstanding community of independent artists.” 

The hosts for the show are Aldren McClullar, social media influencer of “The Aldren Brand,” and social media influencer Marquis Jelks of “Church Stuff.”  In addition to the main awards show event, attendees can enjoy the official Pre-Show Indie Artist Showcase with hosts Hasan James (Root Magazine), and recording artists Michelle Prather and Dr. James Mable, Jr., and the Indie Artist Help Desk. 

The Avidity Awards are presented by Avidity TV in conjunction with Avidity Media Group.

“King of Kings” – Monique Chambers-Watson

“King of Kings”
Monique Chambers-Watson (2022)
Available on all digital streaming platforms
Instagram: @monique.chamberswatson

"King of Kings" cover art - Monique Chambers-Watson

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Monique Chambers-Watson conveys her zeal for ministry in song through her self-penned single, “King of Kings.”

Jonathan Laws, the song’s producer, issues the opening declaration that “Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” After which, Monique guides the song along for its high-energy duration, encouraging listeners to lift high the Holy One. “King of Kings” is Afrobeat-infused praise and worship perfectly suited to kick off a live worship service experience.

Monique began singing at the age of eight. She continues as it is her desire to spread the gospel of salvation through her gifts. “King of Kings” is the Toronto native’s debut single.

“Higher” – Lady Kimberly Jackson

Lady Kimberly Jackson (2021)

Lady Kimberly Jackson_Higher_cover art

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

“Higher” is the self-penned single from Lady Kimberly Jackson of Houston, TX. Lady Kimberly describes herself as a trained vocalist whose talents range from being a drummer to a praise and worship leader. In 2020, her talent put her in the same virtual space as Karen Clark Sheard when Lady Kimberly had the privilege of singing for her live on Instagram.

Lady Kimberly makes her way through her own single “Higher” seeming to sing with the timidity of a budding leader in a church youth choir. Once I listened to the full track, I was convinced she must have been holding back in anticipation of the vamp because when she arrives, she delivers rounds of robust riffs and growls along with two key changes. Her background singers ascend with her: “Lord, lift me up higher!”

With a dream and passion to touch and change the lives of people all over the world, Lady Kimberly is well on her way.

“Better” – Faith Thompson

Faith Thompson_Better_cover art

Faith Thompson (August 12, 2022)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

“Better” is a bop from the start. Written and performed by Faith Thompson and produced by Sam Williams, the entire four-minute feel-good groove is packed with declarations that underscore the pronouncement, “What’s coming is better than what’s been!” Faith does not spend time attempting to impress with vocal cartwheels and somersaults. Rather, she moves in lockstep with the melody, supported by her cast of background vocalists. The result is a singable uptempo song that worship teams and their congregations can enjoy together on Sunday morning.

Faith hails from Ottawa, Canada, and has been singing since the age of 12. She currently serves as the worship director at Ekklesia Kingdom Ministry Toronto.

“You Are God” – Loni Crawford

Loni Crawford_You Are God_cover art

“You Are God”
Loni Crawford (August 5, 2022)

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Loni Crawford joins producer Glenn “GK” Jones and the songwriter known as Key of “E” for the single, “You Are God.”

With lyrics that emphasize the manifold attributes of God, Loni sings passionately, “My healer, protector, deliverer, provider, life-giver, comforter, creator…” as the worship song marches forward percussively. One can rarely go wrong marrying the old to the new, and Loni gets it right by incorporating a stanza of the 19th-century Judson Van DeVenter hymn “I Surrender All” into the song’s bridge.

Loni is a Detroit native who presently resides in Birmingham, AL. GMF gave its review of her single titled “Foot of the Cross,” in 2020.

37th Stellar Awards winners announced; Pastor Mike Jr. earns six

Pastor Mike Jr. won six trophies at the 37th Stellar Awards

(CHICAGO) July 19, 2022 — The Stellar Gospel Music Awards celebrated its 37th year honoring excellence in Gospel music during an uplifting weekend of events, concluding with the live-taped ceremony on Saturday, July 16, at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by Stellar Award-winning artists Jekalyn Carr and Kierra Sheard, this year’s celebration will premiere Sunday, August 7, at 8 PM ET/PT on BET, BET Her, and BET International and will be syndicated in various local markets across the country between August 13 and September 11, 2022.

Pastor Mike, Jr. leads the list of winners with a total of six Stellar Awards, including Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Contemporary Male Artist of the Year, Contemporary Album of the Year, and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year, as well as Album of the Year for I Got It: Single’s Ministry Vol. 1. CeCe Winans won three Stellar Awards, including Producer of the Year, Praise and Worship Album of the Year, and Praise and Worship Song of the Year, all tied to the album Believe For It. Jonathan McReynolds and Mali Music received three awards for their collaboration, Jonny x Mali: Live in L.A. EP, including Duo/Chorus Group of the Year, Contemporary Duo/Chorus Group of the Year, and Special Event Album of the Year.

Other notable winners during the 37th Stellar Gospel Music Awards include Tamela Mann and Ricky Dillard, both of whom received two Stellar Awards, with Dillard also receiving the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award Presented by Toyota in recognition of his contributions to Gospel music as a renowned choir leader and recording artist. In addition, four-time nominee E. Dewey Smith was named Best New Artist for his 2021 album, God Period.

The 37th Stellar Gospel Music Awards features showstopping performances by Kirk Franklin, Erica Campbell, Maverick City Music, Marvin Sapp, Tye Tribbett, Le’Andria Johnson, Koryn Hawthorne, Brian Courtney Wilson, Jor’Dan Armstrong, Doe, Rudy Currence, Chrisette Michele, Darrel Walls, James Fortune and more.

The Stellar Gospel Music Awards also bestows special honors to industry titans who continue creating a legacy of excellence that reaches and influences the masses, both within and outside of the Gospel genre. Six-time GRAMMY® Award-winning hitmaker and producer Aaron Lindsey received the Aretha Franklin Icon Award Presented by Aflac. Candi Staton also received the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, an honor that reflects her career of nearly seven decades as a music pioneer and a captivating Gospel music artist.

Top nominees for this year’s ceremony included CeCe Winans, who led the field with nine nominations, followed by Pastor Mike, Jr., who received eight nominations. Tamela Mann, Jonathan McReynolds & Mali Music, and Todd Dulaney all received six nominations. Kelontae Gavin received five nominations. Maverick City Music, Israel Houghton, Ricky Dillard, E. Dewey Smith, and Jason Clayborn received four nominations each.

The 37th Stellar Gospel Music Awards is proud to be presented this year by AT&T Dream in Black. This year’s sponsors also include Procter & Gamble (P&G), Walmart, State Farm, Toyota, McDonald’s – Black & Positively Golden, and Aflac. The 37th Stellar Gospel Music Awards is also proud to partner with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

For additional updates, follow The Stellar Awards on social media — @thestellars on Instagram and Twitter, and Stellar Gospel Music Awards on Facebook — and check out the Stellar Awards website. The hashtag for the show is #StellarAwards.

GMF congratulates all winners and honorees, including the Triangle’s own Melissa Wade of The Light 103.9 FM, who won the Stellar Award for Gospel Announcer of the Year. You can see the entire list of this year’s winners here.

Pastor Nancy Wilson passes away

Pastor Nancy Carree Wilson

Pastor and singer Nancy Wilson has died, her family announced today. Pastor Wilson was 73 years old.

“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved wife and mother, Pastor Nancy Wilson,” her husband and children announced on social media. “We are thankful to God for the impact she has made on all of our lives through her ministry of singing, preaching and intercession. We are grateful for your prayers, love and encouragement.”

Pastor Wilson, a Greensboro native, was a renowned presence in North Carolina and beyond. Her musical résumé includes recordings with Bishop Larry Trotter & Sweet Holy Spirit, Pastor Debra Morton & the Women of Excellence Choir, Men of Standard (of which her son Isaac Carree is a founding member), and others. In 2004, she released her own project, recorded live at Chicago’s Sweet Holy Spirit Church, entitled, Nancy Wilson – Designed for Worship. Additionally, Pastor Wilson was a host of the long-running weekly television program, “Gospel Expo,” which aired locally on ABC and FOX8 WGHP. In 1994, the songstress and media personality became pastor of Greensboro’s New Beginnings Community Outreach Church.

GMF extends condolences to and prayers for husband Pastor J. Teddy Wilson, children Angela, Kimberly and Isaac, and the entire family.

Pastor Nancy Wilson official death announcement

Radio execs unite to form National Association of Gospel Radio

National Association of Gospel Radio Board

(Shreveport, LA) – A group of the most influential executives in the urban inspirational and gospel music radio industry has come together to create the National Association of Gospel Radio (NAGR) with a mission to empower stations as they preserve, protect, and advance the format. The national organization’s first president, Charles Johnson aka Pastor CeJay, was elected by the board to serve as its first lead officer. Johnson is a transformative community leader and an executive with Alpha Media, which owns the historical KOKA Radio Station (72 years of existence) in Shreveport and two other gospel stations within the country. The organization is operating in a limited capacity with plans to launch fully on January 1, 2023.

We are America’s only trade association for radio professionals working in the gospel/inspirational format,” Johnson explains. “Separately, we reach thousands of ears every day, but together we reach millions of listeners. Our membership comprises radio station programmers, management, engineers, announcers, and salespeople. We believe our existence will uphold the legacy of gospel radio and help it grow for generations to come. Our vision is to become a trusted ally and to provide a hub of resources to stations to help them expand their listening base, increase advertising, and to support music artists within the format.”

Kyle Glover, with the Reach Gospel Radio network that reaches 20 American cities and Canada, will serve as Executive Vice President of the National Association of Gospel Radio. Ju Joyner, from Virginia Beach’s Chesapeake-Portsmouth Broadcasting concern, will be Vice President of Finance. Fred Harris, of Salem Media Group which reaches nearly 40 USA media markets, will be Vice President of Marketing & Promotions. The leadership is rounded out by board members: Dr. Sctonda Kelly Gordon, Program Director with Eternity Media Group in Augusta, GA; Chris Squire, Senior Vice President of Sales with iHeart Media, the largest radio corporation in America; and Ron Thompson, Program Director with Radio One (the largest urban radio corporation in America) in Washington, D.C.