History of the Roberta Martin Singers highlighted on Cross Rhythms

Cross Rhythms music editor Tony Cummings charts the history of the Roberta Martin Singers.  Read it here: Roberta Martin Singers: Chicago’s gospel legends of the ’50s and ’60s.

"Happy birthday, Delois Barrett Campbell!"

GMF remembers the Royal Lady of Gospel, Delois Barrett Campbell, on what would be her 87th birthday.  Born March 12, 1926, Campbell was a prominent member of the Roberta Martin Singers for nearly 20 years and the lead singer of her sibling trio, The Barrett Sisters, who continue to perform.  Campbell passed August 2, 2011, at age 85.

For years, birthday musicals were hosted in her honor in Chicago and brought in singers and guests from far and near.

This year in February, The Barrett Sisters celebrated the release of a feature length documentary movie entitled The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters, detailing the extensive career and travels of the internationally recognized group.  GMF’s Libra Boyd talked with the film’s producer and director Regina Rene about the project.  Read the interview here.

“Happy birthday, Delois Barrett Campbell!'”

Film producer Regina Rene discusses the making of The Barrett Sisters’ movie

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Photo | Do It All Productions, LLC
 Producer Regina Rene (kneeling) with (from left) Rodessa Barrett Porter, Billie Barrett GreenBey, and the late Delois Barrett Campbell.
First introduced to the legendary gospel trio Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters through their unforgettable musical performances in the critically acclaimed 1980’s documentary Say Amen, Somebody, Regina Rene Davis recalls that the film quickly became one of her favorites.
 
Many years later, it would be her appreciation for the gospel veterans’ legacy duetted with Rodessa Barrett Porter’s dream–disclosed to Chicago Tribune journalist Howard Reich during a 2008 interview–that would inspire her to produce and direct the newly released documentary film The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters.  The long anticipated 114-minute documentary chronicling the sisters’ lives and careers premiered Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Chicago’s Life Center COGIC. (Read Bob Marovich’s recap and review on The Black Gospel Blog.)
 
For the multi-talented producer/videographer/editor whose resumé includes a lengthy tenure with Entertainment Tonight, the project was an intensive labor of profound love for octogenarian sisters Delois Barrett Campbell, Rodessa Barrett Porter, and Billie Barrett GreenBey, as well as the group’s most recent member, songbird Tina Brown.  Nevertheless, undaunted by personal adversities, unforeseen challenges, and the sisters’ inability to compensate her for the enormity of her undertaking, she forged ahead enthusiastically to transform a dream into a reality for the gospel greats. 
 
“I found [an] article where Mrs. Rodessa said that she wanted a document of their career and that she had all these videos that someone told her would cost $5,000 to put together,” remembers Regina. “And I said, well I can put their stuff together; that’s no big deal.”
 
The fact that it evolved into a feature length documentary, however, is a huge deal. 
 
“I thought I was simply going to be stringing together their footage because if you’ve ever visited Mrs. Campbell’s house when she was alive, she’d always want to put [the Barrett Sisters’ videos] on so people could see them singing–and the grand-kids always had to come in every 15 to 20 minutes to change the DVDs!”
 
But it wasn’t long before Regina discovered that like many artists of their era, the sisters–whose career includes over 30 overseas tours, multiple television and radio appearances, invitations to perform at every major concert hall in the United States as well as The White House, and numerous awards and commendations–had amassed considerably more fame than fortune throughout their careers and had been grossly underpaid for their work.  Meanwhile, there were savvy folks on the business side who had reaped the financial harvest of the sisters’ labor.
 
“So [I thought] maybe I could create something…see what happens and try not to let someone just sign it away again….That’s really how I approached [the idea of a feature film].  I tried to do it in such a way that nobody was gonna take it away from them.”
 
The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters is co-produced and owned by The Barrett Sisters. 
 
“At the age of 80-plus, the Barrett Sisters [finally] own something that they did–and they’ve never had that before,” beams Regina.
 
Audiences will be overjoyed that the documentary serves as a fond memorial to Delois, who passed August 2, 2011, at age 85.  Her anecdotes are uproarious at times, although characteristically candid.  Still, beyond Delois’s bright eyes and larger-than-life personality, Regina was especially intent on giving the audience an inside look at the bond that Delois and her younger sisters–each only two years apart and the last survivors of ten siblings–relished both onstage and off.
 
“The thing about the Barrett Sisters is that they’re just like this beautiful hidden jewel of talent, and once you discover them you’re like, ‘Oh wow!’  You see these little morsels of performances, like on YouTube, but then you don’t know anything about them because they don’t have that recognition like the Caravans and Shirley Caesar and James Cleveland and all of those folks from that generation that were successful…but they were very much in that loop [because they were all contemporaries].”
 
Regarding the film itself, Regina explains, “Most documentaries are very sterile and very matter-of-fact.  I really wanted this one to be like listening in on a conversation.”  The concept of the movie was to allow each sister to tell her story in her own words, but to also allow fans to experience the ongoing interplay of ladies who are as close as any siblings can be.
 
“That was the whole point: to capture their spirits, their personalities. They’re just like honey, and we’re the bees.  When they sat down together and they started that camaraderie and that give-and-take and yin-and-yang, that’s when I knew I had something special.  It’s them in their element, being themselves.”
 
Despite the sisters being their delightful selves, the making of the film was not devoid of hurdles. The most challenging thing was trying to make sure I got clearances situated [for the performance footage].  The challenges were more technical than creative….But in terms of going to Chicago and spending time with the sisters, that was a joy!”
Photo | Herbert McFadden
At right: The audience responds to the documentary with a thunderous standing ovation.
That joy was also expressed by every family member, friend, and fan who attended the premiere.  Throughout the movie, laughter, swaying, applause, and even tears filled the edifice of Life Center COGIC as the Barrett Sisters along with professors and icons like Aretha Franklin contextualized the ladies’ indelible influence on sacred music.
 
I actually spoke with Donnie McClurkin last week, and I told him all about [the movie], and he got super excited,” Regina says. “He just went over the moon when I showed him a picture of the Barrett Sisters. He was excited to know that someone was doing a documentary about them.” 
 
The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters can be purchased online at www.barrettsistersonline.com and is a must-have for traditional gospel music enthusiasts.
 
“Most of the documentaries that are done about gospel singers and jazz singers are done by people overseas,” Regina points out. “This is one of the few times that we are truly telling our own story in a way that doesn’t come across as rigid and sterile.”
 
“When you’re done watching this movie, if you didn’t know the Barrett Sisters you’re going to say ‘Wow.’  If you did know the Barrett Sisters, you’re going to say ‘Amen.'”
 
For more information on Regina and her company Do It All Productions, LLC, visit www.diaprods.com.
Photo | Herbert McFadden
Regina Rene (right) and group members (seated from left) Tina Brown, Rodessa Barrett Porter, and Billie Barrett GreenBey as well as Chip Johnson (standing left) and Randy Johnson are congratulated by friends at the VIP reception for the documentary premiere.

Related Stories

Help the Barrett Sisters release their long-awaited documentary film

For more than 60 years, Delois
Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters have performed gospel music
throughout the United States and overseas.  They have made media
appearances with Johnny Carson, Patti LaBelle, and Oprah
Winfrey and are counted among pioneers in
gospel music alongside Thomas A. Dorsey,
Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Martin, Theodore Frye, and Sallie Martin. 
Still, perhaps you know them best from their performance in the critically
acclaimed movie Say Amen, Somebody. 

One remaining dream for the renowned 80-something year-olds is the release of The Sweet Sisters of Zion: Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters, the long-anticipated documentary film tracing their extensive careers
and contributions to gospel music through rare performance footage and interviews with sisters Delois, Billie, Rodessa and others.
But the Barrett Sisters need the help of their family, friends, fans, and well-wishers around the world. 
The film is finished; however, expenses for its release are mounting and your financial support is much needed.  Your contributions will pay for the costs of filming, packaging, promoting, and distributing the independently produced movie,
as well as hosting a premiere screening in Chicago on February 16,
2013.
Go to www.indiegogo.com/TheBarrettSisters to make your contribution, claim your thank-you gift(s), watch sneak peeks, and stay updated throughout the campaign.

This documentary is sure to be treasured for generations to come as a commemorative piece of gospel music history about one of the genre’s greatest female trios.

An Open Letter to the NAACP Image Awards – Memorial Segment Omissions

Editor’s Note: International gospel music veterans Delois Barrett Campbell and Jessy Dixon passed away in August and September 2011, respectively; however, both were excluded from the NAACP Image Awards memorial segment.  The following inquiry was initially sent as a private email to the Image Awards on Friday, February 17, 2012, immediately following its airing on NBC.  After waiting nearly one month for a response, I sent a second email Thursday, March 15, 2012.  To date, I still have not received any acknowledgment of my emails.
 
 

Dear NAACP Image Awards:

I am extremely disturbed that two giants in gospel music, Delois Barrett Campbell and Rev. Jessy Dixon, were omitted from the 2012 program’s memorial segment.  Certainly, gospel music has been the foundation of the African-American experience and should be revered as such.

President Barack Obama posits that “the potent words of gospel gave strength to a generation that rose above the din of hatred to move our country toward justice and equality for all.”  Delois Barrett Campbell was one such voice.  She is hailed as “The Royal Lady of Gospel” and recognized internationally for her pioneering contributions to the art form.  Media coverage of her passing was massive, and her three-day funeral services brought tributes from President Obama, Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others.  The New York Times published a well-written article chronicling her seven-decade career.

Singer/songwriter/musician Rev. Jessy Dixon’s discography includes collaborations with Paul Simon, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Preston, and James Cleveland–and this is the short list.  The Chicago Sun-Times published a piece detailing his impact on the music industry.  The 54th Grammy Awards mentioned him in its memorial segment; unfortunately, the NAACP Image Awards did not.

I submit this inquiry: If we do not esteem our own, who will?  If we do not honor our own in death as we have celebrated our own in life, who will?  If we fail to recognize those who blazed trails for Jennifer Hudson, Aretha Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Donald Lawrence, and Kirk Franklin, who will?

I am kindly requesting a reply and explanation of these omissions.  Thank you in advance for taking time to address my concern about these exclusions.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Libra N. Boyd, Founder & Editor
Gospel Music Fever™

Delois Barrett Campbell "Her Legacy Lives On" Musical – March 11

Click flyer to enlarge

On what would be the weekend of her 86th birthday, the life and legacy of Delois Barrett Campbell will be celebrated at Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance.  Some of Chicago’s finest–including Shekinah Glory Ministry, Chicago Mass Choir, Kim Stratton, and DeAndre Patterson–will gather in tribute to the internationally renowned soprano vocalist of the famed Roberta Martin Singers and the phenomenal Barrett Sisters.  Admission is free.

Campbell, recognized as “The Royal Lady of Gospel,” exchanged time for eternity on August 2, 2011 (see related story).  This year, she was honored posthumously at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, during which new trophies were unveiled bearing her name among the inscriptions of several other gospel greats. 

Set for release later this year is a documentary chronicling the life and career of Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters.  For the trio, it is a career that spans more than 60 years.

Delois Barrett Campbell “Her Legacy Lives On” Musical – March 11

Click flyer to enlarge

On what would be the weekend of her 86th birthday, the life and legacy of Delois Barrett Campbell will be celebrated at Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance.  Some of Chicago’s finest–including Shekinah Glory Ministry, Chicago Mass Choir, Kim Stratton, and DeAndre Patterson–will gather in tribute to the internationally renowned soprano vocalist of the famed Roberta Martin Singers and the phenomenal Barrett Sisters.  Admission is free.

Campbell, recognized as “The Royal Lady of Gospel,” exchanged time for eternity on August 2, 2011 (see related story).  This year, she was honored posthumously at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, during which new trophies were unveiled bearing her name among the inscriptions of several other gospel greats. 

Set for release later this year is a documentary chronicling the life and career of Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters.  For the trio, it is a career that spans more than 60 years.

Stellar Award winners of non-televised categories announced at pre-show

Dorothy Norwood and family of Delois Barrett Campbell receive special awards

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Gospel music’s version of the Grammys is taking place this weekend in Nashville.  The first winners of the 27th annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards were announced last evening at the 2012 pre-show, held before a capacity crowd at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.  Hosts of the non-televised event were Byron Cage and Maurette Brown Clark.
 
“Gospel’s Greatest Storyteller” Dorothy Norwood received the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award.  The Caravan alumna’s career spans more than half a century. 
 
Left: Dorothy Norwood accepts the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award, recalling her years of traveling during the era of racial injustice and discrimination.
 
In addition to the awards presentations, a special award was given to the daughters of pioneering gospel great Delois Barrett Campbell, who passed away August 2011.  Because of her internationally renowned contributions to gospel music with the Roberta Martin Singers, the Barrett Sisters, and as a solo artist, her name will be inscribed on the Stellar Award.

Right: Mary Campbell, daughter of Delois Barrett Campbell, speaks as other daughter Sue Campbell-Ladd (far right), presenter Erma Davis, and cousin Skip Barrett look on.
 

Categories and winners announced at the pre-show are as follows:

Contemporary Male of the Year
VaShawn Mitchell

Traditional Female of the Year
Beverly Crawford

Contemporary Female of the Year
Kim Burrell

Contemporary Choir of the Year
Shekinah Glory Ministry

Choir of the Year
Ricky Dillard & New G

Traditional Choir of the Year
Mississippi Mass Choir

Traditional CD of the Year
How I Got Over – Smokie Norful

Contemporary CD of the Year
Hello Fear – Kirk Franklin

Praise and Worship CD of the Year
Triumphant – VaShawn Mitchell

Instrumental Gospel CD of the Year
Music Remastered and Sacred Organ – Moses Tyson, Jr.

Children’s Project of the Year
Teen Pure In Heart Live – Pure-N-Heart

Music Video of the Year – Long Format
Church on the Moon – Deitrick Haddon

Urban Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year
“Nobody Greater” – VaShawn Mitchell

Quartet of the Year
The Rance Allen Group

Producer of the Year
Kirk Franklin

Recorded Music Packaging of the Year
Make It Loud! – Martha Munizzi

Special Event CD of the Year
Bishop Morton Celebrates 25 Years of Music – Bishop Paul S. Morton

The Stellar Awards continues tonight at the Grand Ole Opry with hosts Dorinda Clark-Cole and Marvin Sapp.  Stay close to GMF for the complete list of this year’s winners. 

Photo Credit: Stellar Gospel Music Awards

 

Delois Barrett Campbell’s life celebrated with rousing musical, moving homegoing

Aretha Franklin, President Obama among scores who offered tributes

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Delois Barrett Campbell

People from all over the country packed the pews of Trinity United Church of Christ Tuesday and Wednesday evening to celebrate the life of gospel music way-paver, Delois Barrett Campbell, the “Royal Lady of Gospel.”  Many around the world watched online; so many in fact, that Trinity’s website crashed due to the volume of viewers.  Lady Delois, of the internationally renowned Barrett Sisters and formerly of the trailblazing Roberta Martin Singers, passed August 2.  She was 85.

Tuesday night’s musical tribute was a celebration of lively music and hearty laughter as Lady Delois was fondly remembered for her vocal prowess, her elegance, and her endearing presence.  Musical salutes were given by Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance Choir, psalmist Tanya Ray, the Gospel Music According to Chicago (GMAC) Choir, and Quinton Washington, who sang in Jennifer Hudson’s absence.

The Brown Sisters

In salute to Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters, who are cited as influences on today’s gospel sister groups, the sensational Brown Sisters took to the platform and immediately brought the crowd to its feet with a medley of the Barrett Sisters’ “I’ll Fly Away (Lord, Give Me Wings)” and “I’ve Got A New Home.”  The remaining sisters Rodessa Barrett Porter and Billie Barrett GreenBey stood, swayed, clapped, and grinned as the Browns led the celebratory audience down memory lane.

Other musical performances were given by the amazing Kim Stratton, Cathy Townsend, Rev. Issac Whittmon, Chris Gardner, Reginald Finley, Wooten Choral Ensemble, Penny Jeffries, Milas Armour, Pastor Ray Berryhill and Evangel World Outreach Ministries, Dexter Walker & Zion Movement and Lady Delois’s cousin Ron Barrett.

It was the Rev. Stanley Keeble’s recounting of Jessy Dixon’s “The Wicked Shall Cease from Their Troubling” that caused the church to explode in praise.  Keeble opted not to sing the song, but no sooner than he completed his remarks and laid the mic down, the church became one huge mass choir and broke spontaneously into the song’s chorus.  Pastor DeAndre Patterson, one of the evening’s emcees, brought Keeble back at least twice to sing the verses, and the house erupted in jubilation.  The Campbell daughters as well as Barrett Sisters member Tina Brown were among the many dancing in the spirit.  It was just the kind of rejoicing that Lady Delois would want–and perhaps prayed for–at her homegoing.

Dr. Sue Campbell-Ladd

The evening was not without laughter as Lady Delois was remembered for her big hair and long eyelashes, her skills in the kitchen (especially her soul food), and her sense of humor.  The evening’s funniest remembrances were shared by her oldest daughter, Dr. Sue Campbell-Ladd, who recalled her mother’s enjoyment of talking on the phone, insistence that her daughters “learn to be on time,” and love of sports, particularly the Chicago Bulls.

“When my father would walk into the living room, he’d say, ‘What’s the score?’  My mother would say, ‘186 to 42.  The Bulls are winning.'”  The audience roared.  Ladd added, “They were always winning–to her.”

Other warm memories were expressed by gospel music historians Nash Shaffer and Professor L. Stanley Davis, radio personalities John Hannah and Effie Rolfe, Bishop Larry Trotter, and the evening’s emcees Pastor Patterson and Art Norman.  A host of notables were also in attendance.  Among those I spotted were Caravans members Inez Andrews and Delores Washington, Lady Lou Della Evans-Reid, Walt Whitman, Rev. Jolinda Wade, Ricky Dillard, Lexi, Pastor Dan Willis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Calvin Bridges and Bishop Otto Houston, III.

In a rousing finale, the Barrett Sisters–Porter and GreenBey along with Tina Brown, who was hand-picked by Lady Delois as her stand-in vocalist–were escorted to the pulpit, donning the royal color of purple like the rest of their family and friends, to perform their popular number “Jesus Will,” backed by the Trinity United Church of Christ Choir.  The bereaved sisters were embraced by a standing congregation and uplifted by supernatural strength; in response, they delivered a healthy dose of encouragement in their own classy and musically excellent way.

‘Twas the night of a fitting tribute to a royal lady.

________________________

Wednesday’s homegoing service of nearly four hours was the continuance of celebration thanking God for the life and legacy of Delois Barrett Campbell.  Prominent clergy, politicians, and gospel singers came to pay homage while the main floor and balcony of the Trinity UCC sanctuary was again filled with family, friends, and admirers.

Anthony Heilbut

Among the numerous spoken-word tributes was a beautifully delivered recitation of “God Saw You Getting Tired” by Lady Delois’s 13 year-old granddaughter, Nailah Harris, and an audio message from the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.  George Nierenberg, who directed the critically acclaimed 1982 documentary, Say Amen, Somebody, which skyrocketed the Barrett Sisters to international fame, shared accounts of his personal interaction with Lady Delois and her sisters during the making of the movie.  Anthony Heilbut, author of The Gospel Sound, escorted the congregation to yesteryear, playing Lady Delois’s very first solo recording with the Roberta Martin Singers in 1947, and her last, about 50 years later.  This was one of several highlights, as members of Wednesday’s audience could be heard saying, “Go ‘head ‘Lois,” “You betta sing!” and “That’s alright, Mama” while listening to her voice soar and then settle back into sheer sweetness on the recordings. 

Romance Watson

Other musical highlights include vocalist Kathy Taylor’s passionate delivery of “The Corinthian Song.”  It was rafter-rattling; many of the worshippers could have used a psalmic selah afterwards.  “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” a flawless performance by Lady Delois’s contemporary, Romance Watson of the famed Roberta Martin Singers, was accompanied by a thunderous standing ovation that continued as he exited the sanctuary.  (He apologized for being hoarse.)  I can only imagine that Lady Delois brought the house down in like fashion with her God-given singing virtuosity at the many funerals for which she sang through the years.

Daughters Mary (left) & Sue

Angela Hunt, the Caravans’ Delores Washington, the Carson Sisters, Tina Brown of the Barrett Sisters, and Pastor DeAndre Patterson also comforted the family with musical selections between tributes, readings, and words of comfort from Trinity’s pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III.  One special reading was a letter of condolence from President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Barrett Sisters

As the evening drew to an end, those “Sweet Sisters of Zion” graced the pulpit to perform the final musical tribute, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.”  Despite being grief-stricken, when the Barrett Sisters opened their mouths, their countenances lifted and their harmonies rang.  As they approached the final notes of the song they’ve closed concerts with time and time again, Ladies GreenBey, Porter and Brown bowed.  It was a most moving moment for me.  This time, I sensed that they bowed not to receive recognition from their audience of admirers for a job well done. Rather, they bowed in salute to gospel music royalty–for her job well done.

Family and friends prepare for the recessional as Trinity’s choir sings “I’ve Got A New Home”.

________________________

Lady Delois is escorted to Oak Woods Cemetery, her resurrection site (as described by Apostle Richard Henton), on Thursday, in a horse drawn carriage.

Photos by photographer David Spearman where noted.  GMF thanks him for granting us permission to publish the photos with this story.

Gospel Legend Delois Barrett Campbell of The Barrett Sisters: Labor to Reward

GMF learned from Bob Marovich at The Black Gospel Blog that gospel legend Delois Barrett Campbell of The Barrett Sisters and formerly of the Roberta Martin Singers entered into eternal rest today.  She was 85 years-old.

I cannot say enough about what Mother Delois meant to me on a personal level.  I have not known a more genuine, kind-hearted, faith-filled, and tenacious person.  Our conversations and exchanges are ones that I will keep private, hold dear, and cherish always.

Delois Barrett Campbell was rare and is irreplaceable.  I love you, Mother Delois.

The Campbell and Barrett families have our sincerest, heartfelt sympathy.  We do rejoice, however, that Mother Delois has gone from the labors and cares of this life to rest and reward.

Arrangements are as follows:

Musical Tribute
Tuesday, August 9th
7 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ
400 West 95th Street – Chicago

Visitation
Wednesday, August 10th
6 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ

Homegoing Celebration
Wednesday, August 10th
7 PM
Trinity United Church of Christ

Interment
Thursday, August 11th
Oak Woods Cemetery

Please read more about her passing and career at The Black Gospel Blog and www.cbsnews.com.