Helen Graham Spears, mother of Kim Burrell, passes on

GMF extends condolences to Pastor Kim Burrell and family in the homegoing of their matriarch, Helen Graham Spears. Mother Spears passed early this morning, December 1, at the age of 70.
Kim’s brother, Julius Burrell, died this past July (see GMF announcement).

Oretha Winston of elev8.com has posted arrangements for Mother Spears.

Kim Burrell mourns passing of brother, Julius Lynn Burrell

GMF extends condolences to and prayers for Kim Burrell and family in the passing of her older brother Julius Lynn Burrell today.  Burrell shared the news earlier today via social media.

Update (8/11/13): Funeral services were held August 8, at Love & Liberty Fellowship Church, where Kim Burrell is pastor.

Kim Burrell’s New Reality Show (Video Sneak Peek)

Gospel community reacts to the death of international superstar Whitney Houston

By Libra Boyd
Originally posted Feb. 12, 2012 at 12:16AM 
Last Updated Feb. 13, 2012 at 9:08AM
Whitney Houston and Kim Burrell at the 2011
BET Celebration of Gospel, after their unforgettable
performance of “I Look to You.”
Photo from www.whitneyhouston.com
I was taking in a comedy show Saturday evening when I received word of Whitney Houston’s demise at the age of 48.  Actually, I was listening to an up and coming balladeer pay a fantastic musical tribute to another music icon who left us too soon, Luther Vandross.  There was nothing I was able to say when my friend turned to me stunned and whispered, “Libra, Whitney Houston is dead,” except, “It’s got to be a hoax.  Google it.”  How I prayed to be right!
After the search results confirmed the shocking news, I sat through the show reflecting on Whitney’s music.  She was a pop icon.  She is a pop icon.  And she, like countless other entertainers, started in her church, New Hope Baptist in Newark, NJ.  Gospel influences were all around her.  Her mother Cissy Drinkard Houston, a superb soprano–who once sang backup for Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin–was a member of the well-known gospel recording group, the Drinkard Singers.  Her cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick were members of the Gospelaires, later renamed the Sweet Inspirations.  Aretha is Whitney’s godmother.

Awards and recognitions amassed throughout Whitney’s career are unmatched by any other female artist.  Even The Preacher’s Wife original soundtrack, which features her flawless vocals on a number of gospel and R&B tracks, is reported to be the best-selling gospel album of all time.

Expectedly, the Twitter world has been abuzz with sentiments from the gospel music industry.

Richard Smallwood, whose composition “I Love the Lord” was performed by Whitney on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack, tweeted, “No words…my heart is so heavy. Love and prayers to Cissy Houston And Bobbi Kris and the rest of the fam. RIP Whitney Houston.”  Later, he added, “[T]his is just SO surreal. Cant wrap my mind around it……[sic]”

“I’m so sorry to hear of the news of Whitney Houston,” posted Kierra Sheard.  “She was one of music’s greatest. I’m praying for the family.”

James Fortune said via tweet, “We have lost an ICON! I am deeply saddened by the news of Whitney Houston’s passing! Praying for her family! RIP.”

From left: Houston, Caesar and Winans

The chart-topping diva shared close relationships with CeCe Winans and Shirley Caesar through the years.  In 1996, the trio’s gospel medley brought down the house at the 38th Grammy Awards show.  Sunday, Winans shared on Twitter, “I LOVED her SO much, but God loved her more. I pray she’s resting in His arms!”

“RIP Whitney Houston…,” tweeted duo Mary Mary.  “[O]ur hearts are so heavy we’ll always Love you…[sic]”

Cemented in the annals of BET’s Celebration of Gospel is Whitney’s surprise duet with Kim Burrell in 2011.  The vocal powerhouses brought the riveted audience to its feet with Whitney’s “I Look to You” from her last album of the same name.

Sunday evening, Burrell told CNN at the Grammys that she last heard from her friend the day before.

“I got to LA for this, and she told me to call her when I got here; we [were] going to go the Clive [Davis] party last night.  So I called her and I missed her and so…she called me and missed me and so she left a message at about 2 o’clock….I called back several times and of course I didn’t get an answer, because my friend (pause) had died.”  Burrell said Whitney was “in great spirits as always.”

Burrell became emotional as she continued to speak of their close friendship of 13 years.  “I love her,” she said through tears, “And she’s my sister–and she’ll always be my sister.  I love her dearly.”  She went on to share that she’d spent time with Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, who calls her “Auntie Kim,” on Saturday.

Grammy-winning producer Kevin Bond tweeted, “‘I Look To You!’…….What a befitting song for her ending! After Everything and Everyone else is gone I look to you God! [sic]”

Jason Nelson appropriately petitioned on his Twitter page, “Please keep the family of Whitney Houston in your prayers. This loss affects all of the music community.”

GMF indeed extends condolences to Whitney’s family and friends.  Our prayers are with them as they mourn the passing of one whom the world knows as a true music sensation.

McClurkin headlines McDonald’s Gospelfest, talks about competitiveness in gospel music

By Libra Boyd

Shaundria Williams contributed to this feature

This is the second of a two-part feature with pastor and singer Donnie McClurkin.
Donnie McClurkin
“If you take a drive through any community, you will see the golden arches,” speaks Donnie McClurkin of the most recognized fast food chain in the world, “and if you drive through any community, you will see the entity of McDonald’s…has been wise enough to discern that the real pulse of the community is the church.”
McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the New York Tri-State area on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.  The auditions are complete and competitors are preparing to share the stage with some of the biggest names in Gospel including Kirk Franklin, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, James Fortune & FIYA, Bobby Jones, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and the one and only Donnie McClurkin.
The competition, originated in 1983, showcases talent in several categories ranging from soloists and choirs to dance, step, groups, instrumentalists and gospel rappers. 

McClurkin is headlining this particular talent competition, and he will soon be seen in the judge’s chair on another.  McClurkin, who has signed onto BET’s Sunday Best again this season, recently talked with GMF about the McDonald’s Gospelfest, competition in gospel music, and some of his favorite new artists.

GMF:  Please explain the appropriateness of competition in the body of Christ.
McClurkin:  I don’t see it as competition.  I see it as iron sharpening iron.  I don’t see it as us competing; I see it as me being able to draw from you or critique you.  If you’re doing something right, I want to learn from it; if you’re doing something wrong, I gotta critique it and I gotta tell ya, “Hey, hey, that’s not gonna work.”  Even with Sunday Best, we’re sitting there…a thousand people come past us in every city, and [we’re] sitting there going, “Next!  Oh my God, no–don’t ever sing again!  Please, don’t ever–”  It’s all in fun, but it’s also to make sure people stay in their lane and in their place. So from that level, there’s no competition.  
On the level of myself…Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, CeCe Winans, Kim Burrell…there’s no competition.  Donald Lawrence–no competition.  We sharpen each other, and we sit back and wait to see who’s coming out with what CD…and it inspires us to go in and do more.  So that keeps the fresh move in the gospel industry, musically.  It keeps us on our toes and it makes sure that we get the best of quality, because we don’t compete, we compel and we push one another to do better.
GMF:  Along the lines of iron sharpening iron, who are some of your favorite up and coming artists?
McClurkin:   There’s a girl named Preashea Hilliard; she’s got a great CD!  “Fresh Fire” is one of the greatest songs.  Then you’ve got Forever Jones–the whole family–mother, father and kids.  They’ve got a great song out called “He Wants It All.”  There are some great artists coming up that you have never even heard of like Brittney Wright, people like Maurice Griffin, and even Duward Davis, and the list goes on…LeAndria Johnson…they are the new guys coming up and it’s our job to make space for them….Kirk Franklin is pushing Isaac Caree, and I’m taking Andrea Mellini and pushing her.  So, all of us are taking artists and pushing them; Donald Lawrence took DeWayne Woods and Sheri Jones-Moffett.  We’re bringing up these new artists, putting them out in the foreground, so that we can disappear one day.
GMF:   The Gospelfest takes place Father’s Day weekend.  Talk to us about your father or father figure and the impact he has had on your ministry.
McClurkin:  Well, there are two. (Read McClurkin’s complete response Father’s Day weekend right here on GMF, where he’ll talk openly about his biological father.)
GMF:  Beyond the gentlemen that are featured in the Gospelfest, will there be community leaders that will be honored as men of valor?
McClurkin:  Possibly.  We always do something for people who’ve passed away like Walter Hawkins and Albertina Walker; so some people will be honored.
Tickets for McDonald’s Gospelfest can be purchased at the Prudential Center Box Office or through Ticketmaster by calling 800.745.3000, or at www.ticketmaster.com. For further information, please call the McDonald’s Gospelfest Hotline at 866.898.7772.