10 GOSPEL MUSIC
Donnie McClurkin and the an that changed gospel music BY BEN HA RRELL G LOB A L M US IC L INK E DITO RIA L T E A M
here are pivotal moments that occur along the career path of an entertainer that can open the door to success. Moments that not only cement their platform on a global stage but place their name in the same sentence as the greats that have gone before them. Gospel music has been blessed with the likes of Andraé Crouch, Walter Hawkins and Mahalia Jackson, who have been influences to the ‘Reigning King of Urban Gospel’. Donnie McClurkin has a music career that spans over 40 years, with an anniversary on the horizon that changed the face of gospel music 20 years ago. Roy Francis, ‘Songs of Praise’ producer, had an idea to put together a Christmas programme at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England. “I put my programme on paper, as one does, and presented it to my editor.” Roy was challenged to address how people can deal with loneliness at Christmas. “I went away, thought about it…I was going to film the aspect of loneliness, and I needed a song to go with it. I remember my sister kept telling me about this guy called Donnie McClurkin, so I bought his album and listened to it. I thought a track from his album called ‘Stand’ could work for my programme.” Donnie McClurkin flew to England with the intention to perform his song on the live segment of the programme. “What was interesting was his manager. I thought to myself, ‘I know him.’ We knew each other. He was the person behind Richard Smallwood, who I brought over 10 years earlier. After the recording, after the rehearsal, we had lunch and talked about working on a project together. Interestingly enough, I decided that I was going to start my own business - a production company and this was going to be a great first project. This would pave the way to the live recording of ‘Live in London and More.’ In 1999, a packed house at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England, became a day to remember, as Donnie McClurkin performed. Songs like ‘Caribbean Medley’ became an instant favourite as a captivated audience watched. “Donnie put a Caribbean medley together, and I always felt that gave his album a distinctive appeal. Here is an American gospel album,
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with this reggae traditional Caribbean medley, which just gave an interesting twist. “It was absolutely huge! The album propelled him into the stratosphere. It was immense; he was immense. People loved him. The choir and musicians came from London. His music took off in America, and he became a fan favourite in London.” (Roy Francis, 2019) ‘Live in London and More’ would go on to be certified as platinum, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. ‘We Fall Down’ received Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year from the Dove Awards in 2001. Donnie received the BET Awards’ Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/ Inspirational Artist in 2001. Live in London would win Best Gospel Album from the Soul Train Music Awards in 2002. In the same year, Donnie received numerous Stellar Awards, such as: Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, CD of the Year, Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year, Traditional CD of the Year and Music Video of the Year for ‘Live in London’.