By Bob Marovich
Lady LaVarnga Hubbard, known as the Duchess of Gospel Music, has been a member of the Chicago Mass Choir since it was the Ecclesiastes Community Choir, under the leadership of the late James C. Chambers. Her lead on Chicago Mass’s “Call Him Up” has ensured the song a place in the choir’s repertory.
So when it was time for her to release solo music, all Hubbard had to do was call up her extended Chicago Mass Choir family.
That’s what she did for her latest single, “Worthy.”
“Worthy” was written especially for her by Grover Lafayette Simmons, whose credits include writing for Chicago Mass Choir, the youth choir New Direction, and New Direction/Chicago Mass Choir alumna Shanta Gray. The single was produced by longtime Chicago Mass Choir producer-writer Jeral Gray.
What is different about “Worthy” is the style. Hubbard is a traditional gospel singer straight outta church, demonstrated most recently on her single, “I Got Better Coming.” But for “Worthy,” she tweaked her signature sound to give it more of a Praise & Worship feel.
She admitted that it meant really studying P&W songs such as “Worthy” that will be featured on her forthcoming album. Although P&W oriented, the album will maintain the churchy drive that has been Hubbard’s go-to style.
“I haven’t left traditional [gospel],” Hubbard ensured JGM. “I just wanted to do something out of my zone. I just wanted a little variety on the CD, a little bit for everyone.”
The lyrics of deliverance and encouragement on “Worthy” relate to Hubbard in a personal way. She said she hopes the listeners will find them comforting, too. “Because when you don’t have words to say,” she added, “you can always have a song in your heart.”
The new album, produced by Jeral and Percy Gray, is slated for a fourth quarter 2016 release on Bishop Larry Trotter’s Utopia Music Group. There’s that connection, too. Bishop Trotter’s Sweet Holy Spirit Church was the site of Hubbard’s first solo recording, Nobody Else Compares to You (2006).
Meanwhile, Hubbard just completed a taping for Willie Wilson’s Singsation television program and is slated to appear on BET’s A Joyful Noise.
“Remember, we were doing praise and worship all along,” LaVarnga Hubbard said. “Think of ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’—we just didn’t call it that.”