By Bob Marovich
When tragedy struck Regina Love, it hit hard.
She lost her son, father, and mother back to back. In 2014, a nephew committed suicide.
That’s when a “still, small voice” within her—“I knew it was God,” she told the Journal of Gospel Music—persuaded her to renew her passionate pursuit of the performing arts.
Love was a fan of NBC’s Emmy-winning television program, The Voice, but had not auditioned. She had instead quit her job and put her singing career on hold to care for her ailing mother. Love’s husband sealed the deal, telling her: “God gave me a word that everything you need, you have right inside of you, but you have to pursue it.”
Today or tomorrow, the 51-year-old singer, actress, talk show host, and member of Team Gwen Stefani will participate in The Voice’s knockout round. Love has already garnered a national fan base for her show appearances, where she has infused gospel, soul, and R&B techniques into her performance style.
Anchored in Music
Regina (Murff) Love has been anchored in music since birth. Born and raised in Detroit and now a resident of Atlanta, she is the daughter of Johnny Reed, a quartet singer and guitarist, and Dorothy Cantrell, who sang with a female quartet called the Songbirds of the South. The Songbirds featured a young singer named Cassietta Baker who, as Cassietta George, later joined the world famous Caravans. Love calls George her godmother.
The Songbirds raised funds for legendary Memphis radio station WDIA and secured Ballard & Ballard Flour—a company purchased by Pillsbury in 1951—as their radio program sponsor.
Given her family’s history, Love says of her singing pursuit: “I had no other choice! I think I was singing in the womb!”
Her mother left the Songbirds to form the Spiritual Wonders, another quartet. When that group retired, children of members of the group, including Love, organized the New Spiritual Wonders. The New Spiritual Wonders never recorded but did tour the U.S. extensively for a decade.
While doing studio work, Love was discovered by Fred Hammond. He recruited her for his new group, Radical for Christ. She led the choir’s flowing “Blessings, Glory, and Honor” for the 1997 Praise in the House CD. The song landed on the Women in Worship compilation CD, where it shared space with selections by Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans, and others.
Love was also a member of Joe Smith’s community choir, Blessings and Praise, a Detroit ensemble on which she sang lead on the 1999 “When the Praises Go Up, the Blessings Come Down.” She even once sang before fellow Detroiter Aretha Franklin. “The Queen of Soul!” she exclaimed. “I was so nervous, my knees were sweating. I didn’t know knees could sweat!”
Love credits Hammond for introducing the Praise & Worship style into her life.
“Singing in a quartet group is a different type of singing,” Love explained. “[With Fred], I moved from the outer court to the inner court of holiness, into the presence of God. My life was never the same.”
In addition to singing, Love got involved in stage acting and started a radio talk show, The Regina Love Show, on BE100Radio.com.
But in the process, Love’s life became enmeshed in tragedy. In addition to the loss of her father and son, caring for her mother was financially and personally draining. “I had stopped working to be my mom’s caregiver,” Love said. “I used every cent that I had to care for her. When she made her transition, it was in my arms. It was just me and her.”
Waking Up Dead Dreams
Love took respite from a challenging time by watching The Voice. “I love [The Voice]. I watched it from the first season until now.”
With the image of her departed mother, father, son, and nephew “rooting for her” from above, and her husband’s steadfast encouragement, Love decided to audition for the popular program.
“I wanted people to know that dreams do come true,” she said. “It does not matter how old you are, it does not matter what you are going through, or even what you look like. Society portrays a picture of the ultimate artist. You have to look a certain way. I wanted to wake up a lot of dead dreams out there. To do that, I would have to go out and pursue it and see what happens. That’s the thing that propelled me. My husband, my family, they’d been saying it every year.”
Love received an invitation to the show’s February 14 auditions in Atlanta. “That was my Valentine’s Day present!” she laughed.
She joined the approximately 85,000 hopefuls nationwide, where, like a well-oiled machine, the program’s team of producers winnowed the list to a lucky and talented few to move to the next level.
Filling out the information form during the first audition session, Love noted that she wanted to sing last. “Who wants to go first?” she said. “But you know what the Word says: the last shall be first! After they welcomed us, the first name they called was mine. The Word does not lie!”
The last turned out to be the one. Love was the sole singer selected to continue to the next phase from those who auditioned in her group.
From there, she dove into a dizzying series of auditions. “I believe it might have been five altogether,” she recalled. “But I could not have asked for a more wonderful group of people on my team. The staff, everyone, are just phenomenal.”
The process itself was soul satisfying. “I have sowed into a lot of ministries, helping artists to make their dreams come true,” Love said. “That’s how my heart is. I want to see everybody succeed. Being a servant is what God desires of us. Do it not for ulterior motives, but just because you want to do it, from your heart. And just as you serve, when it is your season, people will come and serve, just like you served.”
The Voice‘s musician coach Adam Levine picked Love initially for his team, but she was recently stolen by Gwen Stefani. Stefani told Love she hadn’t picked her during the first round because she didn’t know what she could teach her. But she changed her mind and, after the steal, told Love: “Whatever you gave Adam, I need that in my life!”
Despite her success thus far, Love remains grounded: “A lot of people don’t know what a sacrifice this is. They see you when you make it, but they don’t know that dash in between. I want people to know that just because you are going through a season of drought or turmoil, when God speaks something over your life, it will come to pass, and all that stuff is to build your character. Don’t get up there and think you are higher than you are. Remember where you came from.”
It’s Knockout Time
The Voice knockout round featuring Love will air today (Monday 8/7c) or tomorrow (Tuesday 9/8c). Love encourages everyone to vote for her when the time comes.
In pondering life after The Voice, Love knows her commitment to singing and acting remains as strong as ever, but she sees her role in popular culture as an “infiltrator,” as a Christian who enters Hollywood to make a positive impact.
“I’ve also been bitten by the talk show host bug,” she added. “I really want to do daytime television, with a little twist to it. . .but I won’t reveal that!”
Follow Regina Love on Facebook and on Twitter (@IAmReginaLove) and Instagram (IAmReginaLove). For more information, visit www.nbc.com/the-voice.