Tag Archives: detroit

Bishop J. Drew Sheard Turns Pandemic Heartbreak into Community Healing

By Robert M. Marovich Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic washed over Bishop J. Drew Sheard’s family and associates like a tsunami. His brother, the Reverend Ethan B. Sheard, tested positive for the virus. So did his children, well-known musicians J Drew II and Kierra. His mother, Willie Mae Sheard, and father, Bishop John H. Sheard, pastor of Greater Mitchell Temple Church of God in Christ in Detroit, also contracted the virus. “It hit my family pretty hard,” Sheard, Senior Pastor of Detroit’s Greater Emmanuel Institutional (GEI) Church of God in Christ, told the Journal of Gospel Music. “The most difficult ...

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RIP: Ora Watkins-Jones (Southwest Michigan State Choir of COGIC)

By Robert M. Marovich Marcel West of Detroit informed JGM of the passing of Mother Ora Watkins-Jones, stalwart lead vocalist for the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ, under the direction of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Of a choir with more than 100 members, a few names stood out from the pack. Rose Marie Rimson-Brown. LaBarbara Whitehead. Vanessa Bell Armstrong. The Clark Sisters. Donald Vails. And Ora Watkins-Jones. Mother Watkins-Jones is perhaps best known for her vocal contribution, with Rimson-Brown (who passed away earlier this year), on the Southwest Michigan State Choir’s first radio hit, ...

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Young Men 4 Christ – Elevation (EP)

Young Men 4 Christ Elevation (EP) Independent (release date: September 11, 2020) www.youngmen4christ.com By Bob Marovich Formed in 2012, Young Men 4 Christ is a contemporary male quartet from Detroit that offers the churchy turns and pulpit-honed declarations for which their hometown is famous. On the six-track EP Elevation, the nine-man group (five singers and four musicians) shifts between traditional and modern gospel quartet styles. For example, “He’s Able” and an extended version of the group’s single “Testimony” are buoyant aisle-walkers, and “Everything to God in Prayer” is a faithful reading of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” with ...

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Bishop Rance Allen Passes Away at 71

From a Press Release: Bishop Rance Allen, of the Grammy® Award nominated inspirational soul and gospel trio, The Rance Allen Group, has passed away at the age of 71. “While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” said Allen’s wife of 49 years, Ellen Allen, and his manager, Toby Jackson, in a joint statement. “I wasn’t expecting to hear this news this morning,” said Tyscot Records President, Bryant Scott, who was nearly speechless upon hearing of the singer’s death. “This is a great loss to us ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 6, 2020

“Testimony” Young Men 4 Christ From the EP Elevation (release date: September 11, 2020) www.youngmen4christ.com By Bob Marovich On “Testimony,” Detroit’s Young Men 4 Christ blend the fervor of traditional gospel quartet singing with hard-driving contemporary musicianship. The lead vocalist assembles familiar couplets and references from the Bible to hint at a story behind the testimony. You never hear exactly what happened to make the singers so joyful (sickness? near-death experience?), but their gratitude is unambiguous, from the verses through the compulsory vamp. A favorite line: “You better turn your radio up tonight.” Just like the preachers used to say.

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PJ Morton: Gospel According to PJ

PJ Morton Gospel According to PJ Morton Inspiration / Tyscot (digital release date: August 14, 2020; physical release date: November 27, 2020) www.tyscot.com By Bob Marovich Much is being made about Gospel According to PJ being PJ Morton’s return to gospel. But like the Reverend C. L. Franklin said of his GRAMMY-winning daughter Aretha, Bishop Paul S. Morton can say of his GRAMMY-winning son: he never really left the church. That’s because most of Gospel According to PJ is a re-introduction, in new arrangements, of sacred songs that Morton, a multi-genre musician, singer, songwriter and record producer, created for other ...

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RIP: Verline Rogers (Meditation Singers)

By Bob Marovich JGM was saddened to learn from Laura Lee and Marcel West that soprano Verline Rogers of the Meditation Singers passed from labor to reward on August 27, 2020, after an extended illness. She was living in Las Vegas at the time of her passing. Rogers was a member of the Meditation Singers of Detroit, a female group headed by Ernestine Rundless. She appears to have joined the group sometime in the early 1960s and recorded with them throughout the decade. In addition to Rogers, other members of the group over the years included R&B stars Della Reese ...

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Instruments of Musick – Determination (EP)

Instruments of Musick Determination (EP) Independent (release date: June 20, 2020) By Bob Marovich “Psalm 33:2,” a track from the Instruments of Musick’s Determination, is a rousing sacred steel-led and non-vocal interpretation of “Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” While the track, evocative of a Campbell Brothers jam, evokes the musical excitement of a praise break, it also serves as a motto for the ensemble’s stringed-instrument music ministry. Blood brothers Garvin and Gary “Fatman” McKinney of Detroit comprise the gospel band Instruments of Musick. Although Determination is not their ...

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RIP: Leo Coney (Violinaires, Gospel Classics)

By Bob Marovich JGM learned from multiple sources of the passing of Leo Coney, a quartet singer formerly with the Violinaires and the Gospel Classics. He transitioned to glory on August 2 around 5:00 p.m. Coney was one of the original Violinaires. The quartet was formed in 1952 in Detroit, Michigan, by Coney, Isaiah “Lil Shot” Jones, and Wilson DeShields. Arthur “Bob” Beatty, who served with the Heavenly Gospel Singers and the Sensational Nightingales, was another early member. According to Beatty, the Violinaires sought initially to replicate the sound of the Heavenly Gospel Singers. Eventually, however, their emphasis on treble ...

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RIP: Rose Marie Rimson Brown, “Songbird of Michigan”

By Bob Marovich The gospel music community mourns the loss of Rose Marie Rimson Brown. Detroit gospel music historian Marcel West informed JGM of the passing of the beloved soloist of the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ, the choir directed by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Known as “The Songbird of Michigan,” Mrs. Rimson Brown was lead vocalist on some of the Southwest Michigan State Choir’s most popular songs, most notably “I Thank You Lord” and “I’ll Never Turn Back” (both with Ora Watkins) and “Write My Name Above.” She was also a member of ...

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