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Hearts Reach Hearts: Gospel Great Yolanda Adams

“I think your first everything means something,” Yolanda Adams says of winning her first Grammy Award in 1999. “Because most of the awards that I get are peer awarded… to win it because people feel a connection with what you do and what you’re called to do is phenomenal.”
“I think your first everything means something,” Yolanda Adams says of winning her first Grammy Award in 1999. “Because most of the awards that I get are peer awarded… to win it because people feel a connection with what you do and what you’re called to do is phenomenal.”

There’s a touch of the past that peeks through five-time Grammy Award winning Yolanda Adams’ voice, posture and passion when she’s on stage. Best known as the contemporary gospel artist who merged the genre with R&B and jazz, she’s a picture of her father’s love for B.B. King, Miles Davis and Charlie Pride. Adam’s says being the oldest of six siblings and losing her father as a young teenager instilled in her leadership and advocacy for children. In February she will advocate for children here in Alabama, performing as a part of “Believe! A Night of Hope” benefitting Children’s of Alabama. “The medium of music is one of the best forms of reaching hearts,” she explains, “Hearts reach hearts, and that’s why we do what we do.”

      

Also the winner of three BET Awards for Best Gospel Artist and four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, Adams grew up in Houston, Texas, in a home grounded by strong family relationships, music and faith. “Faith in Christ was the basis of our family, period. There was no trying to find Him. No, he was in the house,” she recalls. “We were brought up in a house full of love and a house full of faith, a house full of prayer.” Her mother, prolific in piano and orchestration, was the minister of music at their church. Her father was a deacon and sang in the choir. He also coached athletics, so the house ran according to seasons–football, baseball, track and field. By age eight, Adams was joining him at the driving range once or twice a week. She also played tennis, and because her height made clothes shopping a nuisance, she learned how to make patterns and sew.

Adams was 13 years old when her father died as the result of a car accident. She suddenly found herself in a position of great responsibility. He had been her “best bud,” she recalls, and had taught her how to balance a checkbook, how to resolve conflict, how to get the younger kids to and from extracurriculars. One of 12 siblings himself, he had fostered a closeness among extended family in the Houston area. “We could have been the poster kids for loving unconditionally family,” says Adams about the importance placed on looking out for your siblings, gathering with extended family and communicating with each other. “My dad always said that you never fight in house. There should not be a squabble in house that does not get squashed by love.”

In 2018, Yolanda Adams won a Tony Award for Best Original Score Written for Theatre for her work on SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical.
In 2018, Yolanda Adams won a Tony Award for Best Original Score Written for Theatre for her work on SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical.

In her father’s passing, Adams’ foundation of faith and family stood firm. “It was a blow to the whole family, and by the grace of God and faith that we have in God, we didn’t just manage the situation. We didn’t just cope with it. We thrived through it because in order to face what you are facing, you have to understand that there’s another side to this; there’s another reason why this happened. I often say I don’t know if I would be the leader that I am right now had I not been thrust into that position.” Adams attended the University of Houston and later Texas Southern University, where she studied radio and television communications. A singer since she was a toddler, she also joined the Southeast Inspirational Choir. In 1986, her featured vocals with the choir were noticed by American producer Thomas Whitfield, and she signed a recording contract with Sound of Gospel Records the following year. In 1999, Mountain High… Valley Low propelled Adams from urban gospel to mainstream, featuring collaborations with artists and producers who had previously worked alongside Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Brandy, and Bebe & CeCe Winans. Mountain High… Valley Low won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album and went two-times Platinum

Both educators, Adams says memories of her parents’ advocacy for children has fueled her philanthropy work. Representing the inspirational community with FILA’s Operation Rebound, Adams has joined NBA players like Grant Hill and Ray Allen in visiting schools in underserved communities in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. to talk about the importance of setting goals. President Barack Obama presented her with the Achievement Award for National Community Service for her involvement with charities like the Children’s Defense Fund, and her Houston-based Voice of an Angel Foundation She has also worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources to help children in low-income neighborhoods receive immunizations. Despite the accolades, Adams insists that raising her daughter, Taylor (17), has been her greatest opportunity. It has also prompted Adams to pass on the importance of faith, family and philanthropy that her parents passed on to her. “There’s a different type of nurturing for a kid who comes into the world who can pretty much have everything,” she says of parenting alongside ex-husband Tim Crawford. “We made sure that philanthropy and social awareness is a part of her DNA, so she also volunteers, she also does great social work. It was very important to us that she knew it was a blessing to be born into this family, but it was also a responsibility. Because of your name, because of your notoriety, you have to bless people with the way you’ve been blessed.”

Fellow Grammy Award winning composer and conductor Henry Panion will join Adams on stage in Birmingham. February 26."I just love the fact that he’s very passionate about music and making sure that it sounds authentic and it also reflects the artist that he works with," says Adams. "He is phenomenal when it comes to allowing the artist the freedom and the control to bridge together that sound. He’s amazing, absolutely amazing."
Fellow Grammy Award winning composer and conductor Henry Panion will join Adams on stage in Birmingham. February 26.”I just love the fact that he’s very passionate about music and making sure that it sounds authentic and it also reflects the artist that he works with,” says Adams. “He is phenomenal when it comes to allowing the artist the freedom and the control to bridge together that sound. He’s amazing, absolutely amazing.”

In addition to her work in the music industry, Adams continues to host the “Yolanda Adams Morning Show,” a syndicated radio program that has been on the air for 11 years and will soon announce a new grid of networks airing the program nationwide (www.YolandaAdamsLive.com). Adams is also an entrepreneur, marketing her own line of coffee and bath and body products at YolandaAdamsLive.com. Above all, however, her heart still belongs to children. Preparing for “Believe! A Night of Hope” at the historic Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Adams says if you cannot be physically present for a child outside of your child, or children outside of your children, she says, then supporting a charitable organization like Children’s of Alabama financially is a way to start. “I also believe that we have to become more concerned about the safety and awareness of our kids and not make excuses as to why we can’t help,” she says. “Every child, no matter what socioeconomic status they come from, deserves to be heard, and they deserve advocates.” Adams promises an evening of gospel music that continues to reveal her varied musical influences and ultimately focuses on inspiring listeners to be open to a blessing. “You never know when you meet a person how their day is going; you never know when you meet a person what they’ve gone through in their lives. To me what music does is it chips at the barrier, that wall that people have up a lot of times, and by the second or third song, the person is open to the blessings of the song. The blessings of the performance. And so, it’s going to be emotional; it’s going to be riveting; it’s also going to be healing and repairing.”

Sponsorship packages for the February 26 event are priced from $1,000 to $10,000 and include VIP seating at the concert and a meet and greet after the performance. A limited number of individual general admission tickets ranging from $55 to $65 and single VIP tickets priced at $100 are available through Ticketmaster. For sponsorship opportunities or ticket information, contact Andrea Martin at 205-638-9017 or andrea.martin@childrensal.org.

-Camille Smith Platt

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