- Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Ask Yolanda Adams what she loves about her music and ministry. The answer is as warm, embracing, and reflective as her songs. "The music brings joy. I truly believe that my songs bring the answers and the solutions, as opposed to just talking about the problems. My music at its core is joyful."
Joyful, uplifting, inspiring, affirmative, exuberant, playful, and universal in its appeal and intention—that is the music of Yolanda Adams. The message and ministry of this Grammy-winning Gospel/Adult Contemporary superstar is abundant with love, faith, rhythm, and wisdom. It is delivered by one of the most persuasive and popular voices in contemporary Gospel. Working with some of the biggest names in pop, R&B, hip-hop, and Gospel, Yolanda Adams's career has been marked by a string of hugely successful albums, sold-out tours, stand-out TV appearances, and a desire to incorporate into her music a multitude of genres and influences.
"It's vitally important to keep growing now that people know me and my music," she says. "We've been blessed enough to impact so many lives, both in and out of the typical Gospel market, so on each album it's important to keep reaching outward so that even more people can get inspiration from what we do. Luckily, I don't have to be anybody but Yolanda, because people don't expect me to be anything other than who I am. For an artist, it's a great place to be."
A lifelong resident of Houston, Texas, Yolanda grew up in a household filled with spirit, soul, and songs. Her mother studied music, and Yolanda and her five younger siblings heard everything from jazz to classical to rhythm and blues. She soaked up the sounds of Gospel legends James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, jazz icon Nancy Wilson, and pop/R&B great Stevie Wonder. That wide swath of sonic textures, combined with years in the church choir, would guide Yolanda—both as a performer and a person.
Word of Yolanda's talent began to make its way into the close-knit Gospel music community and before long the former schoolteacher caught the attention of the prolific composer/producer Thomas Whitfield. With his assistance, Yolanda recorded1987's Just As I Am, which was released on a small Gospel label. The album drew comparisons to Aretha Franklin and lead to subsequent releases on Tribute Records (now Verity Records). 1991's Through The Storm earned Yolanda several Stellar Awards. Four years later, the R&B-infused More Than A Melody garnered Yolanda her first Soul Train Lady of Soul Award and Grammy nomination. Along with the accolades, More Than A Melody "broke" Yolanda to a wider audience and established her as a force, in and out of the music industry.
A testament not only to the power of faith but also the possibilities of collaboration, Mountain High … Valley Low was an album that preached not only to the converted but also to fans of urban music. Working with A-list producers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Keith Thomas, Yolanda made the cross over without watering down or compromising her message, and fans and critics took notice. Typical of the reviews was one that stated, "much of the album recalls Stevie Wonder or Bob Marley, where spirituality is at the center but it doesn't limit the musical expression." The album would go multi-platinum, receive the Grammy in 2000 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album and the first American Music Award for Inspirational Artist of the Year, win several Stellar Awards, and spawn the hugely successful Sisters In the Spirit Tour. That journey—also featuring Shirley Caesar, Mary Mary, and Angela Christie—became the inspiration for Yolanda's acclaimed second live collection, The Experience. That same year Yolanda also released her first holiday album, Christmas With Yolanda Adams, and gave birth to her daughter, whom Yolanda lovingly describes as "a very good child, in and out of the womb."
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