Long before he “stomped” to No. 1 with his genre-defying signature hit, there were years when it was questionable whether Kirk Franklin would even survive.
Abandoned by his parents when he was 4 years old, Kirk was raised in Fort Worth, Texas, by an elderly aunt. With finances being tight, the two collected cans and paper to be recycled and used the money to pay for piano lessons. Apparently, those music lessons were well worth it. At age 11, Kirk was appointed minister of music, leading the adult choir at his aunt’s church.
Although Kirk’s adolescent years were characterized by rebellion, he returned to the church with an intense sense of purpose. Blending R&B and hip-hop with the passion of choral gospel music, Kirk began developing his trademark sound. Thanks to a series of ensembles, he has been instrumental in ushering a new era of gospel music to widespread acceptance.
Drawn to his you-can’t-turn-him-down charisma and irresistible musical talents, he’s enlisted artists, including Crystal Lewis, Bono, Cheryl Jones of Salt N’ Pepa and Mary J. Blige to accompany him on his songs.
While Kirk’s used to drawing a strong response from audiences, we’ve now asked him to give us a few responses of his own.
If you’ve seen Kirk perform, you know that standing still is not his forté. Does he do anything else to stay fit? “No,” he responds, “I have four kids, and that’s all the exercise I need.”
19. Can I get a witness? Oh yeah.
Kirk has a simple explanation of how his mega-hit “Stomp” came into existence. “It was just an idea that God created, and I moved on it.” Did he ever.
18. Human bug zapper
There’s no question that Kirk knows how to write, arrange and perform a song; but what non-musical talents are up his sleeve? The buzz is that he’s good at catching mosquitoes with his hands.
17. Please hold
It’s been two years since platinum-selling "The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin" (Gospo Centric) was welcomed into the world. But don’t expect him to deliver a new bundle of joy soon. “I believe when the timing is right, God will speak something special,” notes Kirk.
16. First City
Breaking new ground is business as usual for Kirk and his cohorts. The music video for “Stomp” was the first gospel video to air on MTV, and "Kirk Franklin & The Family" (1993) was the first gospel debut recording to be certified platinum. His work on "Kingdom Come" marked the first time an established Christian artist has produced an entire soundtrack for a widely released movie.
15. Jazzin’ with Jay
In recent years, we’ve seen Kirk perform on “The Tonight Show” several times. What don’t we see? “Jay [Leno] always comes into your room and gives you a gift basket. And he has everyone sign his guestbook.” Now imagine its value on eBay!
14. Dishin’ with Donny
Select the category “Things Most Gospel Artists Have Not Done.” In giving clues, you may mention appearing as a celebrity contestant on the $100,000 Pyramid hosted by Donny Osmond. What was the hardest part of the show? “Making sure I don’t sound stupid,” he chuckles.
13. Funny folks
Kirk flashes a fast smile when amused but when he laughs, it bowls him over. Who can score a strike? “John Gray [who sang with The Family] and Harry Bullock [his best friend]. They remind me of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.”
12. Wonder-ful and Ever-Green
Although on the edge musically, you can easily hear echoes of the R&B masters in Kirk’s music. Among his inspirations: “Stevie Wonder and Al Green. I love the passion and conviction they sing with. It’s like they really believe what they sing.”
11. Surprising selections
Along with the albums you might expect to find among his CDs, Kirk also owns Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers and John Mayer CDs.
10. Dream Team
Kirk and tobyMac joined forces last year for “I Have A Dream: The Tour” as a musical statement of racial unity. Asked to divulge a Toby tidbit, Kirk laughs. “He’s really black.”
9. The Dream Goes On
Kirk hints there will be an encore of that tour. “I wished more people could’ve experienced the power and anointing,” he says. Stay tuned for details.
8. Safe at Home
Yes, Kirk is a natural performer; but he’s also at home, at home. “My desire is to be a passionate father and attentive husband,” he asserts. He loves going to movies and Chuck E. Cheese’s with his kids to “watch them have what I never had.” While most gospel music is based in Nashville, Detroit or Los Angeles, he remains true to his roots in Dallas. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
7. Extended Family
Technically, Kirk is a solo artist; but he always travels with a posse of stellar singers and musicians. In his search for talent, he looks for people with “great hearts. It always starts with the heart of the person,” Kirk says. He views his relationship with his ensembles as one of being “a big brother or father figure.”
6. Thumbs Up!
Among his favorite movies are "The Godfather" trilogy, "Glory" and "Philadelphia."
5. Look out, Denzel
He has contributed to movie soundtracks, including "Prince of Egypt", "The Preacher’s Wife" and "Get On the Bus." He also spent some time in front of the camera for World Wide Pictures’ "Something to Sing About." He and gospel powerhouse Donnie McClurkin are reportedly on tap for a family-friendly film to be shot this year for 20th Century Fox.
Currently, Kirk is tuned into Proverbs 3:5. Go ahead – look it up.
2. Turning Up the Heat
No matter how he dresses, Kirk always leaves an indelible image. Foremost fashion faux pas: dressing for an outside venue when the service was held indoors. It wasn’t just the music that was hot.
1. Speaking of Hot
Kirk confesses, “I’m still not where I want to be in my walk, but I’m in hot pursuit of Him.”
© 2004 CCM Magazine. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Click here to subscribe.