2016: The Year In Review (Top 10 Countdown, part 3)


kirk-franklin-kanye-west2016 may have been one of Gospel music’s most VISIBLE year from a mainstream perspective. While this wasn’t a banner sales year for the genre, the opportunities for collaboration and showcasing gifts on a large platform were in abundance. One of the many opportunities afforded to Kirk Franklin was his first ever appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, performing the closing prayer for Kanye West’s debut of “Ultralight Beam”. While we’ve documented Kirk Franklin’s collaborations with Chance The Rapper and Pharrell Williams, both of them would work with other gospel artists during the year and feature them on pretty significant stages.

Chance The Rapper is clearly a fan of the gospel music genre. On his chart-topping release Coloring Book, not only did he partner with Kirk Franklin, he sampled “Let The Praise Begin” from Fred Hammond on the single “Blessings”. For a performance of “Blessings”, he enlisted the help of popular worship leader Byron Cage as the tandem took the presentation to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Speaking of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon would open his doors and stage to a number of faith-based artists this year. Lecrae would make his third appearance on the show this year, teaming with fellow Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway to perform his latest single “Can’t Stop Me Now” while Pharrell Williams would team with Kim Burrell to perform the single “I See A Victory”. This single is from the Golden Globes nominated soundtrack Hidden Figures, which Williams produced along with Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack features Lalah Hathaway, Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monae, and Alicia Keys. Both Williams and Burrell would also perform this single on The Today Show.


The Today Show played host to Tamela Mann as she performed “One Way” during her promotional run for her release One Way which spent a total of 10 weeks atop Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Chart. The Today Show also featured GMA Dove Award winner and Billboard Top Christian Albums Chart topping artist Lauren Daigle as she performed her huge single “How Can It Be”, the title track from her debut release which earned her two Grammy nominations.

Gospel artists made several appearances at The White House this year as Yolanda Adams, Kierra Sheard, Michelle Williams, and Shirley Caesar all made their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to perform for President Barack Obama. Adams joined Common for a powerful rendition of the Grammy and Oscar award winning single “Glory” that was featured on BET Presents: Love & Happiness, an Obama Celebration.

Common’s gospel collaborations would continue as he featured fellow Grammy Award winner Tasha Cobbs on his new release Black America Again on the track “Little Chicago Boy”. The star-studded album featured appearances from Stevie Wonder, Bilal, Marsha Ambrosius, BJ The Chicago Kid, and John Legend.

Gospel music legend Donald Lawrence and The Company were featured on the new single “What We Got” from popular rapper Sir The Baptist, who is working on a new release set to hit stores in 2017.

In a move that brought moments of excitement to some and angst to others, Fox gave the greenlight and a summer preview to a new talk show titled The Preachers. The talk show, which featured prominent preachers Jamal Bryant, John Gray, E. Dewey Smith, and Orrick Quick, was designed to give an audience to these gifted pastors who would share their opinion about everything from Black Lives Matter to marital swinging. It made for very interesting television with talks of a possible renewal in 2017.

These preachers weren’t the only ones given the opportunity to carry a talk show. Insert “America’s Preacher” Bishop T.D. Jakes who saw the launch of his new daily show titled The T.D. Jakes Show. The show began the fall season in over 50 U.S. markets including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and Los Angeles. The show has seen a mix of everyday people gaining the chance to share their issues and concerns with Jakes along with high profiled interviews with celebrities such as Bobby Brown, Denzel Washington, Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey. Speaking of Oprah Winfrey, not only is The T.D. Jakes Show airing on major networks across the country, it’s also been picked up by Winfrey’s OWN Network.

It has been an incredibly impressive year the faith-based community on mainstream platforms.

2. THE CLASS OF 2016

It’s been said that every year has it’s number but there was something uncharacteristically different about those who graduated from Earth this year. From January 1 through the end of the year, the amount of celebrities and public figures who have transitioned has been unusually alarming and the faith-based community was impacted significantly.

Daryl Coley 3This year saw the loss of gospel music legend and icon Daryl Coley who passed after a lengthy illness at age 60. Known for his versatility and vocal placement, Coley was a vocal chameleon who could fit effortlessly into any musical environment. His professional career began at age 14 with Helen Stephens and the Voices of Christ, which would be followed by time spent with The Edwin Hawkins Singers, Tramaine Hawkins, James Cleveland, and Pete Escavedo. In the mid-80’s, he spent time in jazz and urban circles working with Nancy Wilson, Sylvester, Randy Franklin, and Philip Bailey of Earth Wind and Fire. He had released eleven project, with six Top 10 releases on the Billboard Gospel Albums Chart, including his 1992 release When The Music Stops which peaked at #1. He continued his mainstream impact as the voice of Bleeding Gums Murphy in the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of The Simpsons. His placement and skills impacted a generation of singers.

joe-ligon-the-mighty-clouds-of-joyTowards the end of the year, we lost the legendary Joe Ligon at age 80. Ligon was a founding member and the lead singer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy. With a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Ligon was a trailblazer leading The Clouds to be among gospel’s first crossover acts when their 1975 single “Mighty High” topped the Billboard Dance Charts. There were the first gospel artists to appear on Soul Train and toured with artists such as The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Paul Simon, and countless others. The group was known for hits such as “Heavy Load”, “Amazing Grace”, and “I’ve Been In This Storm Too Long”. The charismatic singer appeared on all 78 of the group’s projects, including their final release in 2014. He would lead the legendary group to win 3 Grammy Awards and in 1999, the group would be inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

This year also saw the departure of legends in the making such as Lecresia Campbell. Known the world over for her lead vocals on “Perfect Peace” (aka “How Excellent”) from Walt Whitman and The Soul Children of Chicago, her authenticity and passion made her a powerful and sought after vocalist. She recorded with The Mississippi Mass Choir, JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise, Oscar Williams & The Band of Life, and playwright David E. Talbert.

Tunesha Crispell was a long time lead vocalist with Stellar and Dove Award nominees James Hall and Worship & Praise. Her jazzy vocals were impeccable and led to the launch of her solo career in 2006. Her solo debut project, titled Just As I Am, saw her team with her longtime production and writing partner and former husband Melvin Crispell to produce a hidden gem of an album. With singles such as “Open My Mouth”, “Just As I Am”, and “Saved”, Crispell became another popular vocalist who was known to consistently deliver.

thomas-clay-pressThe music world was rocked by the unexpected passing of Thomas “TC” Clay at age 34. Clay was one of the most energetic and eclectic performers the industry had ever seen. While he only had one single in the marketplace, he had written for and collaborated with Tamela Mann, Candy West, Justin C. Gilbert, and more. The internet buzz from his performances were legendary and it seemed as though he was on the cusp of a major breakthrough before his passing. He became the topic of more conversation perhaps in his death than during his life, cementing his legacy as a music legend.

The world of pop and urban music lost an unusual number of cultural icons including Prince, Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Maurice White (of Earth Wind & Fire), Phife Dawg (of A Tribe Called Quest), George Michael, Denise Matthews (aka Vanity), Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Chyna, Sharon Jones, Alan Thicke, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher, Rod Temperton, Debbie Reynolds, Ricky Harris, John Glenn, Tommy Ford, and more.

It was simply an unusual year which took a number of the influential entertainers of our generation that shaped the formative years of many.

Click HERE to see the moment that topped this year’s countdown!


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