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Adams, Yolanda

Yolanda Adams

1961—

Gospel singer

"I've always believed you should appeal to everybody," Yolanda Adams once told Metro magazine interviewer Nicky Baxter. One of the central participants in a gospel music revolution that has brought pop sounds into the style and expanded the music's market in dollar terms from roughly $160 million in 1987 (when Adams started her recording career) to $550 million less than a decade later, Adams may also be gospel music's best bridge-builder. Easily able to handle modern styles ranging from jazz to mainstream urban contemporary to hip-hop, she found convincing ways, musically and lyrically, of combining these styles with explicitly religious expression. And her voice seems solidly rooted in the black church and in traditional gospel music. "Never underestimate where I'm going, because just when you think I'm going off the deep end into the jazz thing, I might come right back and shock you with stone traditional [music]," she told Baxter in Metro magazine.

A native of Houston, Adams was born on August 27, 1961, the oldest of six siblings. Her family offered her a solidly religious upbringing, and as a small child she created for herself an imaginary friend she called "Hallelujah" and sang a solo in church at age three. She grew up with the classic gospel sounds of James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, but hers was also a musically eclectic household. Adams's mother, a pianist who majored in music in college, introduced her daughter to jazz, classical music, and secular R&B. Adams joined a gospel choir, the Southeast Inspirational Choir, shortly after her father's death when she was thirteen years old.

A six-foot-one-inch beauty, Adams hoped to become a fashion model even as she embarked on a career as an elementary school teacher. "I always sang gospel music, but the career of gospel music was not a priority," she told Shirley Henderson of the Chicago Tribune. Nevertheless, her powerful voice propelled her to the forefront of the Southeast Inspirational Choir's performances; she took a solo on the choir's 1980 hit "My Liberty." In 1986 well-known gospel producer, composer, and pianist Thomas Whitfield heard the choir and wasted no time in approaching Adams. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Adams remembered Whitfield saying, "I've got to record you." The result was the album Just as I Am, released in 1987 on Sound of Gospel Records.

Won Acclaim in the World of Gospel Music

Adams signed with the growing Tribute label in 1990, and between 1990 and 1998 released several successful albums, which won Stellar awards, a prestigious gospel music industry honor. Albums Through the Storm and Save the World produced pieces that Adams still sings in concert, such as "The Battle Is the Lord's," but it was 1995's More Than a Melody that really put Adams on the pop music radar screen and moved her style sharply in the direction of secular urban contemporary music. The album was honored with a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award and a Grammy Award nomination, and 1996's Yolanda … Live in Washington also earned the singer a Grammy nomination.

More Than a Melody showcased the vocal versatility that was the key to Adams's growing success. The album reflected a wide variety of musical influences: "The Good Shepherd" was a jazz piece that showed traces of the music of jazz diva Nancy Wilson and jazz-pop keyboard styles; "Gotta Have Love" contained a strong element of rap; "What about the Children" was a rhapsodic inspirational piece written especially for Adams by Detroit composer BeBe Winans; and "Fly Like an Eagle," a remake of Steve Miller's 1976 hit, also seemed influenced by rap—that is, rap music's tendency to take a past hit and make its melody and lyrics serve a new use. "Fly Like an Eagle" and "Gotta Have Love" garnered Adams airplay on urban contemporary and jazz radio stations.

Unlike some contemporary Christian musicians—black and white—who consciously blurred the line between sacred and secular music and described religious feeling with romantic terms such as love and commitment, Adams left no doubt in her songs as to the import of her religious message. Even "Gotta Have Love," her most radical piece, alludes directly to Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: "Now abide in these: faith hope, and charity/ And the greatest of these three has set me free!" Taking an active hand in both songwriting and production, Adams created innovative fusions that added traditional elements to contemporary settings or convincingly attached religious lyrics to secular song forms. Her voice showed the influence of secular singers Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, and Nancy Wilson, yet still maintained overtones of the church. "Gospel," Adams told the Chicago Tribune, "is any song that speaks to the good news of God."

Adams was also in the forefront of redefining gospel's visual image. Clad on the cover of More Than a Melody in a spectacular purple crepe blouse and high-fashion olive-green scarf, Adams harked back to her fashion-model days and challenged the preconceptions of those who, in the words of Essence magazine's Deborah Gregory, "still think gospel means big hats and hymns on Sunday." "[Audiences] love it when you don't look like your basic gospel singer in sequins," Adams told Gregory. "I'm definitely into a couture look," she added.

At a Glance …

Born Yolanda Yvette Adams on August 27, 1961, in Houston, TX; daughter of Major and Carolyn Adams (both teachers); married Troy Mason, 1988 (divorced); married Tim Crawford, Jr. (a financial adviser and former NFL football player), 1997 (divorced 2005); children: Taylor Ayanna Crawford (daughter). Education: Texas Southern University, degree in broadcasting, early 1980s; took graduate classes in theology at Howard University, 1996.

Career: Gospel music recording artist, 1987—. Joined Southeast Inspirational Choir, mid-1970s; featured soloist on song "My Liberty," 1980; worked as a schoolteacher and part-time model; began recording, late 1980s; signed with Tribute Records, 1990-98, Elektra Records, 1999-2006, and Columbia Records (Sony), 2007—; established Voice of an Angel Foundation, 2005; became radio morning show host, 2007—.

Selected awards: Albums on Tribute label received gospel-industry Stellar awards; Dove Awards, Gospel Music Association, 1992, 1999, and 2005; Soul Train Lady of Soul Award, 1996(?), for More Than a Melody; Grammy Awards for best contemporary soul gospel album, Recording Academy, 1999, for Mountain High … Valley Low, and 2001, for The Experience; Image Awards, NAACP, for outstanding gospel artist, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2006, for outstanding female artist, 2001, and for outstanding song (for "Open My Heart"), 2001; Grammy Awards for best gospel song, 2005, for "Be Blessed," and for best gospel performance, 2006, for "Victory."

Addresses: Record company—Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Web site—Yolanda Adams Official Site, http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId_3886422678.

In the years following the release of More Than a Melody, honors and opportunities flowed Adams's way with increasing regularity. She entertained the President of the United States during the Christmas festivities at the White House in 1995, and performed on the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards, the 1997 Essence Awards, BET's Teen Summit, and the Tonight Show.

Crossed Over to Become a Mainstream Star

More importantly, during this time, Adams's breakout success attracted the attention of Elektra Records CEO Sylvia Rhone. Adams was approaching the end of her contract with Zomba Records, the company that had purchased Tribute, and she was about to become one of the hottest free agents in gospel history. Eleven different labels pursued Adams, including several mainstream record companies who didn't produce gospel music. Rhone, however, was the one mainstream executive who understood that the key to signing Adams was not asking her to stray from her roots.

"What it boiled down to was that Sylvia Rhone was the only one who could pull off what I wanted. She said, ‘I love you; you don't have to change. I just want to expand where you are,’" Adams told Lisa Collins in Billboard magazine. "The marketing and promotion people understand that there is a level of sensitivity—there are certain things I cannot and won't do.… No one is trying to put me in a short skirt or high-heel boots." High-heel boots or not, Elektra's plan was to take Adams mainstream. "She's one of those rare vocalists with a range that rivals the best," Rhone told Collins. "I believe I could put her toe to toe with whoever one considers their favorite singer, and she could blow them away."

For her debut with Elektra, Mountain High … Valley Low, Rhone paired Adams with a number of star producers including David Foster, Fred Hammond, and Keith Thomas. Adams's most exciting collaboration on the album, however, may have been with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the hit-making duo who brought Janet Jackson to superstardom. Jam and Lewis produced "Open My Heart," the hit single from Mountain High, a track on which Adams had a cowriter credit. Mountain High immediately rose to the top of the gospel charts, and topped out at number five on the R&B charts. The album also won Adams her long-awaited first Grammy Award, for best contemporary soul gospel album.

Mountain High was followed by a well-received Christmas album in 2000. In 2001 Adams released two disks—a live album called The Experience and a studio album, Believe—and gave birth to her daughter, Ayanna Taylor Crawford. The Experience would net Adams another Grammy Award. Just as Adams's career was reaching its apex, restructuring at Elektra following its acquisition by Atlantic Records derailed her next album for nearly four years. Adams, though, was still working—she resumed touring less than three months after giving birth to her child and was frequently on the road during her recording hiatus, taking Ayanna on tour with her.

By the time that Adams's next album, Day by Day, was released in 2005, her eight-year marriage with Ayanna's father, former professional football player Tim Crawford, Jr., was over. Despite her personal turmoil, the album was a successful comeback—the song "Be Blessed," another collaboration with Jam and Lewis, was very popular and earned the singer another Grammy Award. The dismantling of Elektra, however, left Adams without the support system she'd come to enjoy working with, so once her contract with Atlantic was concluded, she signed with Columbia Records.

Succeeded outside of the Music Arena

Adams has diversified her interests beyond touring and recording. In 2007 she inaugurated a morning radio show that is syndicated around the country. Aside from providing a religion-friendly alternative to more risqué morning radio programming, the Yolanda Adams Morning Show gave Adams a platform to promote causes and charities such as the 50 Million Pound Challenge, a health initiative geared toward African Americans, and the Houston-based Escape Center. She has also worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health to bring attention to the health challenges facing black children, including lack of proper vaccinations and juvenile diabetes. Her own charity, the Voice of an Angel Foundation, was founded in 2005, with a mission of establishing mentoring programs for underprivileged youths.

In addition to these ventures and charities, Adams has also pursued her own fashion line for taller women, called Yolanda's Clozet, and is a spokeswoman for the Columbia Card, a debit card marketed to churchgoing African Americans. Perhaps as a result of all these diverse financial dealings, in 2008 the Internal Revenue Service made Adams another person in a long list of gospel figures to be targeted with a tax investigation. Speaking to Jawn Murray on the Black Voices Web site, Adams said the investigation was probably the result of "bad accounting on the part of former representation" but was confident that any tax discrepancies would be resolved without much fuss. After all, she told Murray, "You know God would never let us deal with more than we can bear."

Selected discography

Just as I Am, Sound of Gospel, 1987.

Through the Storm, Tribute, 1991.

Save the World, Tribute, 1993.

More Than a Melody, Tribute, 1995.

Yolanda … Live in Washington, Tribute, 1996.

Shakin' the House: Live in L.A., Verity, 1996.

Songs from the Heart, Verity, 1998.

Mountain High … Valley Low, Elektra, 1999.

The Best of Yolanda Adams, Verity, 1999.

Christmas with Yolanda Adams, Elektra, 2000.

The Experience, Elektra, 2001.

Believe, Elektra, 2001.

The Praise and Worship Songs of Yolanda Adams, Verity, 2003.

Day by Day, Atlantic, 2005.

What a Wonderful Time, Columbia, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, August 2, 1997; September 12, 1998, p. 47; September 18, 1999, p. 15; May 26, 2007, p. 38.

Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1995.

Ebony, May 2001, p. 58.

Essence, February 1996; July 2001, p. 106.

Houston Chronicle, March 5, 2008.

Jet, October 20, 1997; June 20, 2000, p. 55; December 12, 2005, p. 38.

Metro (Silicon Valley, CA), March 21, 1996.

PR Newswire, July 13, 2007.

USA Today, January 15, 1997.

Online

"About Yolanda," Voice of an Angel Foundation, http://www.voiceofanangelfoundation.org/foundation.htm#.

Farias, Andree, "One Day at a Time," ChristianMusic Today.com, January 9, 2006, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2006/yolandaadams-0106.html.

Murray, Jawn, "Adams Answers: Gospel Star Yolanda Adams Speaks about the IRS Probe," Black Voices, April 10, 2008, http://www.blackvoices.com/blogs/2008/04/10/adams-answers-gospel-singer-yolanda-adams-speaks-about-the-irs/.

"Yolanda Adams," Atlantic Records, http://www.atlanticrecords.com/yolandaadams.

Other

Additional information for this entry was provided by a press biography issued by Mahogany Entertainment.

—James M. Manheim and Derek Jacques

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Adams, Yolanda 1961–

Yolanda Adams 1961

Gospel vocalist

Hoped for Modeling Career

Displayed Stylistic Versatility

Performed at White House Christmas Festivities

Selected discography

Sources

Ive always believed you should appeal to everybody, Yolanda Adams once told Metro magazine interviewer Nicky Baxter. One of the central participants in a gospel music revolution that has brought pop sounds into the style and expanded the musics market in dollar terms from roughly $160 million in 1987 to $550 million in 1996, Adams may also be gospel musics best bridge-builder. Easily able to handle modern styles ranging from jazz to mainstream urban contemporary to hip-hop, she found convincing ways, musically and lyrically, of combining these styles with explicitly religious expression. And her voice seems solidly rooted in the black church and in traditional gospel music. Never underestimate where Im going, because just when you think Im going off the deep end into the jazz thing, I might come right back and shock you with stone traditional [music], she told Baxter in Metro magazine.

A native of Houston, Adams was born on August 27, 1961. She is the oldest of six siblings. Her family offered her a solidly religious upbringing, and as a small child she created for herself an imaginary friend she called Hallelujah and sang a solo in church at age three. She grew up with the classic gospel sounds of James Cleveland and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, but hers was also a musically eclectic household. Adamss mother, a pianist who majored in music in college, introduced her daughter to jazz, classical music, and secular R&B. Adams joined a gospel choir, the Southeast Inspirational Choir, shortly after her fathers death when she was 13.

Hoped for Modeling Career

A six-foot-one-inch beauty, Adams hoped to become a fashion model even as she embarked on a career as an elementary school teacher. I always sang gospel music, but the career of gospel music was not a priority, she told Shirley Henderson of the Chicago Tribune. Nevertheless, her powerful voice propelled her to the forefront of the Southeast Inspirational Choirs performances; she took a solo on the choirs 1980 hit My Liberty. In 1986 well-known gospel producer, composer, and pianist Thomas Whitfield heard the choir and wasted no time in approaching Adams. Adams remembered him saying Ive got to record you, in the Chicago Tribune. The result was the album Just as I Am, released in 1987

At a Glance

Born August 27, 1961, in Houston, TX; oldest of six children Married Tim Crawford, 1997. Education: Received teaching degree and certification in Texas.

Career: Gospel music recording artist, 1987-. Joined Southeast Inspirational Choir, mid-1970s; featured soloist on song, My Liberty, 1980. Attracted attention of gospel producer Thomas Whitfield, 1986; released Just As I Am, 1987. Signed with Tribute Records, 1990. Released top-selling gospel albums Through the Storm, 1991; Save the World, 1993; More Than a Melody, 1995; Yolanda Live in Washington. 1996. Performed at White House Christmas celebration, 1995.

Selected awards: All four albums on Tribute label received gospel-industry Stellar awards; Soul Train Music Award of Best Gospel Album for More Than a Melody; Dove Gospel Music awards; Grammy award nominations for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Save the World and Yolanda Live in Washington.

Addresses: c/o Mahogany Entertainment, 12201 Pleasant Prospect, Mitchellville, MD 20721.

on Sound of Gospel Records.

Adams signed with the growing Tribute label in 1990, and between 1990 and 1997 released four successful albums, all of which won Stellar awards, a prestigious gospel music industry honor. Albums Through the Storm and Save the World produced pieces that Adams still sings in concert, such as The Battle Is the Lords, but it was 1995s More Than a Melody that really put Adams on the pop-music radar screen and moved her style sharply in the direction of secular urban contemporary music. The album was honored with a Soul Train Lady of Soul award and a Grammy award nomination, and 1996s Yolanda Live in Washington also earned the singer a Grammy nomination.

Displayed Stylistic Versatility

More Than a Melody showcased the vocal versatility that was the key to Adamss growing success. The album reflected a wide variety of musical influences: The Good Shepherd was a jazz piece that showed traces of the music of jazz diva Nancy Wilson and jazz-pop keyboard styles; Gotta Have Love contained a strong element of rap; What About the Children was a rhapsodic inspirational piece written especially for Adams by Detroit composer BeBe Winans. Fly Like an Eagle, a remake of Steve Millers 1976 hit, also seemed influenced by rap, that is, rap musics tendency to take a past hit and make its melody and lyrics serve a new use. Fly Like an Eagle and Gotta Have Love garnered Adams airplay on urban contemporary and jazz radio stations.

Unlike some contemporary Christian musiciansblack and whitewho consciously blurred the line between sacred and secular music and described religious feeling with romantic terms such as love and commitment, Adams left no doubt in her songs as to the import of her religious message. Even Gotta Have Love, her most radical piece, alludes directly to Pauls First Letter to the Corinthians: Now abide in these: faith hope, and charity/ And the greatest of these three has set me free! Taking an active hand in both songwriting and production, Adams created innovative fusions that added traditional elements to contemporary settings or convincingly attached religious lyrics to secular song forms. Her voice showed the influence of secular singers Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, and Nancy Wilson, yet still maintained overtones of the church. Gospel, Adams told the Chicago Tribune, is any song that speaks to the good news of God.

Adams was also in the forefront of redefining gospels visual image. Clad on the cover of More Than a Melody in a spectacular purple crepe blouse and high-fashion olive-green scarf, Adams harked back to her fashion-model days and challenged the preconceptions of those who, in the words of Essence magazines Deborah Gregory, still think gospel means big hats and hymns on Sunday. [Audiences] love it when you dont look like your basic gospel singer in sequins, Adams told Gregory. Im definitely into a couture look, she added.

Performed at White House Christmas Festivities

In the years following the release of More Than a Melody, honors and opportunities have flowed Adamss way with increasing regularity. She performed on the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards, the 1997 Essence Awards, BETs Teen Summit, and the Tonight Show. A special thrill was a performance during the Christmas festivities at the White House in 1995. Adams appeared in a television commercial for the Office Depot retail chain and was named a national spokesperson for the FILA Corporations Operation Rebound youth outreach program, a post that often takes her on the road to speak with students in inner-city schools. The former elementary school teacher often addresses the situation of children and young people in todays society.

As the late 1990s approached, Adamss reputation seemed certain to continue to rise. In 1997 she was featured in, the 50-city Tour of Life organized and headed by contemporary-gospel sensation Kirk Franklin. That same year, she married stockbroker and former New York Jets football player Tim Crawford in a lavish ceremony at Houstons First Presbyterian Church, and she enrolled in the prestigious divinity program at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her voice is still gaining in strength and depth, and gospel and secular audiences eagerly await her future releases.

Selected discography

Yolanda Live in Washington. Tribute, 1996.

More Than a Melody, Tribute, 1995.

Save the World, Tribute, 1993.

Through the Storm, Tribute, 1991.

Just as I Am, Sound of Gospel, 1987.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, August 2, 1997.

Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1995.

Essence, February 1996.

Jet, October 20, 1997.

Metro Magazine (Silicon Valley, California), March 21, 1996.

USA Today, January 15, 1997.

Other

Additional information for this entry was provided by a press biography issued by Mahogany Entertainment.

James M. Manheim

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"Adams, Yolanda 1961–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Adams, Yolanda

Yolanda Adams

Singer, songwriter

A Special Year

Behind the Scenes

Selected discography

Sources

Yolanda Adams is the exuberant songstress with the trademark appearance: a definitive preference for haute couture. But Adams is more than a singer and her unpredictable gospel music is not confined by traditional styles. She sings jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop along with modern and traditional gospel. Her single motivation in singing, she maintains, is to spread the gospel. In her songs she appeals to people of all ages and lifestyles and especially to those who might miss the traditional message. Adams is not only a musical evangelist, but an associate minister of God in her own right.

Yolanda Adams was born in Houston, Texas, where she was raised in a close and loving family. Adamss father was an industrious man, stable and honest. He instilled in his family a strong faith and encouraged his children to dream and set their goals accordingly. Adams was not yet in high school when her father passed away but the inspiration he passed to her and to her five siblings never died. Adams, the eldest of the six children, recalled a household filled with music. Her mother studied music in college and Adams attests to growing up amidst a continuous background of symphonies, jazz, and rhythm and blues, along with modern gospel. Adams, who was born in the 1960s, developed a particular affinity for the sounds of Stevie Wonder and Nancy Wilson.

Adams grew tall and willowy and, when surpassed six feet in height, she developed an interest in modeling. She explored that career briefly, but ultimately elected to dedicate herself to elementary education. She taught elementary school in Houston and sang in her spare time. She was privileged to sing with the Southeast Inspirational Choir under the directorship of the late Thomas Whitfield. Adams advanced to lead singer of the choir, and eventually Whitfield, a noted singer and producer, encouraged her to record some songs. A recording session was scheduled during her summer vacation in 1987 and the resulting album, Just as I Am, was released by Sound of Gospel Records that same year.

Tribute Records was impressed by the album and offered Adams a contract in 1990. Adams opted to embark on what she called a faith walkShe resigned from her teaching position of seven years and signed with Tribute Records. Later she confided to Sandy Fulk of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Everything Ive done has been a faith walk. Her faith walking proved steady and sure, as her second album, Through the Storm, which appeared in 1993, collected a trio of awards: the Gospel Music Associtions Dove Award, an Excellence Award, and the Stellar Award for Best Female Contemporary Artist. The album also earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.

In 1993, Adams recorded Save the World and collaborated with other artists on Bring It to Jesus and March On. Save the World added three new Stellar awards to Adamss collection: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Solo by a Female Performer. The hit album received a Grammy Award nomination as well, and Adamss faith walking picked up speed. In 1994, she performed at the AZUZ evangelical conference in Tulsa, and later that year she released At Her Very Best with the Southeast Inspirational Choir. The following year Adams recorded More than a Melody.

A Special Year

The year 1996 was very special for Adams. She spent a very merry Christmas that year performing at A White House Family Christmas Celebration. Her experience at the White House was both an honor and a thrill for Adams, who received a standing ovation. Her album Live in Washington was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. Earlier that year she accepted an invitation to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to headline the 20th Annual Festival of Black Gospel, in part a celebration of Black History Month. Adams won her fifth Stellar Award in 1996 for Female Vocalist of the year. That was also

For the Record

Born in Houston, TX, in the early 1960s, the eldest of six siblings; married Timothy Crawford, Jr., a stockbroker and former NFL football player, in the summer of 1997.

Modeled briefly during the 1970s; elementary school teacher during the 1980s; debut album, Just As I Am, 1987, Sound of Gospel Records signed with Tribute Records, 1990; released Through the Storm, 1990; Save the World, 1993; More Than a Melody, 1995; Live in Washington D.C., 1996; toured with Kirk Franklins Tour of Life in 1996-97.

Awards: Stellar Award for Best Female Contemporary Artist, 1991; GMA Dove Award, 1991; Excellence Award, 1991; Stellar Awards for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Female Solo Performance, 1993; Stellar Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, 1996.

Addresses: Manager Shiba Freeman-Haley, 12201 Pleasant Prospect, Mitchellville, MD 20721; Record company Tribute Records, 3310 W. End Ave., #200, Nashville, TN 37203, (615) 385-0079; fax (615) 383-2947.

the year that Adams joined Kirk Franklin and the Family, Fred Hammond, Sister Cantaloupe, and others in the Tour of Life, a gospel stage review that premiered in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the end of October. By April of 1997 the ambitious cast had traveled to over 50 cities.

Highlights of 1997 included two Grammy Award nominations, a live concert in Montreal, Canada, and a guest appearance on Celebrate the Gospel, a talk show on Black Entertainment Television (BET). Adams was the shows first guest everBET visited her at home, and the taped interview aired for the program premier. During Christmas season that year it was standing room only at the Christmas Glory concert in Chicago, where Adams appeared with Andrae Crouch.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 1998 kept Adams busier than ever. She undertook a whirlwind weekend of commitments, back and forth between Texas and Virginia. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, January 15 through January 17, Adams held auditions and commenced practice with the Fort Worth Choir under her direction for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert celebration. On Sunday, January 18, she was in Richmond, Virginia for a featured appearance at the Freedom Classic Festival, a traditional rivalry basketball game between Virginia State University and Virginia Union University. The annual Freedom Classic Festival is also held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.s Birthday, and Adams was scheduled to perform in concert with the Imani Singers, a gospel choir from Richmonds First Baptist Church. Following her performance, Adams returned to Fort Worth for the Monday evening performance of the Fort Worth Choir.

Behind the Scenes

Adams is particular in her likes and dislikes. She loves children, distrusts politicians, and shuns the sensational aspects of modern media. She ignores critics who disprove her digressions from traditional gospel styles, declaring that her music is, according to Deborah Gregory of Essence, Contemporary, jazzy and fun. Indeed Adams is quick to emphasize the need for innovative modern music styles, such as hers, to reach out to youth and in particular to provide an alternative to gangsta rap. Adams not only sings, but she writes and produces songs. She also served as an active representative of FILA, the popular athletic wear manufacturer. As a member of the companys community outreach program, Operation Rebound, Adams traveled to schools and talked openly with young people about the dangers of drug abuse and alcoholism.

In the summer of 1997 Adams married Timothy Crawford, Jr., a stockbroker for Meryll Lynch. Crawford was a former professional football player and played with the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts. The couple lived in Houston, Texas.

Selected discography

Just as I Am, Sound of Gospel Records, 1987.

Through the Storm, Tribute Records, 1991.

Save the World, Tribute Records, 1993.

More Than a Melody, Tribute Records, 1995.

Live in Washington, D.C., Tribute Records, 1996.

With Others

Bring It to Jesus, 1993.

March On, 1993.

(with Southeast Inspirational Choir), Paula Records, 1994.

Shakin the House: Live in L.A., 1996.

Sources

Periodicals

Tennessee Tribune, October 23, 1996, p. 4.

Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, (Weekender Sectio), January 15, 1998,

Essence, February 1996, p. 64.

Online

Metroactive Music, Melody Maker, <http://www.metroactive.com/metro/03.21.96/adams-9612.htm> (from March 21-26, 1996 issue of Metro.)

Yolanda Adams, Back to Gospel, <http://199.212.60.93/IS234101/Serina/yolanda.htm>.

Gloria Cooksey

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Adams, Yolanda

Adams,Yolanda

Career
Sidelights
Selected Discography
Sources

Singer

B orn Yolanda Yvette Adams, August 27, 1961, in Houston, Texas; daughter of Major and Carolyn Adams (both teachers); married first husband, 1988 (divorced); married Timothy Crawford Jr. (financial adviser and former NFL football player), 1997 (divorced, 2005); children: Taylor (daughter). Education: Graduated from Texas Southern University with a degree in broadcasting, early 1980s; took graduate classes in theology at Howard University, 1996.

Addresses: Record company—Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Web sitehttp://www.yolandaadams.org .

Career

M ember of Southeast Inspirational Choir, mid1970s to mid1980s; released first album Just as I Am, 1987; became a radio morning show host, 2007; announced plans for Yolanda’s Clozet clothing line, 2007.

Awards: Dove Awards for traditional gospel album of the year and traditional gospel recorded song of the year, Gospel Music Association, for Through the Storm and “Through the Storm,” 1992; Dove Award for traditional gospel recorded song of the year, Gospel Music Association, for “Is Your All on the Altar,” 1999; Grammy Award for best contemporary soul gospel album, Recording Academy, for Mountain High Valley Low, 1999; Image Award for outstanding contemporary gospel artist, NAACP, 2000; Image Awards for outstanding female artist, outstanding contemporary gospel artist, outstanding song (for “Open My Heart”), and outstanding performance in a variety series or special (for the Soul Train Awards), NAACP, 2001; Grammy Award for best contemporary soul gospel album, Recording Academy, for The Experience, 2001; American Music Award for contemporary/inspirational artist, Dick Clark Productions, 2001; Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B soul single, female, Don Cornelius Productions, for “Open My Heart,” 2001; Image Award for outstanding contemporary gospel artist, NAACP, 2002; BET Award for best gospel artist, Black Entertainment Television, 2002; BET Award for best gospel artist, Black Entertainment Television, 2003; Grammy Award for best gospel song, Recording Academy, for “Be Blessed,” 2005; Grammy Award for best gospel performance, Recording Academy, for “Victory,” 2006; Image Award for outstanding gospel artist, NAACP, 2006.

Sidelights

A leader of an exciting new wave of contemporary gospel music, Yolanda Adams has bent and mixed musical genres to spread her message of hope and devotion to God to as many listeners as she can. Adams’ fashionable dress challenges traditional notions of a gospel singer, while her music embraces jazz, R&B, and hip-hop, and her accounts of how her faith helped her cope with two divorces remind her fans that religious people are not expected to live perfect lives. Always reaching out to new audiences, Adams expanded her career after 20 years as a singer, introducing her own clothing line and becoming a radio host.

Born in Houston, Adams was singing in her church choir by age four. Her mother, Carolyn, who studied music, exposed her and her five younger brothers and sisters to classical music, R&B, and jazz. Her father, Major, died from injuries sustained in a car crash when she was 13. She helped her mother raise her younger siblings, attending Texas Southern University so she could live at home. After graduating with a degree in broadcasting, Adams spent seven years working as a second-grade and third-grade teacher, but she also sang gospel music, touring and performing on the weekends with the Southeast Inspirational Choir. Her influences included classic gospel acts such as the Edwin Hawkins Singers and James Cleveland, R&B star Stevie Wonder, and jazz singer Nancy Wilson.

In 1986, producer Thomas Whitfield saw Adams sing with the choir and signed her to his small Sound of Gospel label. He recorded her first album, Just as I Am, and released it in 1987. Its modest success led Adams to the gospel label Tribute Records. In 1991, Tribute released her second album, Through the Storm, which became a national success. It won two Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association, and she performed on The Tonight Show and Arsenio Hall to promote it. With the album’s success, Adams no longer had enough time for both her musical and teaching careers. “I was so busy that I had to resign from teaching and go into ministry full-time,” she told Andree Farias for an article on ChristianityToday.com. “It was a hard decision. I love young kids.”

Between the first two albums, in 1988, Adams got married, but she later described the marriage as horrible. She left the relationship after nine months. Eventually, she began dating financial adviser and former professional football player Timothy Crawford Jr., a longtime friend whom she had met at age 16 when they both sang in church choirs around Houston. They married in 1997 and had a daughter, Taylor, in 2001.

Starting early in her career, Adams took a lot of risks for a gospel singer. Her 1993 album, Save the World, showed many secular influences, from jazz to R&B to Latin music. Adams proudly pointed to the Caravans, the wildly popular gospel group of the 1950s and 1960s, as a model. “[They] were on the cutting edge when they started out,” Adams told Lisa Collins of Billboard. “Now they’re what we call traditional gospel. Before, there were the basic hymns of the church. Then they came along and changed gospel music altogether.” Save the World’s chart success vindicated Adams’ creative gamble.

In 1995, with the release of More than a Melody, Adams was being celebrated as a leader in “a new gospel movement that is infusing and energizing gospel to record sales levels,” as Collins of Billboard put it. Adams declared that she felt called to stretch the limits of gospel music. “We want to take gospel a step further, so that it’s greeted in the marketplace by everybody, so I am making a conscious effort to not fit the mold,” she told Collins. Another Billboard writer, Paul Verna, declared she had succeeded. His review of More than a Melody called her “a major talent” and “one of gospel’s leading lights.”

One look at Adams’ song titles—“The Battle Is the Lord’s,” “The Good Shepherd”—makes it clear she is very devout. Yet she has little use for certain traditional images and expectations of gospel singers. The six-foot-one Adams often dresses with a sense of high fashion—her favorite designers include Donna Karan and Pamela Dennis—which helps her appeal to younger audiences. In 1998, Adams made a very unusual move for a modern gospel artist: She signed with a major label, Elektra Records. That, combined with her musical influences, led some conservative gospel fans to fear her work would turn secular. Adams insisted that the move to Elek-tra did not compromise her message, just broadened her audience. “We had about eleven record companies chasing us, and this is the only secular label that told me I didn’t have to change a thing,” Adams told Collins of Billboard.

Before her Elektra debut, Adams released one more album with Verity, the former Tribute label: Songs from the Heart, a collection of ten classic church hymns rearranged as modern R&B, jazz, and hip-hop. Less than a year later, Elektra released Mountain High Valley Low, promoting it heavily to gospel, R&B, and adult contemporary radio stations. “She’s one of those rare vocalists with a range that rivals the best,” Sylvia Rhone, the chairperson of Elektra, raved to Collins of Billboard. “I believe I could put her toe to toe with whoever one considers their favorite singer, and she could blow them away.”

In 2000, Adams won a Grammy Award for best contemporary soul gospel album for Mountain High Valley Low. She also scored a major R&B hit with “Open My Heart,” a single from the album, produced and co-written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had previously worked with Janet Jackson. Its lyrics were addressed to God: “I need to talk to you and ask you for your guidance,” she sang (as quoted by Jet magazine). “Just one word could make a difference in what I do Lord.”

To follow her breakthrough, Elektra released three albums in little more than a year. The holiday album Christmas with Yolanda Adams appeared at the end of 2000, followed quickly in March of 2001 by a live album, The Experience, recorded the previous November during the “Sisters in the Spirit Tour” with fellow gospel performers Angela Christie, Shirley Caesar, and Mary Mary. “Adams revels in her faith, praising her Lord with a clear-throated yet understated intensity,” wrote an appreciative Amy Linden in People. The live album spawned a single, a cover of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Late in 2001, Elektra released an album of original material, Believe. Its slick R&B sound struck critics as an even bolder attempt to meld a gospel message with mainstream appeal. The first single, the uplift-ing ballad “Never Give Up,” was produced by Jam and Lewis. Chuck Arnold of People gave Believe a mixed review. Because Adams was aiming to please “both gospel purists and R&B fans,” he argued, “she can’t totally cut loose in either genre.” Michael Pa-oletta of Billboard, however, praised the album as “a seamless mix of gospel, R&B, hip-hop, and pop.”

After so much productivity, Adams went four difficult years without releasing an album. She returned to the studio in 2003, but her next album’s release was held up while Elektra Records merged into Atlantic Records. Meanwhile, her marriage to Crawford ended in 2005. She talked about her personal struggles at an outdoor concert in New York City’s Central Park that August. “The past few years have been kind of hard for me,” she said onstage (as quoted by reviewer Jeannette Toomer of the New York Amsterdam News). “I’ll tell you what it feels like to have a broken heart, because I had one.” She told the crowd that her faith helped her through her pain and disappointment, and she encouraged the audience not to dwell on past hurt: “Don’t let your tomorrow be your yesterday.”

Atlantic Records finally released Adams’ next album, Day by Day, in 2005. From her hurt, Adams produced songs that insisted on hope: Song titles included “Be Blessed,” “Someone Watching Over You,” and “This Too Shall Pass.” “I feel like we don’t address depression, grief, and loss in gospel music,” she told Farias of ChristianityToday.com. “We should, because we have the answer to those questions. Whenever I’m directing a lyric to a person, it is to get them to overcome.” “Be Blessed” and another song from the album, “Victory,” won Grammy awards.

Adams has been involved with several charities and causes. In 2005, she set up the Voice of an Angel Foundation, which encourages middle-school and high-school students to pursue careers as teachers. She has also worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote childhood immunizations in poor communities and has supported the Children’s Defense Fund and a charity fighting juvenile diabetes.

In 2007, Adams embarked on a major change in her career. She became a morning show host on a gospel radio station in Houston. The show was syndicated and broadcast in more than a dozen cities on the Radio One network. “It’s not a gospel show or an inspirational show, but an overall morning show,” she said in her Web site’s biography. “I wanted to create a clean alternative morning show for people of faith. People love the way we break down current events and our mix of music.” The show played songs by a diverse range of artists, from Mariah Carey to George Benson to John Mayer.

Adams left Atlantic Records, which released a greatest hits disc as her last album on the label, and signed with Columbia Records. “I needed to come to a place where singers are loved and adored,” she said in her Web site biography. “With everybody from Beyonce to Celine Dion, Columbia is that place. They really know what to do for people with voices.” Meanwhile, she prepared for the debut of her own clothing line, Yolanda’s Clozet, for tall women. Its jeans, T-shirts, and other items were to be sold online and at department stores.

That September, Adams performed with several other gospel stars at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Her performance impressed New York Times reviewer Kelefa Sanneh, especially her version of “Someone Watching Over You.” Her improvisations reminded Sanneh of a preacher’s. “She took a familiar musical phrase and embellished it, making it bigger and more forceful, and then, just when she seemed to have forgotten where she was going, returned to the theme,” he wrote.

As 2007 ended, Adams’ new Christmas album, What a Wonderful Time, was released. The album, produced by Jam and Lewis, included her versions of five Christmas classics, including “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Little Drummer Boy,” and five original songs reflecting the spirit of the holiday season. Adams also planned to release a regular studio album, again produced by Jam and Lewis, in the first half of 2008. Her Web site reported that it would be an album of duets with legendary female singers.

Selected Discography

Just as I Am, Sound of Gospel, 1987.

Through the Storm, Tribute, 1991.

Save the World, Tribute, 1993.

More than a Melody, Tribute, 1995.

Yolanda Live in Washington, Verity, 1996.

Shakin’ the House: Live in L.A., Verity, 1996.

Songs from the Heart, Verity, 1998.

Mountain High Valley Low, Elektra, 1999.

The Best of Yolanda Adams, Verity, 1999.

Christmas with Yolanda Adams, Elektra, 2000.

The Experience, Elektra, 2001.

Believe, Elektra, 2001.

The Praise and Worship Songs of Yolanda Adams, Ver-ity, 2003.

Day by Day, Atlantic, 2005.

The Essential Yolanda Adams, Jive Legacy, 2006.

The Best of Me, Atlantic, 2007.

What a Wonderful Time, Columbia, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, February 5, 1994, p. 33; July 8, 1995, p. 32; August 12, 1995, p. 64; August 19, 1995, p. 34; September 12, 1998, p. 47; September 26, 1998, p. 22; September 18, 1999, p. 15; December 8, 2001, p. 53; May 19, 2007, p. 93; May 26, 2007, p. 38.

Essence, February 1996, p. 64; July 2001, p. 106.

Heart & Soul, May 2001, p. 60.

Jet, June 12, 2000, p. 55.

New York Amsterdam News, August 18, 2005, p. 22.

New York Times, September 24, 2007.

People, April 16, 2001, p. 41; January 14, 2002, p. 35.

Texas Monthly, August 2007, p. 28.

Online

“Atlantic Records: Yolanda Adams: Bio,” Atlantic Records, http://www.atlanticrecords.com/yolandaadams (November 23, 2007).

“One Day at a Time,” ChristianityToday.com, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2006/yolandaadams-0106.html (November 23, 2007).

“Yolanda Adams,” YolandaAdams.org, http://www.yolandaadams.org (November 27, 2007).

—Erick Trickey

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"Adams, Yolanda." Newsmakers 2008 Cumulation. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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