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. Adams's 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, Justas 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 walkhe 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 I've 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 Assocition's 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 Jesusand March On. Save the World added three new Stellar awards to Adams's 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 Adams's 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 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 show's first guest everET 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 Richmond's 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 company's 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.
Justas 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.
Bring It to Jesus, 1993.
March On, 1993.
(with Southeast Inspirational Choir), Paula Records, 1994.
Shakin' the House: Live in L.A., 1996.
Tennessee Tribune, October 23, 1996, p. 4.
Richmond (Virginia) 77mes-D/spafc/7,(Weekender Sectio), January 15, 1998.
Essence, February 1996, p. 64.
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, .
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