Donnie McClurkin

Biography

For a man who has declared that he may at any moment cease making music to concentrate fully on his passion for ministering, Donnie McClurkin can never stay away long from recording profoundly uplifting music for the soul. The evidence: his latest collection We All Are One (Live in Detroit) - his breathlessly anticipated first music recording in five years! Along for the momentous celebration are very special guests CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary and Karen Clark-Sheard. Once again, Donnie, his singers and musicians share the joy of God’s bounty - live before an on-fire congregation where platinum-plus Pastor McClurkin’s vocal and testimonial gifts have always shined their brightest.

“I decided to record in Detroit after much prayer. I put a lot of thought into the cities we record,” Donnie shares. “My mentor Andrae Crouch made one of his best CDs live in London, so I did the same thing some 20 years afterwards (resulting in the platinum Live in London…and More CD which included Donnie’s now classic anthem “We Fall Down”). I recorded my CD Again in California because my first time ever being given a platform in someone else’s church was 1982 in Los Angeles at West Angeles Church of God and Christ. Recording in Detroit this time goes without saying because that’s home! I was there for 13 years and was a charter member at Perfecting Church which was founded by Marvin Winans. Even with Detroit’s tough transitions and hard situations, the church has always been the mainstay that holds everything together. By bringing this recording to Detroit and bringing the churches together there, we can aid in the healing of that city.”

The themes of the 12-song We All Are One are of unity and tolerance. Donnie explains, “Jesus said, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’ yet we remain disconnected: Republicans and Democrats, Blacks, Whites, Yellows and Browns, Baptists and Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians… Where is the unity? Coming from a religious background, I was taught to judge harshly, but my thinking now is, ‘Let God do the judging so that I may learn how to love and understand the ways in which we are all connected.’ I believe that lesson of compassion and fellowship will ultimately be learned by the young ones coming behind me. For my song ‘We All Are One,’ I brought in Asaph Ward – one of the greatest producers in gospel music – and we came up with a ‘World Beat’ to unite the masses. At the end of the song, adult voices fade into children’s voices singing, ‘We all are one in The Lord,’ driving home the point that you have to come to Him as a child.”

We All Are One (Live in Detroit) is a boldly eclectic collection from McClurkin, moving from the powerfully opener “Trusting in You” and the lilting call and response vibe of “You Are My God and King” (featuring a playful battle of the choir sections on the “Reprise”) to the soul-soothing “Let the River Flow” and a duet with the ever-amazing Karen Clark-Sheard for “Wait on The Lord.”

Donnie enthuses, “On ‘I Choose to Be Dancing,’ we incorporated many different feels - hard rock with the guitars and strings for the culture sound, but we kept the rhythm section urban. And on my praise and worship ‘Halleujah Song’ - which God gave me on a Sunday when we were all up in church praying - the idea of praising God in a succession of different languages just came to me at the last second! We sing in Dutch, Spanish and the African language Yoruba. Oshe ba ba means ‘Thank you, Father.’ ”

Among the most profound songs on We All Are One is the piano and strings meditation “All We Ask,” on which Donnie weaves the testimonies of three different people, verse by verse, immortalizing them in song. Donnie explains, “The first verse is about a young man who came to me trying to find his place in life, the second verse is from my personal story, and the last verse is about my older sister Olivia, who was dying at the time that I wrote the song. She is now deceased. I wouldn’t let anyone else play the piano on it because I knew exactly how I wanted the music to be interpreted, but when my sister passed I did not have the strength to use my voice. So I turned ‘All We Ask’ into a feature for my background singers who have been with me faithfully since 1996 (in order of appearance: Duwane Starling; Donnie’s younger sister Andrea Mellini; Sherry Mcghee and Nancey Jackson –Johnson).

An undeniable standout is “When You Love” which transcends the church to speak about love on an earthly plane. “That’s one of my favorites,” Donnie shares. “We must remember that God didn’t just make us spirit. He made us body, mind and spirit. The song is inspirational - derived from the gospel - but based solely on love…how to love, what to do when you love, how to act when you’re in love… It lifts men and women out of the lust that’s all over the radio and into commitment, romance, even respecting your elders – the whole gamut! I had to get the ladies CeCe and Yolanda, along with Erica and Tina of Mary Mary, to help me. It’s a beautiful song without any risqué, ambiguous or alternative messages. This is simply about the heart of God and how He wants us to learn to love purely.”

McClurkin’s pure love for the Lord has grown through crippling adversity that ultimately fortified his faith ten-fold. Born November 9, 1959, in Amityville, New York, his childhood home was mired in domestic violence and drug abuse until an aunt who sang with the great Andrae’ Crouch introduced him to the musical icon who in turn introduced him to his future. Young Donnie played keyboards with his church youth choir before forming the McClurkin Singers with relatives and friends in 1979. Following a calling to preach, he never loosened his grasp on music. In 1989 Donnie started the NY Restoration Choir and recorded the album I See A World, which contained the classic “Speak to My Heart.”

Two near-simultaneous events changed McClurkin’s life forever. Just as he was appointed as an associate minister at Marvin Winans’ Perfecting Church in Detroit, he also learned that he’d been stricken with leukemia. While battling the disease, Donnie was signed to Warner Alliance Records as a solo artist where he recorded his pivotal self-titled album, marked by a smooth sophistication in the production that couched his soaring tenor for a series of soul-stirring numbers. Through BeBe Winans, media mogul Oprah Winfrey learned of Donnie’s music and struggle, invited him on her top-rated TV show , a golden opportunity that catapulted his CD to #4 on the gospel charts, recognition beyond the church world and gold + sales. Donnie soon after signed to Verity Records where his first CD, Live in London and More, would far surpass his solo debut thanks to secular radio embracing his gracefully reassuring “We Fall Down”. The song met with international acclaim, made the Top 40 of Billboard’s R&B chart and rocketed past platinum sales of over one million copies sold instantly making Donnie among gospel’s best selling artists.

He earned a trophy case full of Dove and Stellar Awards plus other honors including an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Artist. In 2001 Donnie graduated to establishing his own Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York, all the while continuing to release the magnificent musical works Again (2003) and the double-CD Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs (2005) each one garnering the coveted Grammy Award.

Today, McClurkin’s commitment to spreading God’s word far and wide is most evident in a last minute addition to the We All Are One album titled “Purple,” composed expressly for Donnie by Darren Atwater and performed by his truly inspiring Soulful Symphony in Baltimore, MD. “I’ve known Darren for years,” Donnie states. “I was doing a concert in Baltimore with him last year as a guest with his 40-piece orchestra. During rehearsal he introduced this new song of praise and the minute I heard it I went to hollerin’! I asked him what it was. He told me it was called ‘Purple’ and he’d written it just for me. I loved it so much that even though we were 90% finished with the album, I made room to add this song, which Darren produced himself. Darren Atwater is a genius as an arranger and conductor - manifesting real cultural exchange by bringing classical culture into the gospel environment. He also leads workshops that introduce young African Americans to acoustic instruments and the works of Chopin and Bach without a Pro Tools in sight! It gives them inspiration to maybe pick up a viola or a cello that they may never have experienced within their monoculture.”

Still, at the end of the day, Donnie McClurkin has been and always will be a, card carryin’ member of the Church of God and Christ (COGIC). Donnie bears witness to this fact via the unfiltered jubilance of his soul on the CD’s most exhilarating number, “The Great I Am.” “Holy Ghost revival songs are our specialty,” Donnie shouts! “I was just over here teaching some of the church members that stopped by how to ‘church dance’…and THAT is the song I played! There was a Bishop by the name of Gilbert Patterson who would always bring the old songs up at praise time. I wanted to write a song just like that, so I sat down to the piano, started playing an old-time gospel feel and this song just leapt out of me! When I got to the studio, the group was like, ‘This is so corny,” but I told `em, ‘Just sing what I tell you to sing!’ That night after Asaph got a hold of the music, and Trent Phillips and the band played it like second nature, the energy in the room just exploded!”

“I’ve always been in awe of God,” Pastor Donnie McClurkin concludes. “I didn’t want anything on my latest offering, We All Are One, to reflect suffering or ‘climbing up that mountain’ in the way to which traditional Black gospel is accustomed. I wanted to luxuriate in and celebrate in the greatness of God.”

 


"Bitch Perfect" · RuPaul's Drag Race · TV Review Drag Race gets “Bitch Perfect” with a demanding performance challenge · TV Club · The A.V. Club pre bonded hairConfidence and commitment are the key elements to success on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and these two words that are repeated throughout “Bitch Perfect,” an episode that puts the queens through a performance gauntlet that tests how well they can stand out in a crowd. You don’t really get a solid idea of just how much these queens have to learn until you see the final “Bitch Perfect” product, an elaborate stage show that has the queens performing a significant amount of choreography while lip syncing to a cappella arrangements of RuPaul’s greatest hits, but most of the queens rise to the challenge. Drag Race is known for over-the-top writing, and the script for this episode is especially cartoonish thanks to the “Bitch Perfect” concept. From RuPaul’s initial descriptions of the two teams—The Lady Bitches are “the sweethearts of dragappella from the Lace Front Institute Of Technology,” The Shady Bitches are “bad girls from the Lake Titicaca Academy of Braids, Weaves, and Waffles”—to the voiceover narration and dialogue of the “Bitch Perfect” show, the writers have a ball using drag lingo to create hilarious dialogue. RuPaul is also clearly delighted with the challenge this week, and I especially love how she puts a twist on her catchphrases by playing with the pitch of her voice. The contestants’ performance skills are immediately tested with the minichallenge, which welcomes musician AB Soto to help Ru judge the queens’ dancing and lip of syncing his song “Cha Cha Bitch.” Cynthia Lee Fontaine and Chi Chi DeVayne are the stand-outs thanks to their fancy footwork and sharp sense of rhythm, but Acid Betty also does good work starting the challenge off with energy and Thorgy makes sure she’s noticed by spasming in time to the music, a move she returns to later in the episode. Derrick Berry is surprisingly lackluster given her experience as a Vegas showgirl, but she makes a wise decision not a wear a blonde wig, making her move away from the Britney Spears persona that defines her.

Bob isn’t much of a dancer, but she makes up for it with an evocative character choice, and she passes this knowledge along to Kim Chi later in the episode when Kim worries about her lack of dance skills. She’s easily the worst performer of the group, but after winning last week, this is the exact kind of narrative turn that will benefit Kim in the long run. At this point, she has the most dimensions of all the contestants this season, and the amount of time the show is dedicating to her backstory suggests she’ll be here for a while. After confessing last week that her mother doesn’t know she does drag, Kim reveals this week that she used to weigh 350 pounds and always felt like an outsider because she was the “weird fat art kid with a strong lisp and accent,” and while Acid Betty and Dax ExclamationPoint follow that up by showing pictures of themselves as overweight kids, their stories don’t have the emotional punch of Kim’s. I don’t know how aware Kim is of how well she’s playing the Drag Race game, but she absolutely kills it in this episode despite being one of the bottom queens. After surprising the group with her backstory, she shocks them further by revealing she’s still a virgin, which brings her lots of attention from the cameras, but also the rest of the queens, who rally behind her to show support and affection. Kim is also the only queen to take advantage of the new Shade Tree confessional room (at least in any sort of meaningful way that the show’s editors choose to include in the episode), and she shows a level of vulnerability in that scene that highlights the value of a confession room. Having a place for the queens to express their thoughts in the moment allows for more honest emotion than the talking heads that are filmed afterward, and Kim Chi uses the Shade Tree to bring even more depth to her story. She’s getting a lot of attention, and if Kim can continue to work the cameras while nailing the runway challenges (she looks incredible this week in her cherry blossom nymph drag), she may be able to avoid lip synching for her life, which would surely be her undoing. Split into two teams led by Cynthia (The Lady Bitches) and Chi Chi (The Shady Bitches), the contestants start to turn up the drama as they vie for screen time, with Acid Betty leading the charge by immediately undermining Chi Chi’s authority. Thorgy has known Betty for 10 years, and she’s very familiar with Betty’s attitude. “Because she’s so artistic, she gets away with being a fucking asshole,” Thorgy says, and surely enough, Betty is a fucking asshole for most of the episode. Betty’s behavior might be acceptable if Chi Chi wasn’t on the right track as a leader, but Chi Chi has a firm grip on being leader. Chi Chi has choreographed for the girls back home, and she knows her process works, but Betty wants to be in charge so she becomes aggressive and antagonistic very fast. remy hair extensionsBetty always needs to do what she wants to do while making the current agenda seem pointless, which makes her look selfish and needlessly rude. She wants to start doing choreography before Chi Chi and the rest of the group understand the basics of the performance, but Chi Chi is in the right here. It’s good to have some choreography, but it’s most important that they know what they’re doing before they jump into action or else it will be even sloppier. Betty continues to condescend when the group is talking about shoes and makes their concerns sound trivial, but when you’re going to perform in heels, you need to talk about the kinds of shoes that work best and will be the most comfortable. Chi Chi isn’t wasting time, she’s addressing the issues that a choreographer has to deal with because she’s done it before, and she knows that it’s not all about having dance steps planned out. They have a professional choreographer, Jamal Sims, who will help them put the dance together, and the rehearsal brings out even more of Betty’s bitchiness as she talks about how she’ll gladly throw Chi Chi under the bus if that’s what it comes to on the runway. She’s the opposite of a team player, which makes everyone surprised when Sims says he admires how much Betty cares about the group and making everyone look good. Betty turns it out on the runway, although I whole-heartedly agree with criticisms of the train and butt on her couture gown, but her nastiness makes it hard to root for her and it’s a relief when Chi Chi is named the winner of this challenge. Her runway look is a bit simple, but her performance in “Bitch Perfect” is stellar and she also has a compelling backstory in her gang member past, showing an intriguing new side of this season’s dim country queen. Thorgy and Naomi also have strong showings on the runway, with Thorgy grabbing the judges’ attention with a sequined jumpsuit and Naomi continuing to show that modeling is what she does best. As a performer, Naomi Smalls is still trying to figure out how to work her gangly body in motion, but at least she tries to be ambitious. She delivers one of the show’s most pitiful death drops during the minichallenge, but the effort is admirable and she steps it up during the main challenge, hitting all the choreography and playing a defined character. All of The Shady Bitches but Dax bring a strong personality to the stage, which makes her fade even further into the background. So much of what Dax says this week involves what she doesn’t do (not a gown queen, not a disco queen, not a classically trained dancer), and her lack of versatility combined with her lack of confidence makes her a completely forgettable queen. Laila McQueen is also fighting her forgetability, but she doesn’t know how to make herself memorable. She says she’s going to stand out when Ru visits the workroom, but Ru reminds her that there’s more strategy involved than just saying the words, and Laila isn’t a very good Drag Race strategist. She lets herself get cast as a character who is supposed to be a poor imitation of Derrick Berry, which puts her in a position where her role is working against her, and she’s not able to give that vague character a vivid personality. Laila needs to speak up during the assignment of roles and give herself a stronger character, but she stays silent and allows herself to be doomed.

Disappointing performances in “Bitch Perfect” and bland looks on the runway land Dax and Laila in the bottom two, and the judges’ expectations are very high for the queens’ lip syncs of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” the quintessential Gay Lip Sync Song. The editing builds up the lip sync by showing the judges talking about what a seminal track this is, and setting the expectations so high makes it all the more disastrous when both queens fail to impress. Dax looks bored for most of the number and has no connection to the emotional core of the song, and while Laila is putting a lot more energy into her performance, it’s not focused energy, giving her lip sync a frantic sense of desperation that only intensifies once she removes her shoes and dress. Laila doesn’t have the feminine body needed to sell stripping down to her underwear, and once she loses the dress, she stops looking like a drag queen and starts looking like a man in a wig. It’s also not an organic reveal, feeling like a planned last-ditch attempt to grab attention rather than a liberating moment that comes from a genuine emotional place. It’s a shameful lip sync, and RuPaul responds appropriately by eliminating both queens. perruques cheveux naturelsFor Dax, this outcome is the result of a string of excuses, and instead of shutting up and showing up when the judges need her, she gives them sorry reasons for why she’s not performing to their standard. Laila’s story is a bit more tragic, and while RuPaul recognizes that Laila has a fire inside her, it’s a campfire that can’t be seen through the burning buildings of this season’s huge personalities. This is a season full of confident queens that are fully committed to their characters, and tonight’s double elimination establishes that RuPaul has lost her patience with mediocre queens. The stakes have just been risen, and it will be exciting to see how the drama builds now that the queens are feeling even more pressure to be bigger and bolder. Stray observations Who’s Ru talking to on her phone? Maybe she’s inviting a queen from last season back to the competition? If it takes losing Laila and Dax to get Katya back, I’m fine with that. Robbie Turner didn’t impress me much last week with her sour attitude and underwhelming looks, but she’s much more endearing and engaging this week thanks to her strong personality during “Bitch Perfect” and the stunning strawberry red Vera Wang wedding dress she wears on the runway. She’s also not as bitchy, and I think her low showing last week has humbled her and forced her to look at the competition from another angle.

Like being able to sew a basic garment, being able to do basic dance steps is a skill these contestants should have before going on the show. Kim Chi should have taken a dance class (or 10) right after learning she was a Drag Race queen. I am all about the salt-and-pepper Lucian Piane. I’d let him arrange my a cappella covers any day. perruques cheveuxI would absolutely watch a short film about Chi Chi DeVayne’s weekend at an all-gay New England bed and breakfast. Ester Dean co-wrote “Firework,” “Super Bass,” and “S&M.” Dax and Laila would have performed better to any of those songs. “Take that, Donald Trump!” “Kim Chi has two left feet and vertigo.”

“That’s O.K. I wouldn’t want me either.” (Looks down sadly.) “Y’all look like flailing fishes.” “Kim Chi falls and just my heart drops out to my cucu.” lace front wigs“Once a year, two rival dragapella groups meet in the Boobs For Queens warehouse…” “Well look who’s here for an off-key kiki!” “I thought I smelled out of tune-a fishes.” “I’ve got great legs. I bought ‘em on eBay.”

“I know some bitch is gonna wanna buy it off me, but you know what: I sleep in this. This is my pajamas.” “I just want to smell you.” (Kim shows Jamal her back side.) cosplay wigsLucian: “I don’t really have anything negative to say about you.” Chi Chi: “Thank you.” “You can’t see this right now, but he’s got a fist full of Jergens lotion.” “She was doing her neck ghetto style, upside down, while twerking, and never losing a word. Honey, I’ll make a Louisiana purchase one mo’ time!” “I just hated the shoes! They looked like…ugly shoes!” “Thorgy is in an abusive relationship with her makeup.”