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DONALD LAWRENCE
The man who wears
many musical colors

  Those seven words eloquently capture the multifaceted essence of Donald Lawrence. Songwriter. Producer. Composer. Music/choir director. Recording artist. The guiding force behind such No. 1 hits as Encourage Yourself, Back II Eden and The Blessing of Abraham. Equally at home in both the inspirational and contemporary arenas, the multiple Grammy and Stellar Award winner has collaborated with a diverse roster, including such marquee names as Karen Clark Sheard, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.

​  "It's said that the music you do is where you've lived," says Lawrence of his creative journey. "What I do isn't contrived. I don't think in terms of genre or religious perspective. It comes from being honest. I just honor the gift and purpose I was given to touch the world and inspire. And people have paid attention to that."

   Indeed they have - to the tune of 20 years and counting.

  His current hit, Deliver Me, from the Goshen album is already in Billboard's Top 5 on their Gospel Music chart.

  After scoring his second No. 1 gospel album with 2011's YRM (Your Righteous Mind), Lawrence is commemorating his anniversary milestone with the first of two albums featuring live re-recordings of select songs from his vast catalog complemented by several new tracks. Released in fall 2013, the first QWE/eOne volume, titled Best for Last, was recorded primarily in Chicago with longtime songwriting/production colleagues Daniel Weatherspoon and Percy Bady.

​ Also joining Lawrence for the two-volume series is a host of special guests, many of whom have played important roles in his career. The list includes Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard, Kelly Price, Lalah Hathaway, Hezekiah Walker, Stephanie Mills and Yolanda Adams. Adams' bring-the-house-down vocals on volume one's title track kicked off a rousing celebration 20 years in the making. Yet its chorus also hints that Lawrence doesn't plan to rest on his laurels anytime soon: "Although you may think that your time has passed \ God only saving the best for last \ Your future greater than the past."
 

  "I don't know why it's said that your best days are your youth," explains Lawrence of the song's message. "The Scripture talks about your latter being greater than the former. I wanted to speak to people who feel it's a wrap. It's never too late to dream."

​  Additional standouts include "The Gift Looks Good on You" and "Hebrews 4:9." Both are spirited lessons revolving around Lawrence's central theme of grace. In this instance, he is talking about grace as talent; that people should stop looking across the fence at what others may possess and instead honor their own gifts.

  "Most people think grace is covering sins, but it's also an area of divine enablement," he says. "Some people have the grace to write or sing. I do music. Don't covet someone else's grace; honor yours. And if you honor it, God will allow you to take it to a broader arena."

  Lawrence began taking charge of his grace while growing up in Gastonia, NC. Raised by a gospel-loving aunt and influenced by gospel pioneer Andrae Crouch, he taught himself the piano at 15. From there, Lawrence put himself through the prestigious Cincinnati Conservatory of Music as a musical theater major. He and Worth Gardner, one of the school's professors, later wrote the 1986 musical revue "Sing Hallelujah!," which toured across the country and played off Broadway.

​  After a stint on the he was asked to become vocal coach for hit-making R&B/pop female group En Vogue. The early '90s found him integrating both worlds. That's when he began an eight-year tenure  musical staff of the TV series "PTL Club," Lawrence trained his sights on secular music whenas music director for Broadway/R&B star Stephanie Mills while also working as part of the urban inspirational group Company, a seven-man R&B group. Providing backing vocals for Stephanie Mills, Company was also signed to Irving Azoff's Giant Records, and released its debut album, Devotion, in 1993.

​  Concurrently, Lawrence started sending songs to a North and South Carolina-area group called the Tri-City Singers. Stepped to succeed the act's former musical director, he helped the group claim a No. 2 debut on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart with 1993's A Songwriter's Point of View. The set, melding hip-hop and other contemporary rhythms, featured guest turns by Peabo Bryson and Mills. Over the next 12 years, Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers issued a string of top five gospel albums, including No. 1 Bible Stories, tri-city4.com and Go Get Your Life Back. These releases sported such memorable hits as "Testify," "Message to the Saints" and "The Best Is Yet to Come." The albums also boasted an array of guests, including Clark Sheard, Ann Nesby, Kelly Price and Kim Burrell.

​  Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers retired in 2006, culminating their run with a cross-country, sold-out tour and a live recording, Finale.

See Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers lyric video of "Deliver Me" Click Here

  The project spun off the hits "Encourage Yourself" and "The Blessing of Abraham" with the latter spending 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Gospel Songs chart.

  Two years prior, Lawrence stepped out with his first solo album, the Donald Lawrence & Co. - headlined I Speak Life, with cameos by Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Faith Evans, Lalah Hathaway and jazz icon Ramsey Lewis. Featured hits included "You Covered Me" and the anthem "Healed." He followed that with a second No. 2 album, 2009's The Law of Confession, Part I, and the hit "Back II Eden." He then scored his second No. 1 with YRM (Your Righteous Mind).

  His musical passion continues to manifest itself through various pursuits. He has written and produced for the legendary Clark Sisters, Clark Sheard, Kirk Franklin and Hezekiah Walker (including the No. 1 single "Souled Out"), among others. He has taught at Chicago's Columbia College. And in September, he'll celebrate his sixth anniversary as host of Verizon's national gospel choir talent competition "How Sweet the Sound," working alongside Walker, Yolanda Adams, Tamela Mann and other special guests. Future plans include expanding into TV, film and Broadway projects.

  After a 12-year hiatus, Donald reunited the Tri-City Singers in commemoration of their 25th anniversary, releasing the highly-anticipated album Goshen.  Using Old and New Testament stories to reinforce the need for a spiritual exodus from modern-day anxieties, Goshen is the first big gospel release of 2019 and could well take its place among the best gospel albums of the year.

  Goshen, taken from references in Exodus of "God's promised place" where one can find joy in the midst of troubled times, is a compendium of worship songs, declarations of personal empowerment, rages against the machine, and shouts of ultimate victory, through God, over personal pain.

  What sticks out immediately about this thematic project is how steeped it is in musical theater. Like Thomas Dorsey did ninety years ago, Lawrence employs theatrical techniques to tell the story. He studied musical theater in college and uses his learning to maximum impact on Goshen.  For example, the spotlight shines on the complex "Let My People Go," on the toe-tapping beat of the title track, and on the cacophony of voices and samples of the Rev. C. L. Franklin lining out on "He Heard My Cry."  

  Lawrence's dramatic exhortations preceding many of the songs bring to mind the Reverend James Cleveland and his penchant for setting up a song with a sermonette. It's a technique Cleveland likely learned from Eugene Smith of the Roberta Martin Singers who may, in turn, have learned it from the Reverend Glenn T. Settles of the Wings over Jordan Choir.

  The lush, cascading harmonies emblematic of the Tri-City Singers are on full display during the melodic "Jehovah Sabaoth (God of Angel Armies)." The song is rendered in turns gently and demonstrably by lead singer Brittany Stewart. This austere and breathtakingly beautiful hymn oozes with the influence of songwriters Richard Smallwood, Andrae Crouch, and Kirk Franklin.

  The array of gospel talent on Goshen makes it an all-star package. Each artist brings his or her top game, from the Murrills and Arnetta Murrill-Crooms - alumni of the Tri-City Singers - to Sheri Jones-Moffett, Jason Nelson, Lejeune Thompson, Blanche McAllister Dykes, and Le'Andria Johnson among others. Jekalyn Carr revs up the onomatopoeia of the breathy worship ode, "YHWH (The Sound of My Breathing)." Sir the Baptist infuses elements of hip hop on "He Heard My Cry."

  NPR Tiny Desk champions Tank and the Bangas join the ensemble on "Let My People Go," the album's most explicitly political selection. It likens wage inequality, human trafficking, racial prejudice, police brutality, the corporate power elite's mistreatment of its employees, and other forms of systematic oppression to how Pharaoh treated the Hebrew slaves. Everyone is equal under God, the ensemble sings, with the line "you cannot box with God" a sly reference to Alex Bradford's gospel musical, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.

  Goshen is a majestic musical portrait of the struggle to break free from personal suffering in all of its manifestations, and an ode to the soul's ultimate victory through holding on, with confidence, to God's unchanging hands.

  "New ideas and concepts for songs, new talent, more knowledge ... the more creative I can be is what keeps me excited," says the indefatigable Lawrence. "You reap what you sow."

 
.Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers Featuring
Le'Andria Johnson

"Deliver Me"
(from Goshen)

 

"Goshen 432 hz" kicks off a landmark anniversary reunion of Donald Lawrence with the original Tri-City Singers, commemorating 25 years since the 1993 release of the seminal debut album, A Songwriter's Point of View. The first single from Lawrence and The Tri-City Singers' upcoming 25th anniversary project, "Goshen 432 hz" is a powerful call of protection, love, peace, and safety all over the world - with the voices of Lawrence and the Carolina-based singers, and featured soloist Sheri Jones-Moffett on the song. Includes the hit, Deliver Me.

Donald Lawrence
(Best For Last:
20 Year Celebration,
 Volume 1)

Donald Lawrence & Co.
(YRM - Your
Religious Mind)

Donald Lawrence Presents The
Tri-City Singers

(Grand Finale)