Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Richard smallwood - Music

(C) 2014 by Rych McCain, All Rights Reserved. No part of this column may be reprinted, re-posted or duplicated without written permission from Rych McCain Media/Syndication. Violation is subject to applicable laws.

Richard Smallwood - Muisc

By Rych McCain International/Nationally Syndicated Entertainment Columnist
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Richard Smallwood

Gospel Icon Continues The Praise!

Richard Smallwood, pianst, composer, singer, director, producer

     It is the highest compliment and a major career milestone achieved when one is referred to as an icon in their field. Gospel great Richard Smallwood has well earned that title from his over 27 years of composing, directing, piano playing and organizing ensembles, groups and choirs. Born in Atlanta, GA., and reared in Washington, D.C., Smallwood matriculated to Howard University where he earned degrees in vocal performance and piano. Then he pursued graduate work in ethnonmusicology. On top of that Samallwood received a Masters Degree in Divinity from Howard as well. While he was an undergrad student on campus Smallwood was a member “The Celestials,” Howard’s first gospel group which was the first gospel act to perform at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. He was also a founding member of Howard’s first gospel choir.

Smallwood at BET's Celebration of Gospel 2014
     The 1982 album titled “The Richard Smallwood Singers” launched his recording career which was followed by “Psalmswas” which garnered a Grammy nomination. Smallwood’s third album “Textures” contained the now classic “Center Of My Joy” and his production work on Quincy Jones’ gospel project “Handle’s Messiah; A Soulful Celebration” won him his first Grammy and Dove Award. Secular and sacred artists have recorded Smallwood’s compositions. Smallwood’s music is very similar to the great Hawkins brothers i.e., the late Bishop Walter Hawkins and Dr. Edwin Hawkins. Are they tuned into a similar vibe or inspirational source? Smallwood is delighted with the comparison and expresses, “I think both Edwin and Walter were very influential to me as a young man. I met them both when I was nineteen years old and I had just started to write and Edwin was already huge with “Oh Happy Day.” So the Hawkins family has definitely been one of my biggest inspirations in terms of writing and the whole thing about the music. Regarding his smash hit “Healing,” the story goes that Smallwood received a phone call from a guy in grief which led to him writing the song. Does Smallwood get a lot of request like that? 

  He explains, “No. Actually his mother had passed and about three weeks later his father went to sleep on the coach and never woke up and his family was devastated. I was already working on a project “Live In Detroit” and he called and asked have you written anything about healing? And I was like no. He said my family really needs healing. I’m hot demanding that you do it but could you just pray that God would give you a song that has to do with it and I really prayed about it and it came to me in a dream.” And speaking of Smallwood’s great inspirational anthems we would be remised if the subject of one of his biggest hits “Total Praise” wasn’t brought up. Where did that come from? He smiles again with delight and says, “That came from a very difficult time in my life. My mother was very sick and my god brother was terminally ill and I was care giver to both of them. It was a really kind of hard thing to do because I felt so helpless not being able to do anything to help them physically in terms of their illness. And God just began to give me this song and I was like I really don’t want a praise song right now. I’m going through this thing and God would say no, no I really need your praise. And when he finished giving me the song, he basically told me I see your tears, I fell your pain but I’ve got your back and you know that. So until that break through comes, I need your praise. Give me your valley situation, I need your praise. So it sort of taught me about praising God in all of our seasons.”


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