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Sounds Of Sisterhood: 10 Music Moments Inspired By The Clark Sisters

Let's take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the long-reaching impact of The Clark Sisters on music, outside of the gospel genre.

In black music, there have been a plethora of musical families that have captivated not only our ears but also our hearts. From the multi-talented Jacksons to the sweet sounds of DeBarge, we have fallen in love with family groups and their alluring genetic makeup and innate synchronicity. Although some were more popular than others, none have done it quite like Jackie, Twinkie, Dorinda, Denise and Karen, better known as The Clark Sisters.

Born and raised in the city of Detroit, these ladies began singing in church together as young girls. Under the direction of their mother, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, The Clark Sisters took over the world of gospel music with their electrifying recordings. Adored by millions for their vocal acrobats and precise harmonies, The Clark Sisters have been coined as the "Pioneers of Contemporary Gospel." Credited as vocal inspirations to talented singers such as Faith Evans, Kelly Price and Mariah Carey, the beloved Clark sound runs deep. With an illustrious career that has been sustained for over four decades, The Clark Sisters have released 16 studio albums, won 2 Grammys and are the best-selling female group in gospel music history.

The Clark Sisters have had a tremendous impact on artists and musicians alike, but have unfortunately not always been recognized for their efforts. Let's take a minute to acknowledge and appreciate 10 covers, samples and/or performances of The Clark Sisters’ material.

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1. R&B Diva Kelly Price covered one of The Clark Sisters’ monumental hits, “You Brought the Sunshine,” for her third studio album “Priceless” in 2003. With production by Warryn Campbell, who is also husband to Mary Mary's Erica Campbell, this version serves as a modern take to the beloved gospel/dance classic. With The Clark Sisters featured on background and additional vocals, this cover loses none of its original luster. Kelly Price, a proud student and fan of The Clark Sisters, maintains the integrity of the distinct Clark sound. Price fits right into the mix as an honorary sister and is able to hold her own.

 

2. SWV’s leading lady, Coko Clemons, gathered an All-Star cast of Faith Evans, Fantasia and Lil’ Mo to step into some legendary shoes for a remake of fan favorite, “Endow Me.” Released as a single for her gospel debut Grateful in 2006, these ladies sang (and we mean SANG)! All of these ladies, who have been able to find success in both gospel and secular music, have been heavily influenced by the Clark sound. We got a chance to see these ladies in action (sans Faith Evans) with the wonderful addition of Kierra Sheard unite at BET's Celebration of Gospel for an explosive performance that left American Idol winner Fantasia slayed in the spirit as she walked off stage. (If you've never seen the performance you've probably seen the GIF from the performance all over social media.)

 

3. Even the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself has borrowed from The Clark Sisters' extensive catalog. Intended to be placed on her critically acclaimed Mary album, "Checkin' for Me" uses a loop of "They Were Overcome (By the Word).” In true Mary J. Blige fashion, Mary confronts a past lover and demands better from the relationship. A true gospel that most of us can relate to, Mary fans would have probably enjoyed this song during its respective era had it been given the chance. It did not make the album cut, but fortunately it was included as a bonus track on Mary's critically acclaimed album No More Drama, and can also be heard in all its glory on YouTube.

 

4. You know you have a great record when it’s been sampled more than once. Contemporary gospel artist Kierra Sheard, who has the distinct honor of being daughter to Karen Clark Sheard and niece to The Clark Sisters, also chose to sample "They Were Overcome (By the Word)" for an upbeat gospel anthem “2nd Win.” Released as the first single off her fifth studio album, Graceland, in 2014 it’s an incredibly different feel from the above mentioned. Kierra sings passionately about change and God's unconditional love to an uplifting, feel-good beat. With J. Drew, Karen's son, contributing to production they successfully carry on The Clark Sisters’ legacy.

 

5. Xscape, So So Def's first act on the label, has always listed The Clark Sisters as being a major inspiration for their harmonies. Growing up in the church, these ladies began singing “Is My Living In Vain” way before they ever signed a deal, so it was only appropriate that they would record a studio version for their debut album, Hummin' Comin' at Cha.' Under JD's direction, the girls were able to add a hip-hop vibe to the gospel classic. Since then the cover has become an intricate part of Xscape’s live performances and is still among their set list today.

 

6. Gospel artist Kim Burrell has sung the many praises of The Clark Sisters over the last few decades and decided to put her own spin on Clark Sisters’ classic, "Jesus Is a Love Song." Originally released in 1986 from the well-received Heart & Soul album and a top five out of The Clark Sisters’ catalog, this song has been covered multiple times and has become a staple within the black church. With new musical arrangements and a slight change in tempo, Kim’s version stands out. Allowing the instrumentation to follow her jazz-esque vocal stylings instead of trying to recreate the Clark sound, Kim makes the song her own.

 

7. In 2016, The Clark Sisters were finally honored on a large platform at Essence Fest. The who's-who of gospel music showed up and showed out for this long overdue moment to pay tribute to the legendary Clark Sisters. One of the most beautiful and unexpected moments of the night occurred when singers Keyondra Lockett, Christina Bell, Candy West, Latice Crawford and Alexis Spight took stage to sing “For the Love of the People.” One of the standout tracks off of the 1988 Conqueror album, “For the Love of the People,” showcases the magnitude of The Clark Sisters’ harmony. These women who were called upon to tribute the group did not disappoint in the slightest bit. All of them are young enough to have grown up listening to the Clark Sister’s music, and their presence is a visual representation of how strong The Clark Sisters’ influence truly is.

 

8. The Walls Group, one of the most popular and vocally revered groups in gospel music today, took to their personal YouTube channel to pay homage to The Clark Sisters. Before any note is sang, the Walls Group credits The Clark Sisters as being their "favorite group," so you already know it’s about to go down. Stepping away from frequently covered Clark Sisters' material, the Walls Group delivers a soul stirring version of "Pure Gold" right at home from their living room. In perfect pitch and harmony, you can see and hear that the Walls Group holds this song near and dear to their hearts.

 

9. The scope of The Clark Sisters' influence is boundless, as their music has crossed genre boundaries. JAY-Z (arguably the best rapper alive) recently borrowed from The Clark Sisters' original, "Ha-ya (Eternal Life),' for his song “Family Feud” off his critically acclaimed album, 4:44. On the track, Jay is candid about his marital woes to the “First Lady of Music” Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Produced by the legendary No I.D., this song is built off a sample of The Clark Sisters’ vocals with Beyoncé recreating the vocal runs and riffs previously made famous by Twinkie, Jackie, Karen and Dorinda. Karen even took to her Instagram account to show her appreciation saying, “Who would’ve thought this phenomenal artist would use our songs. Thank you Jay Z & Beyoncé.”

 

10. Now if only Wendy Williams would have done her research, she would have known that The Clark Sisters are on Snoop Dogg's No. 1 gospel album, and are featured multiple times. Snoop Dogg himself has even stated that before he began rapping, he was singing in the church choir and is very familiar with The Clark Sisters’ music. On his new LP Bible of Love, Snoop remixes the Grammy Award-winning “Blessed & Highly Favored.” Originally a part of their long awaited reunion album, Live – One Last Time, Snoop updated this jam with a trap-inspired beat the young generation can appreciate that accompanies the timeless vocals of The Clark Sisters.

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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