by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
Today, Good Black News celebrates the milestone 60th birthday of gospel music icon Karen Clark-Sheard, famous as the youngest member of the legendary Clark Sisters, as well as for her dynamic solo recordings.
Amidst the craziness of the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns and quarantines, 2020 has nevertheless been a milestone year for Karen and her sisters, as they issued the acclaimed The Return in March, their first group release in over a decade.
Following the album drop was the April broadcast of The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, a Lifetime movie about their lives that was seen by millions of people across numerous airings in its first few weeks, becoming Lifetime’s highest original rated movie in 4 years – and one of the top cable telecasts of the year across all cable channels.
We wrote about the movie and the history of The Clark Sisters, at that time: (https://goodblacknews.org/
After 25 years recording with her sisters (since she was just an early teenager) as the group’s dedicated soprano, a break in the sisters’ group activities allowed Karen to release her debut solo album, appropriately titled Finally Karen in 1998.
She stepped out solo in a big way – on a major label (Island Records), with multiple producers and a guest appearance from Faith Evans. The results – a gospel bestseller that was nominated for a Grammy and won a Lady of Soul Award.
The album also included a duet with her daughter, Kierra ‘Kiki’ Sheard, ultimately kicking off the successful recording career for yet another generation of the Clark gospel dynasty (The Clark Sisters themselves are the daughters of gospel choir pioneer Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.)
Not long after the release and promotion of her first album, Clark-Sheard was hit with a major health crisis, when complications from a minor operation put her in a coma for multiple weeks.
Although doctors had given her a slim chance of survival, she made it through the crisis – and titled her next solo album 2nd Chance. While the album continued to feature gospel infused with R&B crossover sounds, including a Timbaland production of a song including Missy Elliott, it also featured the grand Richard Smallwood choir composition ‘A Secret Place’, which proved a good representation of Clark-Sheard’s trademark runs and vocal acrobatics. You can check this song out here: https://www.youtube.com/
The last two decades have brought four additional strong solo albums, the resumption of her recording career with her sisters, and numerous guest appearances on other recordings. She also serves as the First Lady of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ in Detroit, where her longtime husband, Bishop J. Drew Sheard, serves as senior pastor.
Happy Birthday Karen! If you’d like to celebrate Karen and her music, here’s another chance to check out our playlist from this spring ‘The Clark Sisters Soundtrack – Five Decades of Harmony“:
It includes the best hits of The Clark Sisters, as well as top solo recordings from Karen and her sisters, their mother Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, and Karen’s daughter Kiki Sheard. Enjoy!