BeBe Winans bringing inspiration to Delaware State University ball

Six-time Grammy-winning gospel and R&B artist BeBe Winans will be a part of Saturday night’s Delaware State University President’s Scholarship Ball at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center. He will perform some of his well-known songs and receive an award from DSU President Harry L. Williams. (Submitted photo)

Six-time Grammy-winning gospel and R&B artist BeBe Winans will be a part of Saturday night’s Delaware State University President’s Scholarship Ball at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center. He will perform some of his well-known songs and receive an award from DSU President Harry L. Williams. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — It never gets old for BeBe Winans.

After more than 30 years as an acclaimed inspirational gospel and R&B singer, he never tires of hearing how important his music is to his fans.

“People will come up to me and apologize for telling me how much it has meant to them. I always tell them to please don’t apologize. Hearing things like that always causes me to realize that the sacrifices that we’ve made along the way have been worth it,” he said Thursday afternoon by phone from his home base in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I remember one person telling me that he was coming to see my show and decided that when he got home, he was going to commit suicide. But because of seeing me and my show, he decided to give life another chance.

“When you think of everything that artists have to endure on the business side that you wish didn’t exist, nothing can take away the joy of hearing a story like that.”

Mr. Winans will perform at Delaware State University’s annual President’s Scholarship Ball Saturday night at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

The ball, which is annually held to raise funds for student scholarships, will begin with a cocktail reception from 5 to 6 p.m.; followed by dinner, the performance from Mr. Winans and then dance music from the Show Tyme Band of Philadelphia from 6 to 11 p.m.

Mr. Winans is a six-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actor and producer as well as part of the legendary Winans family, known as the First Family of Gospel Music.

As part of a recording duo with his sister CeCe from 1987 to 1995, the pair produced seven albums, three of which went gold and one platinum.

After some years of separation to pursue solo projects, the two reunited in 2009 to record the Grammy and Stellar award-winning album “Still” as part of their then-newly launched record label B&C Records. The duo’s accolades include three Grammy Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, two Soul Train Awards and numerous Stellar Awards.

As a solo artist between 1997 and 2012, Mr. Winans released seven albums.

BeBe Winans has created and written the stage musical “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” which will embark on a national tour in June. (Submitted photo)

BeBe Winans has created and written the stage musical “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” which will embark on a national tour in June. (Submitted photo)

DSU President Harry L Williams will present Mr. Winans with the 2016 President’s Legacy Award during the Scholarship Ball, in this the university’s 125th year.

College is key

Mr. Winans says colleges are vitally important to the growth of young adults.

“I’ve done a lot of things with black colleges and other colleges throughout the years. What I’ve found beyond the history of them is the opportunity that these colleges and every college give young people,” the 54-year-old Mr. Winans said.

“Young people will always be the heartbeat of my passion. I’m the father of two children. My son is graduating high school next year and we’re going through the application process. My daughter goes to (Middle Tennessee State University) here in Nashville.

“College is a place where most students become adults. And it’s important as an African-American father to an African-American son and daughter that they realize and understand their history. And it’s important that those who teach them that history not necessarily have to be of African-American descent but they have to be people who understand our history and our struggle.”

In thinking about those college years he was reminded what the late poet Maya Angelou once told him.

“She said to me ‘BeBe, enjoy the struggle.’ Nobody wants the struggle but in the struggle, you learn who you are and who God is and what life is all about,” he said.

“To me, that represents college. You’re going to learn there what life is all about and who you are and have those important moments that are going to plant you for the rest of your life.”

In his blood

These days, Mr. Winans is working on a musical about the life and the struggles endured by him and his sister called “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story,” which combines original music with some of the Winans’ classic tunes.

As the youngest siblings of the Winans family, the production tells the story of their culture shocks when they are invited to join Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s “Praise the Lord” television show and their ensuing rise to fame.

Although the title of the show comes from one of his songs, Mr. Winans says it reflects his life centered around music.

“We grew up in a household full of music. My mother and father loved to sing and their father and mother loved to sing. Singing was in our blood and to this day, we still have that passion,” he said.

“As I look back on it now, I guess it was something we were destined to do.”

‘Born for This’

The “Born for This” show had a successful run in Washington over the summer and is getting set for a national tour starting next June with his own niece and nephew, Juan and Deborah Joy Winans, playing him and his sister and Kiandra Richardson playing his close friend Whitney Houston.

He said it’s been almost 10 years ago when he was having a conversation with singer Roberta Flack.

“She just detoured in our conversation and said ‘When are you going to write that musical?’ and then she went right back talking about what we were talking about as if nothing had taken place,” Mr. Winans recalled.

“Nowhere in my mind did I think my life would make a good musical. But a week later, I was in Montreal and I opened my laptop and like a faucet, out came the first draft.”

He said the response to the production has been “surreal.”

“I’m a big dreamer and what has happened with the show since we opened in Atlanta in
April has been overwhelming. I’m so excited to be going around the country with it.”

Beauty of music

So what can the Delaware State audience expect to hear from Mr. Winans Saturday night?

“I’ll be performing some Bebe and Cece songs and some of my solo catalogue but also some of the songs I grew up hearing like ‘Oh, Happy Day’ and songs from Mavis Staples and Edwin Hawkins — songs that gave me hope and can give America hope at a time when we really need hope I think,” he said.

“The beauty of music that I’ve been able to experience up close is that it can break down doors like nothing can break down doors and can get people up like nothing else can. I always look forward to performing whenever I can.”

For tickets to the Delaware State University Scholarship Ball, call the DSU Institutional Advancement office at 857-6055.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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