Delores Winans on Marriage, Faith and Family
Exclusive interview with the mother of BeBe, CeCe and the rest of the Winans brood
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It's impossible to measure the extraordinary impact that Delores "Mom" Winans has made on the world. As the first family of gospel music's matriarch, her last name conjures up images of Grammy awards, national concert tours and an endless playlist of soul-stirring songs.
But consider her legacy in terms of the countless people whose lives have been uplifted, inspired—and possibly saved—by the gospel songs and church sermons she, David "Pop" Winans and their 10 children have collectively shared with the world.
This unparalleled musical ministry exists as a result of her love and dedication as a wife and mother who practices and preaches absolute faith in God.
"With our family, church has always been the first thing on the agenda," says the 76-year-old grandmother of 24 and great-grandmother of four (with a fifth on the way).
After meeting in the Lucille Lemon Choir, she and David Winans married at his grandfather Isaiah Winans' Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ on Mack Avenue on Nov. 21, 1953. She was 17; he was 19. Both were from broken homes.
"My husband and I always loved going to church, and we brought the children there. I felt the spirit in the church would be something that got in their spirit."
It did. At home after church, Winans says the children gathered around the piano.
"My children used to listen to sermons preached and they would—especially Marvin—take the sermons and write songs from them," she recalls.
"That's why their music impacted so many, because they were a form of the Word being sung. Gospel music spreads the Word in a beautiful way. Mostly every song they've written has come from a sermon that was preached about something they were going through. They went to the word of God for the words for their music. One of the first songs they started singing together in the early 1960s was 'Long As I Got King Jesus!' and I like 'Ain't No Need to Worry.' Those old songs ... really fit in for today."
The children also taught themselves to play the piano and listened to songs by Andraé Crouch and James Cleveland.
"This would be a form of entertainment for them," says Winans, who prayed with her children before sending them off to school and continued as they left the house.
It also engaged them in wholesome fun during the late '50s and '60s, when Pentecostal preacher "Pop" worked as a custodian, barber, car salesman and taxi driver.
Ultimately, Crouch signed brothers Ronald, Marvin, Carvin and Michael to Light Records, which released their first album, "Introducing the Winans," in 1981. Managed by their father, they became one of the most popular gospel quartets ever.
David, Daniel, Angie and Debbie also launched musical careers, while BeBe and CeCe teamed up for hits "Addictive Love" and "I'll Take You There," which pioneered gospel playtime on R&B radio stations.
After the family performed at the Grammy Awards came the parents' debut album, "Mom & Pop Winans," from Sparrow Records in 1989. Nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel album, it includes Mom's jazzy solo "He's the One."
Then on Christmas Eve 1990, the Winans family performed on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
The next year, Mom and Pop Winans' second album, "For the Rest of My Life," featured the church favorite, "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The couple shared their story in a book, "Mom & Pop Winans: Stories from Home."
In 1992, the family delighted audiences in arenas nationwide for a syndicated TV special, "The Winans Family Christmas." And they showed support after the Sept. 11 attacks on the "Together We Stand: The Winans Family Tour."
Meanwhile, Mom Winans' 2004 album, "Hymns from My Heart," received two Dove Award nominations, while the family has earned dozens of Grammy Awards, Stellar Awards, Dove Awards, NAACP Image Awards and Soul Train Music Awards. She also has proudly watched as her grandchildren launched Winans Phase 2.
This Mother's Day, Winans reflects on her family and faith with B.L.A.C. Detroit.
When you first married, how'd you juggle the responsibilities of a growing family?
We didn't plan on having 10 children, but the church's teaching was not to use any contraception. I wanted a girl, but I had seven boys straight! Finally, I had a girl (Priscilla "CeCe"). All of our children turned out to be a blessing.
My husband had a good job in the factory, but the factory would lay off. We did a couple of hits on welfare, but not for long. I worked for about 33 years of my marriage. I started working for the city (of Detroit) as a typist, then I went to Metropolitan Hospital as a medical transcriptionist.
We stayed on Seward on the west side (in a four-family flat owned by my mother-in-law), so she kept the children when I worked and another lady from the church helped me. Thank God I was young and I could juggle all that.
Around 1960, we moved to the east side—Warren and Conner, to the Parkside Projects. Actually for me, it was a dream come true. It was a beautiful place, very spacious for kids to go out and play. I was so happy to live there. We stayed there until we saved enough money to buy our own home around 1963, on Woodingham and Seven Mile between Wyoming and Livernois.
Did you eat dinner together as a family, and did you talk about current events?
When the children were little, we did have dinner together every day. I loved to do that. Every day, I would cook dinner: spaghetti, beans, roast beef, pork chops. I had to plan the menu for the whole week. That's a job when you have an army to cook for. Those boys ate like men!
When the children started getting older, we'd have dinner at church on Sunday. Sometimes on Saturday, we'd have something different, like hot dogs or McDonald's.
We'd all eat at the table together and we'd talk about (the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War). Most of the boys were older, so they even had projects in school, so we talked about that even as we sat around the TV watching it unfolding.
There was a lot of history happening. When Dr. King marched in Detroit (in 1963), we watched on television.
Raising children in such a changing world was quite a job. It was so wonderful that we were grounded in the church and the doctrine, because the Bible speaks to the changes that are coming on the world.
At one time, things were happening so fast with all the assassinations. It would kind of shake you a little bit. Being grounded in the church, you couldn't stay shaken for a long time. You could explain to (the children) by the Word, and how much more important it is to know that there's a God on your side in times like that.
Even today, with (the Boston Marathon bombings), to know that you're still safe in the arms of the Lord is comforting.