The Sheards: A Mother-Daughter Gospel Duo

Ed Gordon talks with Karen Clark-Sheard and Kierra "KiKi" Sheard, a mother-daughter team who are making gospel music side-by-side, as well as pursuing their own individual recording careers.

ED GORDON, host:

Few families in America can claim to have as much gospel in their blood as the Clarks. After Mattie Moss Clark made her name as one of the giants in the genre, her four daughters went on to form the legendary group, The Clark Sisters. The sisters sang the now classic, You Brought the Sunshine.

Now, the legacy takes another step, generationally. Karen, the youngest Clark sister, who has had a stellar solo career of her own, is seeing her daughter KiKi make a name for herself by fusing hip-hop and gospel. Karen's latest album, It's Not Over, was released earlier this year, and it's still in the top 10 on Billboard's Gospel Chart.

Ms. KAREN CLARK-SHEARD (Singer): (Singing “It's Not Over”) It's not over until God says it's over. It's not over until God says it's over.

GORDON: You know when you think about the Clark Sisters, and the phenomenal and legendary song You Brought the Sunshine, do you now know the impact you had on people? Not just, obviously, within your family, within your ministry, within your touch, but when you hear people like Mariah Carey, or Mary J. Blige, or Missy Elliott, Faith Evans, all of these folks who say that the Clark Sisters inspired them, do you understand now the role you played in all of this?

Ms. CLARK-SHEARD: Now I do. Then I didn't. Now, to hear these mega-stars come to us and it's almost like they're giving their testimony, and it's like, wow!

GORDON: KiKi, what about growing up in a--in the church? We should note your dad is a pastor. Growing up with a family that has faith and religion in the forefront of their lives. How much peer pressure do you have from others who might think you're a little bit too churchy for them?

Ms. KIERRA "KIKI" SHEARD (Singer): I'm very silly and I will always say, thank you, Jesus, if I pass a test, or hallelujah, if, you know--just the simple things. And it's just because of the way I've been raised as far as church and people would look at me like, you know, what are you talking about? Who are you thanking and who are you talking to? Because I just come out of the blue and say, Thank you, Jesus, you know. But, eventually, the people would just realize that that's just me.

GORDON: Well, let me ask you this, as relates to pressure. Now you've had a hit, you've worked with some heavy-duty producers. When you look at the success that you've had so far, you've tasted a little bit of the apple. Can you see this as a career for you?

Ms. SHEARD: Yes, now that I'm in it, and now that I realize how important ministry is. If I just, you know, do what I'm supposed to do, which is work for him, and I'll have more and more open doors. And at the same time I am enjoying what I'm doing. So, I would say that this…

GORDON: So KiKi, you see this as a ministry versus just a, you know, being a singer?

Ms. SHEARD: Yes, absolutely. Yes. Because I'm not just going out entertaining young people and just giving them--just something to dance to. I'm giving them a word. In my music, it has a gospel message. It has a word to encourage you to get through the trials the enemies may bring your way.

(Soundbite of Ms. Sheard singing)

Ms. SHEARD: (Singing) Now I know, now I know that, it seems…because my eyes have seen what miracles can do (unintelligible). I'm telling you, don't let the devil get me, you don't know, even if I had a thousand plus I need more…

GORDON: Karen, what about for you, when you watch her start to take these steps? And obviously I'm sure you're glad to hear her talk about ministry versus just being a singer, but that being said, it's a difficult business, whether you're on the secular side or the gospel side. Talk to me about how you view, you know, letting your baby out there.

Ms. CLARK-SHEARD: Even though sometimes in this business it is cutthroat, it's good to hear my daughter, as a teenager, just being so interested. Because, you know, it used to be a time where back in the day, it was like the young people, we'd go to church, but it's just null and void. But nowadays, they have the music there that attracts the young people. The preaching attracts the young people.

GORDON: Karen, let me ask you this before I let you guys go. And that's the change in the business. I mean, certainly when you guys started coming up and singing with your sisters, it was a completely different business then it was now. And when you look at the success that you all had as forerunners, and people like Lance Allen and James Cleveland and others, the heightened fame that you guys had, in comparison, outside of, you know, maybe James Cleveland, and Mahalia Jackson, when you think about it, Yolanda Adams, Donny McClerkin, C.C. Wynans, B.B. and others. It's grown to such a level, are you excited about what you see, or do you kind of long for the old days?

Ms. CLARK-SHEARD: I'm excited, for one, is that gospel music is being accepted in the secular world. Which allows us to expand our horizons, and we're going to halls where secular--where they have the secular shows, you know? We're doing the amphitheaters, we're going into the Apollo Theaters, you know? And I think that's the part I'm excited about, because it's taking our ministry out further as opposed to the four walls of churches.

GORDON: Well, indeed, you and your family have done so. Your latest is, It's Not Over, and with Miss KiKi coming up, carrying on the tradition. More praise to come, and I thank you both for joining us.

Ms. SHEARD: Thank you.

Ms. CLARK-SHEARD: Thank you, it was a pleasure.

(Soundbite of Ms. Clark-Sheard singing)

GORDON: That was gospel great Karen Clark-Sheard. Her latest CD is titled, It's Not Over. And her daughter KiKi's debut is called I Owe You.

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