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(Soundbite of "Pray")

Ms. CECE WINANS: (Singing) I know that you think you can't pray after that mistake...

ED GORDON, host:

CeCe Winans has sung gospel music ever since she can remember. She's seen the music go through a series of changes, becoming more popular as it became, to some, more secular. But CeCe takes pride in having never strayed from the principle message of the music--love. Her new CD is called "Purified," and it's her latest statement about the meaning of genuine affection.

Ms. WINANS: It's a CD that's really talking about relationships, Ed, and how it's real important that you know what real love is. Real love is pure. Real love never changes, and it kind of puts you back in the mind of, you know, growing up with Grandmom and going to the family reunions. And it's really about treasuring those relationships that you have with your loved ones and realizing the importance of it.

GORDON: I've known you and your family for years and years...

Ms. WINANS: Uh-huh.

GORDON: ...growing up in Detroit. You all suffered a loss. One of your brothers, Ronald, passed away this year. How much of that either helped push that in this direction, or certainly, I'm sure, had new meaning for you...

Ms. WINANS: New meaning...

GORDON: ...because of his passing?

Ms. WINANS: New meaning, Ed, because we lost my brother, Ronald, June the 17th. To lose a loved one--I've never lost a sibling. I never want to lose another one. But for instance, the last song on the CD is entitled "He's Concerned About You."

(Soundbite of "He's Concerned About You")

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) God is just a prayer away. All you need to do is call. He will hear your faintest cry. He's concerned about you.

As I recorded this song, I sent it out to a few friends who had lost loved ones, and I sent those songs out because I knew it would bring them comfort, and little did I know I would have to pull it out for myself, you know, a few months after that. And what can I say? I'm glad that Ronald knew I loved him, and I knew he loved me. We had a great relationship, and I just want to encourage people even the more, and I want to do better at loving those people who are in my life, because, you know, tomorrow's not promised.

(Soundbite of "He's Concerned About You")

Ms. WINANS and Chorus: (Singing) Weeping may endure for a night, but the morning will bring joy. He won't give you more than you can bear. He's concerned about you. He loves...

GORDON: You know what's interesting, in just the titles and certainly when you listen to the CD, it does conjure up--you talked about Grandma's house and all that, these kinds of images in your mind, you know, Mama's kitchen, and when you think of that you can go to you are loved...

Ms. WINANS: Yeah.

GORDON: ...in a place like this. All these kind of conjure up that idea of at least the idyllic family but even those who know the reality, even when you go home for Thanksgiving, it's rough sometimes...

Ms. WINANS: Yeah.

GORDON: ...but you wouldn't trade it for anything.

Ms. WINANS: That's right. That's right, because it's who you are and you have to learn how to make the best of your situation, especially what we're going through now in the country, all the different disasters. We realize at the bottom line is that we need one another, you know, and the only thing that will last is the love that you carry in your heart, you know. But everything else, you can turn around tomorrow and it's gone.

(Soundbite of "Always Sisters")

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) Always...

Chorus: (Singing) Sisters...

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) ...sisters...

Chorus: (Singing) Sisters...

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) Always...

Chorus: (Singing) Sisters...

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) ...friends...

GORDON: You mention this song, "Always Sisters," that you wrote with your sisters, Debbie and Angie, who also perform on this. Talk to me about why you put this together.

Ms. WINANS: Well, because sisterhood, it's a powerful relationship, and when you have a great woman in your life, it's a great thing because when they have your back, then they got your back, you know. They're praying for you, they know how to help you out and so this song, I really wanted it to become an anthem for women all over the world, to realize your responsibility as a sister, and also appreciate those sisters that you have in your life.

GORDON: You know, you've gone beyond the blood ties of sisterhood. You have a Sharing the Vision foundation. I understand that you've had a conference for women.

Ms. WINANS: Yeah.

GORDON: Talk to be about why that's become so important to you.

Ms. WINANS: Well, you know, I've been doing this for a long time, and getting older is a good thing, you know. Hopefully I'm beginning to become more wise. But I feel the need to pour into the next generation. And that's what my conference was all about. It's entitled Always Sisters, and we had about 700 girls who come from all different walks of life. A lot of them were living with AIDS. Some of them were suffering with low self-esteem and eating disorders, and if we don't start pouring into our youth, then we're going to lose them, you know. And so that's really what it's all about, being a mentor and helping girls realize who they are, you know, their worth. They--if you--I wanted them to leave knowing who they are and whose they were. And when you can get them to see that, then they realize they deserve the best, you know, and they'll look out and live their lives differently.

(Soundbite of "Always Sisters")

Chorus: (Singing) Always sisters, always friends.

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) Always, always, always.

Chorus: (Singing) Let's stay real close...

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) Stay real close...

Chorus: (Singing) ...till the end.

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) Stay real close.

GORDON: You truly, more than almost any other, have stayed true to the word, and while the beat and all might be compared to secular music, there's rarely an idea of your solo projects in particular being anything other than spreading the word. Has there ever been a pull for you to do something more secular, if not just a secular album?

Ms. WINANS: Ever a pull? Not really. I think this CD, "Purified," would probably be my most--What can I say?--most natural, you know, because people really do--I mean, that's the ministry in itself, really. If I was to do a whole CD of love songs, it's like it's needed, because what they're calling love out here today is not love at all, you know. And God is a part--this CD, "Purified," is really trying to show people how God wants to be a part, and needs to be a part of everything in your life, every part of your life. A lot of times we think of God as just being in the church, but he wants to be in your home, he wants to be in your marriage, he wants to be in the relationship with your children, on your job. And so it's needed to, should I say, to go everywhere with the real message of God and the real message of love. But I'd never want to compromise. I never--I shouldn't say I won't--I don't want to, I will never compromise the gospel message, because that's the thing that makes the difference, you know. That's the thing that changes from just being entertainment to really being a ministering tool.

GORDON: CeCe Winans' latest CD is called "Purified." You can hear more from CeCe's new CD, plus hear music from more gospel artists that have been featured here on NEWS & NOTES on our Web site at npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) That I need you in my life, right here by my side. You call me day and night, and I just want to thank you, thank you for your mercy.

Chorus: (Singing) Ha-ya-ya-ya...

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) My favorite thing, oh, Lord...

Chorus: (Singing) Ha-ya-ya-ya...

Ms. WINANS: ...I'm hearing from you...

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. WINANS: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) hearing from you.

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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