And, without further ado, here are the winners!
Multi-talented artist Kirk Franklin (pictured left) was doubly blessed at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, receiving top honors in the categories of Best Gospel Album — for Hello Fear (Verity Gospel/Fo Yo Soul/Provident Distribution) — and Best Gospel Song, for the album’s title track. Way to go, Kirk! This adds to a long list of accolades for the singer, who has won multiple Grammy, Dove and Stellar awards, among others.
The award for “Best Contemporary Christian Song” went to singer-songwriter Laura Story (pictured right), for her No. 1 hit song “Blessings” (Fair Trade Services/Provident Distribution), the title track of her latest album. The single “Blessings” was also the iTunes® Christian & Gospel Song of the Year for 2011. Story is not slowing down now, with the March 2012 release of a devotional book, What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?, and a 30-city tour with Mandisa beginning in February 2012. If that were not enough blessings, Story and her husband Martin recently found out they are expecting their first child later in the year. Congratulations!
It was a great night for worship leader and artist Chris Tomlin (pictured left) as well, whose album And If Our God Is for Us... (Sparrow Records/sixstepsrecords) was the winner in the category Best Contemporary Christian Music Album. This was the first Grammy® for the singer, who has already received six Grammy nominations, two Billboard Music Awards and 18 Dove Awards.
The award for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance went to Le’Andria Johnson (pictured right) for her debut single, “Jesus,” from the CD The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson (Music World Gospel/EMI CMG), which spent eight weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart and remained in the Top 5 for over 15 weeks.
Of course, the award ceremony and events surrounding it were also tinged with sadness, as the news of Whitney Houston’s death was still fresh on the minds of many there. Kirk Franklin, who had performed with Houston and had a great relationship with her, says he’s sad that her voice is gone, and he remarked on Twitter about the pressure she had been under. Singer Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Houston, with an emotional and powerful rendition of her signature hit “I Will Always Love You,” and the crowd gave a standing ovation to a re-airing of Houston's 1994 Grammy® performance of the song. According to several sources, Houston had talked a lot about Jesus and the Bible in the weeks leading up to her death, and her last performance was “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” which she sang at a Hollywood club two days before her passing.