Photo courtesy of Michigan State University Museum
Gospel music fans affectionately referred to Minister Thomas Whitfield (1954-1992) as "The Maestro" because of his reputation as a consummate composer, musician, singer and producer. Whitfield's career began when he was just five years old and took his first piano lessons; by the time he was ten, he was mastering the organ. Over the years, his training in classical music and in traditional gospel coupled with his love for jazz and R&B resulted in the unique "Whitfield Sound."
Initially, some listeners declared his music too contemporary. However,
by the mid-1980's, Whitfield had produced, arranged, and/or written some
of gospel's most enduring recordings, many featuring his choir, The Whitfield
Company, others highlighting such distinctive artists as Vanessa Bell Armstrong,
Yolanda Adams and Aretha Franklin. Today, leading urban contemporary gospel
artists Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence and Fred Hammond cite "The Maestro"
as having helped to shape their music. Among the more than 200 songs Whitfield
wrote and/or recorded are "Hallelujah, Anyhow," "I'm Encouraged," "God
Wants Our Praises," and "We Need A Word from the Lord." Both his Whitfield
Company and his brothers Larry and David (through The Whitfield Music Group)
continue "The Maestro's" music legacy.
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