BMI celebrated the best and brightest in gospel music tonight during its 18th annual Trailblazers of Gospel Music Honors at the Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA. The night paid tribute to iconic gospel singer/songwriter Marvin Sapp and was hosted for the second consecutive year by previous Trailblazer recipient and renowned gospel singer/songwriter Yolanda Adams, along with gospel singer/songwriter VaShawn Mitchell. The inspirational event will air nationwide on TV One on January 29th at 7:00 PM ET.
The invitation-only event featured the most promising young stars and iconic figures in gospel music today. In addition to honoring Marvin Sapp for his indisputable musical contributions to the gospel community, BMI’s Most Performed Gospel Song of the Year, “Wanna Be Happy?” written by Kirk Franklin and Al Green, was also recognized. The GRAMMY-winning single debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart where it remained for an astounding 45 weeks, the second-longest reign in the chart’s history.
BMI also recognized the Ten Most Performed Songs of the Year (2016) from its affiliated songwriters: “123 Victory,” written and performed by Kirk Franklin; “Bless This House,” written and performed by Dorinda Clark-Cole with co-writers Saeed Renaud, Rodrick Simmons and Fields Blanchard, Jr.; “How Awesome Is Our God,” co-written by Neville Diedericks, Israel and Meleasa Houghton and performed by Israel & New Breed featuring Yolanda Adams; “I’m Good,” written and performed by Tim Bowman, Jr. with co-writers Rodney Jenkins and Marvin Winans, Jr.; “I’m Yours,” written by Korey Bowie and performed by Casey J; “Intentional,” written by Victor Navejar and performed by Travis Greene; “Thank You Jesus (That’s What He’s Done),” written by Myron Butler and performed by Kim Burrell; “Worth Fighting For,” written by Aaron Lindsey and performed by Brian Courtney Wilson; “Yes You Can,” written and performed by Marvin Sapp with co-writer Jarmone E. Davis and “You Love Me (Best of My Love),” written and performed by Anita Wilson.
The ceremony began with upbeat renditions of “Intentional” by Travis Greene, featuring 112 and “Bless This House” by Dorinda Clark-Cole. Jonathan McReynolds serenaded the crowd on acoustic guitar with his song, “Full Attention.” The inspirational music continued with Zacardi Cortez singing a beautiful version of “Jesus Saves” by Daryl Coley, Stellar Award-nominated singer Lisa Knowles gave a soulful performance of “Oh My Soul Loves Jesus” by Kurt Carr, followed by Yolanda Adams’ interpretation of “He Brought Me” by Tramaine Hawkins. Video packages on The Art of Songwriting, featuring multiple award-winning songwriters, were peppered throughout the first set.
Before moving on to the tribute portion of the evening, Mike O’Neill, BMI President and CEO, and Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, introduced Kirk Franklin’s performance of BMI’s Most Performed Song of the Year, “Wanna Be Happy?” which kept the audience on their feet.
The celebration continued with several tributes to the legendary singer Marvin Sapp from some of the best names in gospel. R&B singer-songwriter Tank gave a soulful performance of “Grace and Mercy,” Isaac Carree performed “Praise Him in Advance,” Travis Greene sang “Not The Time, Not The Place,” and Todd Dulaney performed “I Believe.” Le’Andria Johnson paid homage to the gospel great with her version of “Never Would Have Made It,” and brought the crowd to their feet as Bishop Paul Morton joined her on stage. The uplifting performances kept coming with Bishop William Murphy (“Perfect Peace”) and Tasha Cobbs (“You Are God Alone”). After accepting his honor and thanking those who helped his career along the way, Sapp belted out his chart-topping single “Best in Me,” from his 2010 album Here I Am, and closed the show with a performance of “One Thing.”