The creatively righteous mind of Grammy Award-winning producer, composer and recording artist Donald Lawrence has set the standard for excellence in the gospel music field over the last two decades with signature #1 radio smashes such as “Back II Eden,” “Encourage Yourself” and “The Blessing of Abraham” which spent 18 weeks at #1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Gospel Songs radio chart. On his third solo and latest masterwork, YRM (Your Righteous Mind), Lawrence blends the classicism of traditional gospel music and retro soul grooves with uplifting, messages of self-affirmation and daily How-To-Faith lessons on the fourteen-track set.
The album opens with the upbeat mantra “YRM (Your Righteous Mind)” that features Dorinda Clark Cole of the legendary Clark Sisters. Throughout the set, the songs speak to the heart of mankind and navigating life’s everyday challenges on tunes such as gospel pioneer Walter Hawkins’ “When The Battle Is Over” and Chaka Khan’s “Through The Wire.” Lawrence assumes the role of teacher on new compositions such as “Second Wind,” “We Agree” that features gold-selling praise and worship artist Israel Houghton and “The I Am Factor” that offer faith-based prescriptions for what ails today’s world.
Lawrence learned his spiritual principles from the aunt who raised him in Gastonia, NC – not far from Charlotte. He was raised in church and became a fan of the music of Walter Hawkins and Thomas Whitfield. Lawrence taught himself to play the piano by the age of fifteen and put himself through the prestigious Cincinnati Conservatory of Music as a musical theater major. He and his Professor Worth Gardner wrote the 1986 musical revue, “Sing Hallelujah!” that played across the country, including an off Broadway stint at the Village Gate that earned praise from The New York Times. Lawrence eventually returned to Charlotte and joined the music staff of Jim & Tammy Bakker’s PTL Club television program. However, word soon spread about his talent and was recruited as a vocal coach for En Vogue and eventually became music director for R&B star Stephanie Mills in the early nineties.
Mills’ manager signed Lawrence’s urban inspirational group, Company, to Giant Records and they released the Devotion CD in 1993. During that same period, Lawrence had been feeding his songs to the Tri-City Singers (comprised of singers from the Carolina cities of Charlotte, Gastonia and Spartanburg) through his pal Richard Odom, who was a member of Company and also of the choir. The choir’s members enjoyed the songs so much that Lawrence was eventually asked to shepherd the group. Their debut CD, A Songwriter’s Point of View was released on Gospcentric Records. Fueled by cameo performances with R&B crooner Peabo Bryson and Stephanie Mills, the album peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart.
With the success of the CD, the choir’s national career was launched and as its mastermind, Donald Lawrence was in the spotlight. Adorned in Afro-centric garb, the choir stood out among gospel choirs visually and Lawrence’s unique blend of Hip Hop and other dynamic rhythms made their gospel music equally inimitable. Over the next dozen years, Lawrence took the choir to new heights with signatures hits such as “When Sunday Comes,” “Message To The Saints,” “Never Seen The Righteous” and “The Best Is Yet To Come.” Lawrence retired the group at the zenith of its popularity in 2006 with a sold-out cross-country concert tour and a smash hit Finale CD/DVD project that featured the two biggest hits of the choir’s existence with the #1 hits “Encourage Yourself” and “The Blessing of Abraham.”
As Lawrence’s stature as a producer increased, came the demands to collaborate with artists as diverse as Mary J. Blige, jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Choir (cutting his #1 smash “Souled Out”) and the legendary Clark Sisters on their Grammy Award winning comeback CD, Live: One Last Time. However, he also set time aside to carve out a career as a solo artist with backing by his group, Co. His 2004 solo CD debut I Speak Life featured the radio hits “You Covered Me” and the rousing anthem, “Healed.”
Since 2001, Lawrence has lived in Chicago, IL where he ventured to in pursuit of a master’s degree at Columbia College. The fine arts institution ended up offering him a faculty position where he has intermittently instructed students on the business of music. He visited the Living Word Christian Center where he fell in love with Pastor Bill Winston’s common sense teachings. That wisdom inspired Lawrence’s second solo CD, The Law of Confession Part 1, that was released in 2009. “A law is simply a principle, based on the predictable consequence of an act,” Lawrence said at the time. “Confession in the Greek language is homo-logeo which means to say what has been said. There is a spiritual law for confession: you just say what God has already said...`Speak The Word.’” Evangelists all over the country preached sermons based on the musical messages found in the CD. The initial radio single “Back II Eden” shot to #1 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart and paved the way for follow-up singles “Let The Word Do The Work” and “There Is A King In You.”
The music industry has taken note of Lawrence’s majestic career and Verizon Wireless tapped him as its spokesman for its How Sweet The Sound (HSTS) national gospel choir talent competition in 2007. He has served as the face of the promotion in national television commercials, print advertising and as emcee of the actual events ever since. He also spent a year as music director for BET’s “Sunday Best” television talent competition and coordinated the Gospel Music Channel’s . It’s all a part of Lawrence’s future goals of expanding his career into television, film and more musical theatre. In the meantime, he’s busy prepping to unveil the YRM (Your Righteous Mind) CD, which is a continuum of what he’s been preaching through music for years. “This project really doesn't differ from my past ones,” he says. “I want to continue to teach, through song, spiritual principles and laws based on scriptures.”
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