Jennifer Holliday shares her gospel spirit

caines | 8/2/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Original "Dreamgirls: Once-forgotten diva adds gospel to her repertoire

It was five years ago when this writer first met the incomparable Jennifer Holliday the singer/actress best known for her role as Effie White in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. She was starring in a reprise of the show for which she had won a Tony Award and reminded her audience as she belted out her signature song, And I Am Telling You Im Not Going, that voices like hers only come around once in a lifetime. But after sitting on top of the world and taking the world by storm some 30 years ago, there was a time her life that Holliday found herself struggling to get the kind of roles she deserved, while also battling problems with her weight and bouts of depression. But she never gave up. Now shes added gospel music to her list of accomplishments with a brand new CD entitled, Goodness and Mercy. Its a project that features her still-amazing voice with the powerful sermons of her pastor, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior minister at Atlantas Ebenezer Baptist Church same pulpit in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once served. God gave me this vision for Pastor Warnock and myself for this collaboration to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a unique and creative way, she said. I believe the word of God is our greatest source of strength and hope in the darkest, most challenging times in our lives. Music speaks to our hearts and souls Warnock says that preaching should be relevant and immediately applicable to our lives. We hope to bridge some of the gaps that unnecessarily divide us among generational, denominational and racial boundaries, he said. With this CD project, we have hopefully done just a little to advance the notion that the Gospel is real and alive. Holliday adds that while she is best known for her work in the secular realm, that this latest project is a more personal reflection of how she has evolved. I am a Christian woman who works in a secular world this is a return to my gospel roots, she said. I started singing in a Baptist church choir and went from there directly to the Broadway stage. I wanted to do something that would encourage people to hang in there. Ive made it through some very hard times and I want others to know that they can make it too. Songs include classics like: His Eye is On the Sparrow and My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me. The CD was recorded live at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Hollidays own Euphonic Records label. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com