Originally posted on the Rev. Timothy Wright Online Memorial, April 29, 2009
Rev. Milton Biggham best described him during his introduction on the Grammy-nominated Been There, Done That project in 1995. It was probably the first time Rev. Timothy Wright was ever called on a publicly as the "Godfather of Gospel," but the description and momentous honor fit him perfectly. For over forty years, Rev. Wright had created a sound all together his own - chiseled into a mold designed after the Brooklyn sound along with the urban dynamics of George Clinton’s funk and the soulful, raw energies of James Cleveland’s gospel. With gospel forefathers Rev. Isaac Douglas, Bishop F.D. Washington and the legendary Institutional Radio Choir providing the soundtrack for his upbringing, Rev. Wright began his musical career by establishing the Timothy Wright Concert Choir in 1976. The move afforded Wright the opportunity to record for a host of music labels including Tomato and Atlanta International Records in the 1980s. By this time, Wright had already developed a strong following for his workshop-friendly and melodic-driven selections along with his exuberant passion during his moments of ministry.
Wright would go on to record several projects for AIR before his groundbreaking career move to Savoy in 1988. His Savoy debut, Who’s On the Lord’s Side, along with his Myrna Summers collaboration (We’re Going to Make It) exposed Wright’s craft and musical abilities to an even larger audience and also earned him his first Grammy nomination and a Stellar Award. The next set of albums felt as if Wright was on an international tour staged with mammoth live recordings. Using a footnote from the handbook of Rev. James Cleveland, Wright brought together some of the world’s best choirs and singers to join with him on his newborn compositions. From Cincinnati’s B/J Mass Choir on the Grammy-nominated Been There Done That album to the Chicago Interdenominational Mass Choir (I’m Glad About It) to the London Fellowship Choir (Live in London) who also shared the stage with gospel luminaries Bruce Parham and LaShun Pace, Rev. Wright was sure to make an impact on the world by using some of the best trained and unexposed emerging groups to hit the gospel scene. But none of his past discoveries could match the greatness of his most prized achievement: the New York Fellowship Mass Choir.
After gaining inspiration in Indianapolis, Indiana after attending the 1993 Gospel Music Workshop of America, Rev. Wright sat down with Savoy Records’ president Rev. Milton Biggham to see if he could duplicate the same spirit of unity and brotherhood exemplified in 1,000+ voice choir of the 25,000 member convention using the community and professional choirs of New York. The task was sure to be tedious, especially since the city of New York had not quite experienced a large conglomerate of singers in gospel music. But Rev. Wright made it all possible with his breathtaking 1994 Savoy recording Come Thou Almighty King. The album, recorded at featuring a stellar set of choirs and groups that included Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship (Crusade) Choir, Donnie McClurkin’s New York Restoration Choir, Albert Jamison’s Triboro Mass Choir, Robert Lowe’s Queens Community Choir, James Hall’s Worship and Praise and groups led by David Bratton, Eric McDaniel, Jae Nixon and Roger Hambrick. The spirit of unity floated like a butterfly through song selections like “Come Thou Almighty King,” the energetic “We Bless Your Name,” the heartfelt ballad “When We Reach That Wonderful Place” and David Bratton’s magnum opus “Revelations I.” What felt like a one-time event shocked the gospel community once again as the choir, larger than ever, united for a ten-year anniversary in 2004. This time, the album was flooding with superstar talent including Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson, Dottie Peoples, Hezekiah Walker, Valerie Boyd, James Hall, Kervy Brown, Danny Eason and Maurette Brown-Clark. The choir was even featured on Wright’s last two recordings: Let’s Celebrate (He Is Risen) and Jesus Jesus Jesus.
The song "Who's On the Lord's Side" also remains a benchmark in Rev. Wright's forty-year music career. In 1992, it was covered by CCM rock band Petra on their Grammy-award winning and best-selling Unseen Power album. R&B/soul legend Patti LaBelle also revived the song twice: on her PBS' Going Home to Gospel special in 1991 and on her MCA live recording, Live! One Night Only in 1998.
While traveling home after a church convention in July 2008, tragedy struck when Rev. Wright was involved in a fatal car accident caused by a drunk wrong-way driver. The accident silenced the lives of his wife, Betty, and his 14-year old grandson, D.J. Wright was injured and survived the devastating wreck. Rumors of his death began to plague the message boards, but were quickly diminished when Wright began the fight of his life while going through a number of surgeries and entering rehabilitation at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. Due to failing health caused by the accident’s injuries, Rev. Wright, the beloved gospel singer, pastor and songwriter, succumbed to this life on April 23, 2009. He was 61.
On Episode 15 of FOX's hit police drama New York Undercover (aired Jan. 19,1995), Rev. Timothy Wright and members of the New York Fellowship Mass Choir made a guest appearance on singing "Trouble Don't Last Always."
Rev. Wright was nominated twice for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album at the Grammys for Come Thou Almighty King and Been There Done That.
He served as pastor of the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center COGIC in Brooklyn, NY until the car crash on July 4, 2009.
On May 5, 2009, Malaco Records, who also currently owns the masters to the AIR Gospel catalog, plans to release a double-disc compilation, The Godfather of Gospel, containing eighteen tracks in all from Rev. Wright's career. Hit songs will include "Come Thou Almighty King," "Been There Done That," "Trouble Don't Last Always," "For the Rest Of My Life," "Who's On the Lord's Side" and "We're Going to Make It."
Memorial and funeral services for Rev. Wright are as follows:
Sat. May 2nd, 12-8pm & Sun. May 3rd, 1-5pm
Grace Tabernacle 1745 Pacific Street
Brooklyn NY 11213
Sun May 3rd, 7pm
Brooklyn NY 11221
Bishop Albert Jamison, pastor
HOME GOING SERVICE
Monday, May 4, 2009 at 10AM
Brooklyn NY 11221
Bishop Roy E. Brown, Pastor
[WRIGHT OF PASSAGE]
Timothy Wright Online Memorial [PRAYZEHYMNOnline.com]
Rev. Timothy Wright on MySpace [MySpace]
CD Pre-Order: The Godfather of Gospel [Malaco Records]
Church mourns 'music minister' Rev. Timothy Wright [Daily News Brooklyn]