Karen Clark Sheard
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Karen Clark Sheard
|Birth name||Karen Valencia Clark|
|Born||November 15, 1960|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Karen Valencia Clark–Sheard (born November 15, 1960) is an American Grammy Award-winning gospel singer, musician, and songwriter. Clark–Sheard is best known as the youngest member of the American gospel group The Clark Sisters. Clark–Sheard is the mother of contemporary gospel singer and actress Kierra "Kiki" Sheard.
During the hiatus of the Clark Sisters, Clark–Sheard rose to fame after she recorded her critically acclaimed and much anticipated solo album Finally Karen, which spawned her hit, "Balm in Gilead" (a re-recording of a song she originally recorded as part of The Clark Sisters back in the 1980s for their Heart & Soul album) the R&B-flavored "Just For Me" and "Nothing Without You" – a contemporary duet with R&B diva Faith Evans. Finally Karen became one of the most successful gospel albums of 1998 earning Sheard a Grammy nomination and earning her a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for "Best Female Vocalist"
After her debut album success and much touring, Clark–Sheard was hospitalized in 2001 after one of her blood vessels burst during a minor surgery, resulting in doctors giving her a 2% chance of survival. Her testimony inspired the title name for her long-awaited sophomore project, 2nd Chance released in 2002, featuring a "Secret Place" – which is now considered a classic amongst fans. Clark–Sheard recorded two more live albums, including The Heavens Are Telling and It's Not Over (which featured some studio recordings), before releasing All in One, Clark–Sheard's first all-studio-recorded album in 13 years. The album debuted at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Chart and #98 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart, while its first single "Prayed Up" has so far peaked at #10 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Songs chart.
Early life and education
Clark–Sheard was born Karen Valencia Clark on November 15, 1960 in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest child of Reverend Elbert Clark and Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, a pioneering gospel choral director. The youngest of six children, Clark–Sheard's siblings are Leo, Jacky, Denise, Elbernita "Twinkie" and Dorinda. Clark–Sheard began singing gospel with her sisters at age 6 in what became known as The Clark Sisters. For high school, Clark-Sheard attended Mumford High School in Detroit, Michigan; graduating in 1979.
The Clark Sisters
Clark–Sheard's involvement in the Island Inspirational All Stars' "Don't Give Up" in 1996 (along with Donald Lawrence, Hezekiah Walker, and Kirk Franklin) led to her signing with Island Records. Clark–Sheard's solo career began with the release of her debut album Finally Karen in 1997. The album, consisting of half studio recordings and half live recordings, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 1998, won Clark-Sheard the Lady of Soul award for Best Gospel Album that same year and peaked at #28 and #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums charts respectively.
A Second Chance
After Yolanda Adams, Clark-Sheard became the 2nd gospel artist to sign to Elektra Records. She released her Elektra debut album 2nd Chance in 2002 (so named because of the "second chance" she was given by God after her near-death experience – which is referenced in her daughter Kierra's song "You Don't Know"). The album was led off by the single "Be Sure" and though Clark–Sheard was in excellent form vocally, the slick, progressive sound of the disc was not received well in the gospel community. However, the album still performed well commercially and critically reaching #82 on the U.S. Billboard 200, #27 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (her highest chartings on those charts to date) and #2 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums.
The Heavens Are Telling
The 2003 followup The Heavens Are Telling fared well, but came at an awkward time when Elektra Records was being dissolved into Atlantic Records and so failed to match the commercial success of Clark-Sheard's previous albums, peaking a whole 106 places below 2nd Chance at #188 on the U.S. Billboard 200 – though it managed to reach a respectable #44 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, a high #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums chart and was her first album to chart on the U.S. Billboard Christian Albums chart, where it peaked at #11.
It's Not Over
In 2005, after a bidding war with several labels, Clark-Sheard finally signed with Word Records and issued It's Not Over, (Originally titled Finally Karen Returns), the sequel to her 1997 debut album Finally Karen was set to be released November 15, 2005, Clark-Sheard's 45th birthday, but was delayed and released the following year. Most of It's Not Over was recorded live in 2005 at Karen's home church in Detroit, Michigan while the last three tracks were studio-recorded.
It was Clark-Sheard's first solo album not to feature guest vocals from her daughter (Kierra Sheard) and was the first to include production from Israel Houghton – who handled the majority of the project. Despite having a much grander sound than her previous albums, it was another critical success for Karen and charted modestly at #124 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and #4 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. As the songwriter, on February 10, 2008, Clark-Sheard won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Song for "Blessed & Highly Favored" sung by The Clark Sisters.
Karew Records, 5th album and present
In early 2009, Clark-Sheard and her husband, J.Drew Sheard partnered together and launched a new record label entitled Karew Records (Karew being a combination of both their forenames: Karen & Drew, pronounced: Kuh-rue); Distribution is via EMI Gospel. The Clark Sisters' Christmas album – which was released in October 2009 – was the first project to be released from Karew Records.
On January 31, 2010, Clark-Sheard won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance for Wait on the Lord which she was featured with Donnie McClurkin. On April 6, 2010, Clark-Sheard released her fifth album (and first on her newly founded own record label – Karew Records) titled All in One, which features additional vocals from her daughter Kierra Sheard, son J. Drew Sheard II, sister Dorinda Clark Cole, niece Angel Chisholm and cousin J. Moss. Though her first all-studio-recorded album since her 2002 release 2nd Chance, All in One managed to debut and peak at #98 on the U.S. Billboard 200 (her second highest charting on that chart to date) and #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums chart, while the album's lead single – "Prayed Up" – peaked at #9 and stayed over 22 weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart. Clark-Sheard released her latest single "Sunday A.M" in 2014, which is nominated for the Best Gospel Song in the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.
Marriage and family
Clark-Sheard has been married once and has two children. On June 16, 1984, Clark-Sheard married Bishop J. Drew Sheard, a Detroit-based minister. Her husband is senior pastor of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ in Detroit. Together they have two children: Kierra "Kiki" Sheard (1987) and John Drew "J. Drew" Sheard II (1989). Kiki is also a gospel recording artist, with four albums, plus various projects to her credit. J. Drew is a young, up-and-coming musician and producer. He has a son named Jacob Dillon Sheard and daughter named Kali Drew Sheard.
In 2001, Clark-Sheard was faced with a life-threatening crisis when a blood vessel burst during a scheduled hernia surgery. Her doctors only gave her a 2% chance of survival due to her complications. After the blood clot was surgically removed, Clark-Sheard fell into a coma. The coma lasted three and a half weeks, but Clark-Sheard says she made a miraculous recovery.
Tours and concerts
- (1989) The Clark Sisters: Bringing It Back Home
- (1997) Finally Karen
- (2007-2008) The Clark Sisters: Live One Last Time Tour
- (2016-2017) Festival Of Praise
- (2016-2017) McDonald's Celebration of Gospel
- 2009 " Stellar Awards" (Donnie McClurkin)
- 2010 Blessed & Cursed (movie)
- 2010 "BET Awards"(All Star)
- 2010 " Trumpet Awards" (The Clark Sisters)
- 2011 "Stellar Awards" ( Kirk Franklin tribute)
- 2011–2012 Church Girl (stage play)
- 2012 For Richer or Poorer' (stage play)
- 2012 "BMI Urban Music Awards" (Mariah Carey tribute)
- 2013 "The Sheards"
- 2013 "BET Celebration of Gospel"
- 2014 "The BET Honors"
- 2017 "Xscape: Still Kickin It" (Xscape Rocks the Stage, Episode 4)
- 2011: The Ultimate Collection – compilation
- Nov. 1997: Finally Karen
- Jan. 2002: 2nd Chance
- Nov. 2003: The Heavens Are Telling
- Jan. 2006: It's Not Over
- Apr. 2010: All in One
- Jul. 2015: Destined to Win
- Clark-Sheard's Twitter
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2010-06-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Crazy Praise – Karen Clark Sheard". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2010.
- Jones, Steven. "An interview with Karen Clark Sheard". GospelFlava.com.
- "Karen Clark Sheard Biography".
- "Karen Clark Sheard". GospelCity.com. March 22, 2000. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. Retrieved December 12, 2006.
- "Award Nominations at The Envelope". Los Angeles Times.
- McIntyre, Donald; Kiel, Danna (August 1, 2002). "Karen Clark Sheard Gets '2nd Chance'". EURweb.com.
- "The Heavens Are Telling – Karen Clark Sheard". Billboard.com.
- "It's Not Over – Karen Clark Sheard". Billboard.com.
- Taylor, LaTonya (February 20, 2006). "Back From The Dead". Christianity Today.
- Gospel City Interview Archived 2005-03-07 at the Wayback Machine
- Christian Music Planet