Not even a global pandemic could diminish the powerful spirit of praise, worship and celebration during the historic virtual broadcast of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards Sunday night on BET and BET Her. Led by hosts Kirk Franklin, Jonathan McReynolds, and Koryn Hawthorne, the 35th Anniversary Stellar Gospel Music Awards awarded trophies in 28 categories for the year’s best performances in the genre — including six statues presented to the night’s big winner, host and Gospel icon Kirk Franklin.
From the first moments featuring welcome remarks by Stellar Awards Founder and Executive Producer Don Jackson and powerful show open by Tye Tribbett of his uplifting anthem “We Gon’ Be Alright,” through the final credit roll, the “Greatest Night in Gospel Music” lived up to its claim to fame. Virtually bringing together the nation’s Gospel community to offer hope and inspiration during these turbulent times, among the evening’s highlights are a moving tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis by CeCe Winans, who performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and special recognition to COVID-19 first responder heroes.
Franklin’s work on Long Live Love earned him five Stellar Awards for Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, Producer of the Year, Contemporary Male Vocalist of the Year, and Contemporary Album of the Year. Franklin earned an additional Song of the Year trophy for his work on “Love Theory.” Gospel great Donald Lawrence presents the Tri-City Singers received four Stellar Awards for work on the Goshen project including Choir of the Year and Contemporary Choir of the Year, as well as Song of the Year and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year for “Deliver Me (This is My Exodus).” Gospel legend John P. Kee’s I Made It Out delivered three Stellar Awards for Traditional Male Vocalist, Traditional Album of the Year and Traditional Choir of the Year.
Singer/songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard garnered two trophies for Artist of the Year and Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year for her project Heart, Passion, Pursuit, while Le’Andria Johnson earned two for her work on Donald Lawrence‘s project, Goshen in the categories Albertina Walker Female Vocalist of the Year Award and the Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year. The Walls Group received two statues for Duo Group of the Year and Contemporary Duo Group of the Year for their album Friend in Me, along with newcomer Pastor Mike Jr. who took home a pair of Stellar Awards for New Artist of the Year and Rap/Hip Hop Gospel Album of the Year for his work on Live Free. Kurt Carr received two Stellar awards, one as an artist (Traditional Duo/Chorus Group of the Year) and another for Recorded Music Packaging of the Year for the Bless Somebody Else project.
Rounding out the night with one Stellar Award each were JJ Hairston (Praise and Worship Album of the Year), Ben Tankard (Instrumental Album of the Year), Gospel Kids (Youth Project of the Year), Keith Wonderboy Johnson (Quartet of the Year) and Greenleaf; Season 3 (Special Event Album of the Year).
Performers raised the bar with awe-inspiring renditions of their work calling attention to social justice and other challenges facing our society. Breathtaking and visually-stunning performances were delivered by Tamela Mann, Anthony Brown, James Fortune, Koryn Hawthorne, J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise, Jonathan McReynolds, Travis Greene, Kierra Sheard, Marvin Sapp, Tye Tribbett, Tauren Wells, Zacardi Cortez, Pastor Mike Jr, DOE, and Rich Tolbert Jr. Emerging artists making their Stellar Awards debut, Group Fire, Keyla Richardson, Melvin Crispell III, and Titus Showers joined a rich legacy of 35 years of excellence in Gospel music.
The show’s hosts visited first responder heroes on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic in Dallas, Nashville and Chicago, expressing gratitude for their sacrifice and bestowing commemorative Stellar Awards lapel pins in honor of their service. In addition, several healthcare professionals and civic organizations were highlighted for their efforts to combat the deadly pandemic.
To relive all of the highlights, viewers can watch the Stellar Awards in national broadcast syndication in 210 markets starting August 29 – September 27 (check local listings). Follow @thestellars for the latest news and updates about the greatest night in Gospel music.