Kirk Dwayne Franklin (born January 26, 1970) is an American Gospel music singer and author, and is most notably known as the leader of urban contemporary gospel choirs such as The Family, God's Property and One Nation Crew (1NC).
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Franklin was raised by his great aunt Gertrude, having been abandoned as a baby by his mother. Gertrude collected and resold aluminum cans to raise money for Kirk to take piano lessons from the age of 4. Kirk excelled in music, able to read and write music by ear.
He received his first contract offer at the age of seven, which his aunt turned down. He joined the church choir and became music director of the Mt. Rose Baptist Church adult choir at the age of eleven.
Despite his strict religious upbringing, Franklin rebelled in his teenage years, and in an attempt to keep him out of trouble, his great aunt arranged an audition for him at a professional youth conservatory associated with a local university. He was accepted and, while his life seemed to be on track for a while, the announcement of a girlfriend's pregnancy and his eventual expulsion from school for behavioral problems proved otherwise.
After the shooting death of a friend, Franklin returned to the church, where he began to direct the choir once again. He also co-founded a gospel group, The Humble Hearts, which recorded one of Franklin's compositions and got the attention of gospel music legend Milton Bigham. Impressed, Bigham enlisted him to lead the DFW Mass Choir in a recording of Franklin's song "Every Day with Jesus." This led to Bigham hiring Franklin, just 20 years old at the time, to lead the choir at the 1990 Gospel Music Workshop of America Convention, a major industry gathering.
Kirk Franklin & The Family (1990s–2000)
In 1992, Franklin organized "The Family", which is a seventeen-voice choir, formed from neighborhood friends and associates. In 1992, Vicki Mack-Lataillade, the co-founder of fledgling record label GospoCentric, heard one of their demo tapes and was so impressed she immediately signed up Kirk & The Family to a recording contract.
In 1993, the group, now known as "Kirk Franklin & The Family," released their debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family. It spent almost two years on the Gospel music charts and charted on the R&B charts, eventually earning platinum sales status. It remained at #1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart for 42 weeks. It was the first gospel music album to sell over a million units.
Two years later, after releasing a 1994 Christmas album entitled Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas, the group released Whatcha Lookin' 4 in 1995. The album was certified 2x platinum and earned Franklin his first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.
1997 brought another album, a collaboration with the vocal ensemble God's Property, aptly named God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation. The lead single, "Stomp", featuring Cheryl "Salt" James (of Salt-N-Pepa), was a huge hit, enjoying heavy rotation on MTV and other music channels, and charting at #1 on the R&B Singles Airplay chart for 2 weeks, even making it in to the Top 40. God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation was #1 on the R&B Albums chart for 5 weeks, #3 on the Pop charts, and would go on to be certified 3x platinum. It also brought Franklin another Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, as well as three Grammy nominations.
On November 2, 1998, God's Property sued Franklin. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Franklin induced God's Property founder Linda Searight into signing an "onerous and one-sided" contract with B-Rite Music.
The Nu Nation Project was released in 1998. The first single, an interpretation of the Bill Withers song "Lean on Me" and produced by Franklin and pop producer Dan Shea, controversially featured several mainstream artists, including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Bono of U2. Together with Crystal Lewis, and the Family, "Lean On Me" and the second single "Revolution" (featuring Rodney Jerkins) were considerable hits, and the album contained a version of another Withers song "Gonna Be a Lovely Day". The Nu Nation Project went on to top the Billboard Contemporary Christian Albums chart for 23 weeks and the Billboard Gospel Albums chart for 49 weeks, and brought Franklin his third Grammy.
In, 2000, The Family filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit for royalties for their work on The Nu Nation Project against Franklin and GospoCentric Records. This saw the end of the "Kirk Franklin & The Family" records, as Kirk went on to become a solo artist, except for his CD Kirk Franklin presents 1NC, which he did in collaboration with 1NC, and was released that same year.
On January 16, 2010 at the 25th Annual Stellar Awards show taping, in Nashville, Tennessee, Kirk Franklin & The Family reunited briefly on stage to perform songs made popular by them in the 1990s.
Solo artist (2000–present)
In 2001, Franklin ventured into new territory, scoring and producing the soundtrack for the film Kingdom Come. The soundtrack featured gospel artists Mary Mary, Crystal Lewis, and 1NC, as well as secular artists Az Yet, Jill Scott, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men and others. A notable song from the soundtrack was "Thank You" (Kirk Franklin feat Mary Mary).
2002's The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin topped the Gospel Albums chart for 29 weeks, was #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and was certified Platinum. The album featured collaborations with Bishop T.D. Jakes, Shirley Caesar, Tobymac, Crystal Lewis, Jaci Velasquez, Papa San, Alvin Slaughter, and Yolanda Adams. This was Kirk's first major release not to garner him a Grammy Award.
On October 4, 2005, Hero was released in the United States. The album was certified Gold on December 2, 2005 and Platinum on December 14, 2006 by the Recording Industry Association of America. It made #1 on both the Billboard Top Christian and Top Gospel albums. The first single, "Looking for You", was a hit, as was the follow-up "Imagine Me", which made it onto the R&B Charts. In December 2006, Kirk Franklin won two 2007 Grammy Awards for Hero. Additionally, Hero was the 2007 Stellar Awards CD of the Year.
Kirk Franklin's 10th album, The Fight of My Life, was released in the United States on December 18, 2007. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at #33 with 74,000 copies sold in the first week. It reached #1 on both the Billboard Top Gospel and Top Christian albums charts, and also peaked at #7 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The first single, "Declaration (This is It)," was released on October 23, 2007 and peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. The album features guest appearances from Rance Allen, Isaac Carree, TobyMac, Da' T.R.U.T.H., Doug Williams, and Melvin Williams. The song "Jesus" was released as the album's second single in 2008 and was sent to Urban AC radio on July 15, 2008. In January 2010 after Haiti had a devastating earthquake, Kirk Franklin got an ensemble of gospel artists together to sing the song he wrote, called "Are You Listening". They included: Yolanda Adams, Jeremy Camp, Shirley Caesar, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Natalie Grant, Fred Hammond, Tamela Mann, David Mann, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Paul S. Morton, J. Moss, Smokie Norful, Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kierra Sheard, BeBe Winans, Cece Winans, and Marvin Winans.
Kirk is currently host and co-executive producer of the BET original series, "Sunday Best." It is reported that Kirk is working on a new album, due in Spring 2011.
On January 20, 1996, Franklin married long-time friend Tammy Collins. When they wed, they each had one child from previous relationships: Kirk's son Kerrion, born in 1988, and Tammy's daughter Carrington, born in 1989. As a couple, they have two children: Kennedy, born in 1997, and Caziah, born in 2000. In 2006, Franklin appeared with his wife on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." During the show, entitled "Famous Gospel Singer Admits His Addiction to Porn," he admitted to struggling with a porn addiction for many years. Kirk stated in the interview that he sought help through Christian counseling and finally became free of the addiction. As of the interview, he had been walking in sexual integrity for over seven years.
Wikipedia contributors. Kirk Franklin. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 25, 2011, 23:24 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kirk_Franklin&oldid=415947264. Accessed March 2, 2011.
GOSPEL LEGEND KIRK FRANKLIN’S CHART-TOPPING
HELLO FEAR CERTIFIED GOLD BY RIAA;
GARNERS TWO GRAMMY® AWARDS FOR
“BEST GOSPEL ALBUM” AND “BEST GOSPEL SONG”
Los Angeles, Calif. (February 16, 2012)—KIRK FRANKLIN and his chart-topping album HELLO FEAR just went certified Gold, as reported by RIAA. The announcement follows Franklin’s two GRAMMY® awards wins for Best Gospel Album (HELLO FEAR) and Best Gospel Song (“I Smile”) earlier this week at the 54th Annual GRAMMY® Awards celebration held on February 12 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The legendary gospel artist on Verity Gospel Music Group, with these two new trophies, now has nine career GRAMMY® awards. Franklin will also perform at this year’s live NBC Network NAACP Image award show this Friday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST -- in which he is nominated for two awards – Outstanding Song (“I Smile”) and Outstanding Gospel Album (HELLO FEAR).
Franklin’s HELLO FEAR debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel sales chart and #5 on the Billboard Top 200 when it was released last Spring, making the album the fourth highest Gospel debut in Soundscan history. In addition to his GRAMMY® wins and NAACP nominations, Franklin was also awarded four Stellar Awards for HELLO FEAR and “I Smile” -- Song of The Year, CD of the Year, Producer of the Year and Contemporary CD of the Year. Franklin performed “I Smile” on last year’s American Idol finale, and was #1 at Gospel radio for 23 weeks, hitting Urban AC radio at #1. Currently, Franklin stars as Baylor Sykes in the feature film Joyful Noise starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. He also hosts and executive produces gospel talent show "Sunday Best," the highest-rated gospel program in BET network history, now heading into its fifth season.
Kirk Franklin is the #1 selling Gospel artist of all time. For two decades, he has been a pioneer in gap-bridging musicianship, uniting gospel, hip hop, pop and R&B audiences. His rhythms have resulted in albums that have consistently topped Billboard's Gospel, Christian and R&B/Hip Hop charts. He is a New York Times best-selling author for “The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms (Gotham/Penguin). To date, Franklin has garnered nine GRAMMY® Awards, an American Music Award, 35 Stellar Awards, 14 Dove Awards (CCM), six NAACP Image Awards and two BET Awards.
Franklin was named GQ’s “Best Dressed Men” at this year’s GRAMMY® Awards.