When the multi Grammy Award winning gospel group, The Clark Sisters, performed at the Dell Entertainment Center on Aug. 2, The Tribune went backstage for an exclusive interview with Karen Clark-Sheard, the youngest sibling of the group.
“Philly is like our second home, we’re always excited about coming here, because Philly give us so much love,” said Clark-Sheard.
Clark-Sheard said when she and her sisters take the stage, the fans in Philly, “Ignite the fire and give us so much support and love. Most of all we’re here to see a life changing experience take place through what God has given us,” [the ability to exalt Jesus through the gift of singing.]
The Clark Sisters include Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark-Terrell, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Clark Sheard. The four women are the daughters of the late great gospel musician and choral director Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark. Moss-Clark, twice divorced, raised her children in their hometown of Detroit. Moss-Clark is credited for creating the three-part harmony performance — the separation of vocal parts into soprano, alto and tenor — a technique that has become quite chic among many gospel choirs and groups today.
“It’s just very, very exciting to be here. I don’t know if I’m more excited about having the opportunity to minister, or if I’m going to run into [The Clark Sisters] back here,” said Rev. Alyn Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, one of the local headlining gospel performers for the Philly concert.
The Clark Sisters are famous for their unique vocals, incorporating a sophisticated soulful blend of harmonies and riffs, each contributing a distinctive harmonious sound. Twinkie is commonly considered the leader of the Clark Sisters. She has served as the group’s chief songwriter, music and vocal arranger, and producer.
One of the many gospel music artists that Clark-Sheard admits that she listens to is Maurette Brown, a New York native and singer of the gospel hit “It Ain’t Over.”
“Maurette is so anointed,” said Clark-Sheard. “Actually, I’ve been following Maurette Brown before she became really big. She’s an anointed writer, so, I give her much respect.”
Among the many artists she enjoys listening to, Clark-Sheard loves Mary Mary, Donald Lawrence, and her cousin James Moss (aka, J. Moss), a famous gospel singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and producer.
“My cousin J. Moss, he’s exciting,” she said. “He’s my blood. We know each other and so we come together and gel together. He writes and produces my records — it’s like a ball of excitement.”
Clark-Sheard is the mother of two extremely talented children, Kierra “Kikki” Sheard (25), who is also a famous gospel artist, and John Drew Sheard II (23), a young musician and music producer. Kiki has four albums. Clark-Sheard is married to Bishop John Drew Sheard of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, in Detroit.
In 2001, Clark-Sheard had a near death experience resulting from a blood vessel that burst during her hernia surgery; she fell into a coma that lasted for several weeks. Her doctors only gave her a 2 percent chance of survival. This tribulation gave birth to her hit album “Second Chance.”
Conquering the music world with multiple Grammys, as a solo artist and as a member of The Clark Sisters, Clark-Sheard said that more is in store for the expansion of her artistic expression, “God, He is just an amazing God … maybe you’ll see me in movies,” she said.
Clark-Sheard added that she would use that for ministry. A film crew was taping Clark-Sheard behind stage for a possible TV pilot.
Clark-Sheard confirmed a Hollywood rumor that a bio-pic about Aretha Franklin’s life is being planned.
“Well, it’s in the making, I don’t think I’ll be playing her role, but I was asked by Aretha to be a part of a role she played in a gospel group before she went secular,” she said.
Franklin, who also lives in Detroit, and the Clark Sisters are close. The sisters are annually invited to perform at Franklin’s father’s church for a Christmas holiday fellowship.