Many liken BMI’s Trailblazers Awards to Clive Davis’ infamous pre-Grammy dinner and rightfully so, as the annual luncheon held the Friday before the Stellar Awards in Nashville, Tenn., is the weekend’s hardest ticket to land.
Each year, the U.S. music rights organization recognizes gospel luminaries who have made an indelible mark on the music industry.
This year, Del Bryant, Catherine Brewton, Wardell Malloy and the BMI team selected Shirley Caesar and Commissioned as their honorees.
The soiree always kicks off with BMI’s recognition of the publishing company’s most performed gospel song of the year. BeBe & CeCe’s ‘Close to You’ earned the honor this year and the Winans duo was on hand to perform the tune.
“Wow, I had no idea,” BeBe said after receiving the trophy, before adding: “And I was thinking about ASCAP.”
The audience gasped and then the room buzzed with uncomfortable laughter. Apparently BeBe was joking.
Last year’s honoree Donnie McClurkin hosted the Caesar portion of the celebration.
The tribute to the former Caravans member kicked off with singer Arnetta Murrill-Crooms of The Murrill’s interpretation of Caesar’s sermonic selection ‘Hold My Mule.’
Lucinda Moore followed and delivered a strong rendition of Caesar’s ‘Armor of God.’ McClurkin joined in on a reprise of the song and shared in a powerful tag team duet with Moore.
Powerhouse Beverly Crawford shook the room with a soaring version of ‘Sweeping through the City,’ a tune she may want to consider recording on her next CD.
Vocal phenom Kim Burrell dazzled the room with her contemporary conveyance of Caesar’s ‘No Charge’ and ‘Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name.’
R&B star Ledisi concluded the tribute with a dynamically delivered rendition of ‘You’re Next in Line for a Miracle.’
“Gospel music is the greatest music in the world! I wish my momma and my sisters and brothers were here to hear all these crazy singers sing my songs,” Caesar laughed while giving remarks. “I don’t know if I want to sing my own songs after this. Y’all shouldn’t come in here and sing people’s songs better than they do.”
Burrell then took over as host for the Commissioned part of the salute.
Kicking off the tribute was the brother duo Dawkins & Dawkins, who performed the group’s song ‘Ordinary Just Won’t Do.’
Men of Standard reunited for the occasion. Bryan Pierce, Isaac Carree and Lowell Pye wowed the room with Commissioned favorite, ‘Running Back to You.’
Deitrick Haddon was joined by one-time Commissioned fill-in member Parkes Stewart to perform the group’s song ‘Tis So Sweet.’
The Clark Sisters were stellar as Twinkie Clark growled and hit high notes on ‘I’m Going On.’
New-school quartet Soul Seekers were joined by one-time Commissioned memberMarvin Sapp to perform the group’s hit, ‘King of Glory.’
Fred Hammond, the leader of Commissioned, gave a heartfelt and emotional speech that spoke about the highs and lows of being young men seeking God while trying to find themselves as men.
“It’s been 21 years since we’ve all been in the same room at the same time,” he shared. “But we all came together and sang in this group for one reason, it was because Jesus is Lord!”
Commissioned — with all of its members, original and replacement — then united on stage to deliver a one-time only performance of their song ‘Victory.’
“If you all decided to do another reunion, I would be the first in line,” Burrell told the group.
An all-star group of singers under the direction of Donald Lawrence and Dewayne Woods sang throughout the ceremony, while sought-after musician Joe “Flip” Wilsonoversaw the band.
A who’s who of other talent attended the luncheon as well. Among thoseBlackVoices.com spotted included Kirk Franklin, Jessica Reedy, James Hall, The Williams Brothers, Tamela Mann, Jonathan Nelson, Lexi, Jason Nelson, actress Kim Fields, Byron Cage, Lisa Page Brooks, JJ Hairston, Kierra Sheard, Dr. Bobby Jones, Israel Houghton, Damita, Isaac Simpson,David Mann, Forever Jones, RiZen, Wes Morgan, Ted Win, John Mcclure, Brian Courtney Wilson, Zebulon Ellis, Melinda Watts, Vashawn Mitchell, Camille Betton, the group Christopher, James Fortune, Ernest Pugh, Justin Savage, Virtue, Mali Music, L. Spencer Smith and Trin-I-Tee 5:7.
The BMI Trailblazers Awards will air as a television special on the GMC on Feb. 14 at 7