How Excellent: A Look at the Underrated Career of Gospel Singer Lecresia Campbell
HiFi gives a quick glimpse of the late underrated gospel singer, Lecresia Campbell
Lecresia Campbell, a native of Chicago, rose to prominence in the black gospel music genre as the rousing soprano powerhouse ready to turn a power ballad into a church staple. And with her songbird acumen and always prepared and willing to deliver in-the-moment ad-libs, the robust vocalist never ceased to astonish listeners.
That voice was silenced on September 29 when the singer succumbed at the age of 53 after a long bout of health ailments while recovering from a massive stroke. According to her publicist, she died of pulmonary embolism.
Since breaking out as a guest vocalist on Walt Whitman & the Soul Children of Chicago’s breakout gospel gem, “Perfect Praise,” Campbell remained in high-demand as a special guest vocalist on other artist projects. She managed to record two independent albums as a solo act (1988’s Draw Me Nearer, 1998’s Even Me), her first being a Stellar Award nominee, but Campbell mostly focused on a career as an itinerant psalmist and seemed more focused making appearances on other albums.
She’s sung with a wide range of choirs (Mississippi Mass Choir, Youthful Praise, Chicago Mass Choir, Cinque Cullar & the Tribe of Judah), but her finest work was heard on albums by the Wilmington Chester Mass Choir.
Founded by the late Ernest Davis, Jr., this North Carolina-Pennsylvania choir gave her a winning slot on the Carol Antrom-penned “Stand Still (Until His Will Is Clear).” The ballad, rich with soul, inspiration and scriptural assurance, became a popular classic on gospel radio and made significant movements in the community choir circuit. It prepared a way for more solos on golden compositions penned by Atrom like “God’s Mercy” and “The Change Will Come,” both power ballads all performed by the the Wilmington Chester Mass Choir. As the choir shuffled to find similar songwriters with Atrom’s style, Campbell remained a fixture on their albums. 1997’s “Isaiah 43 (Fear Not)” proved to be an excellent presentation, although not as memorable as “Stand Still” or “The Change Will Come.” Becky White, an alum songwriter on Wilmington Chester Mass Choir albums, presented “The Only One” on their 2001 album, Live in Concert, a track showing Campbell on one of her best offerings ever. A moving reprise allowed her to show off even more of her opera-esque skill and enough talent to put her in the big leagues of female gospel artists. She could have been a big star like Yolanda Adams. Unfortunately, as fate would render, she walked away from such opportunities.
Another performance deserving recognition is “Safety,” an offering first heard as a Gospel Music Workshop selection and later on the Gospel Today soundtrack selection. The latter, featuring Campbell’s vocal presence, conjured some of the glory from her best work, becoming one of her songbook fixtures.
Remarkable enough to note that Daryl Coley, also a fixture on Wilmington Chester Mass Choir hits, passed away earlier this year.