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30 Years of 'Bring It To Jesus': The New Life Singers Reunion
For the first time since 1996, the women of New Life came together in live performance.
More than thirty years ago one Sunday morning, I flipped the television as I was getting ready for church and tune into Bobby Jones Gospel. I saw five women on the stage, absolutely destroying an auditorium. The audience was absolutely ecstatic. People were shouting, crying, rejoicing, travailing like we did in church. But it was on TV!
In 1989, Bobby Jones’ New Life began to transform. Two of his singers, Johnny Whittaker and Robin Johnson, had left and were replaced by Nuana Dunlap and, in 1990, Beverly Crawford. They joined Emily Harris, Francine Belcher (now Smith) and Angela Primm to create one of the most memorable female ensembles since The Caravans. Under the musical direction of Derrick Lee, they became icons for anyone who was tuning into gospel music on television on Sunday mornings. Their harmony was intricate, but loose. Precise, but still loaded with emotion.
The band, which consisted of Lee, Ralph Lofton, Micah Mabson, Anthony Williams and Terry Baker, worked in a symbiosis with the vocalists, energizing and reimagining familiar songs with refreshed rhythm and vocal arrangements. Audiences at Dr. Jones’ Explosions fell in love with this particular incarnation of New Life in a unique way, with Crawford and Dunlap becoming forefront personalities who evangelized and sang.
In 1993, they were formally introduced on record via Tyscot Records’ release Bobby Jones PRESENTS New Life: Bring It To Jesus. Recorded live at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the album showcases the versatility of the group and their mastery of traditional gospel, contemporary Christian, urban contemporary and inspirational sounds.
Since the group dissolved in 1996, fans have been anticipating a reunion. They came together for Emily Harris’ funeral in 2011 and, again, in 2022 for Angela Primm’s Live at Daywind Studios, but not performed in concert together until this week at Yes Lord Radio’s Gospel Showcase for the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Week.
Kyla Jade and I conceived the idea of celebrating the album’s 30th anniversary earlier this year, wanting to acknowledge the importance of both the album and the group. Howard Young’s Yes Lord Radio gave us the opportunity. Kyla Jade was the musical director and producer, showcasing five of the album’s greatest moments. Thank you to Beverly Crawford, Nuana Dunlap, Angela Primm, Francine Smith, and Gale Mayes, who stood in Emily Harris’ stead, for saying yes.
One of God’s Music Is My Life’s other friends, Bob Bailey, who wrote the album’s title song, came and talked about writing the album’s title track, “Bring It To Jesus,” which had been a CCM hit for Cynthia Clawson in 1986, and joined New Life in singing the song. A historic moment!
To watch the performance, here you go!