09/18/11 — Gospel singer explores faith, life's challenges in new book

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Gospel singer explores faith, life's challenges in new book

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 18, 2011 1:50 AM

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Janice Brown

Dr. Janice Brown has seen some trouble in her lifetime.

Married young and having two children soon after, she caught her husband cheating. She tells of being hit in the mouth, having her two front teeth "knocked in" and being struck in the stomach, causing a cancerous bruise.

Seven years after graduating from high school, divorced with three children, she got a degree from a community college and became the only black secretary at an insurance company home office. She encountered racial discrimination and the company folded, but not before she was compensated, thanks to good legal representation.

Around that time, her gospel music singing career took off and went global. By the 1980s, she had released nine albums -- one nominated for a Grammy award -- performed at Ronald Reagan's first inaugural ball and traveled around the world performing.

In 1983, her song "Rough Side of the Mountain" went gold, but by that time there were problems within the group that performed with her and the record company withheld royalties.

Her singing partnership disbanded and the Rocky Mount native settled in Goldsboro in 1991, traveling each weekend to pastor St. Mary United Holy Church in the Jones County town of Comfort.

After nearly a 20-year absence from the music, she was discovered by Monte Stephens, a former gospel music radio station owner in Tennessee who owned some of her earlier recordings and decided to look her up.

She later discovered that the Internet had her listed as "dead," she said. But Stephens was persistent, tracked her down and invited her to record an album with him. The partnership led to the CD "Alive and Well," nominated for a Grammy award last year.

The duo continue to work together, both musically and in evangelism, and in May 2010, they became husband and wife.

She recently released a book of some of her messages and sermons through the years -- "His Word for Troubled Times."

The title, she said, seemed appropriate given her own life and things she is seeing in the world.

"I feel good about it, now that it's out, and I feel like I said in my testimony, I wanted to be one that can help heal the heart of people that are going through a whole lot," she said. "It's not glamour. It's a process. But in every message that the Lord gave me, it came out of something I was going through."

Like "Strength for the Struggle," one entry that describes going through temptations and remaining humble and close to God.

"Even though we are struggling, we have to depend on God to help us and to give us that strength as we struggle," she said.

"A Call for Wailing Women," she said, came from having to deal with some of the oppressive men in ministry she encountered in her own journey.

"Women have a heart for people, that compassion," she said. "I want to help heal."

The past few months have been spent getting the book ready for release and dealing with the aftermath of her husband's heart attack.

And while they are enjoying the evangelistic part of their collaboration, they plan to continue to work together musically.

"This year we didn't have a chance to get back in the studio -- I also want to do a solo album for her, to go with the book," he said.

They are also still members of the Recording Academy, which produces the Grammy Awards. Even though they had nothing new to submit for consideration this year, another possibility opened up, as the academy allowed individual tracks to be nominated.

"We have got three songs that we submitted (from 'Alive & Well') -- 'Getting Ready to Leave' for R&B, 'Give Me Voice' for gospel song of the year and 'Stand by Me' for gospel performance of the year," he said.

Voting for that will be in December.

For more information on the book or CD or to order a copy, visit www.ebonyandivoryministries.com.