march 2011

BeBe and CeCe Winans: ‘I feel like my first curtain call has happened, and this is part of it,’ says BeBe of he and his sister’s farewell tour.

BeBe & CeCe Put An 'Amen' To It. Or Do They?

Siblings and gospel giants together, BeBe and CeCe Winans are putting an "Amen" to BeBe & CeCe. Following a week of shows that started April 1 in Detroit (their first hometown appearance in 15 years) and wound up at New York's Madison Square Garden, the duo is going out on a high note.

"I feel like my first curtain call has happened, and this is part of it," the 48-year-old BeBe told Detroit Free Press writer Brian McCollum. "Time really does pass by fast. Most people retire after about 25 years, and I'm at that age where it's time to retire BeBe & CeCe as we know it."

"We're getting older, and there are other things we want to do beyond music," says 46-year-old CeCe, who has maintained a successful solo career, founded the annual "Always Sisters Forever Brothers" youth conference, and aims to launch a clothing line in 2012. "Will BeBe and CeCe do other stuff together? I'm sure we will. But is it something we're going to drive and try to work? Not anymore."

Keeping alive the notion of more BeBe & CeCe projects has become a habit. The Detroit duo--whose polished R&B sound helped transform the gospel genre in the '80s and '90s--has already spent the past decade on and off the scene, reconvening in 2009 for the Grammy-winning album Still.

BeBe & CeCe Winans, ‘Close To You,’ from the 2009 album, Still.

The most famous of the Winans family singers--the seventh and eighth of 10 siblings--BeBe and CeCe left Detroit for Charlotte, N.C., in their late teens, quickly becoming two of the most popular faces on The PTL Club televangelism show before landing their own Nashville record contract in 1987.

The success was immediate and vast: With their warm rapport, bright stage presence and spiritual songs that unapologetically tapped modern R&B aesthetics, the duo spent the next eight years scoring crossover hits, playing for heads of state and racking up industry awards at a groundbreaking pace.

Their pioneering sound, honed with producer Keith Thomas, pointed the way forward for a new brand of gospel music, setting the stage for urban-gospel crossover stars like Kirk Franklin, Trin-I-Tee 5:7 and the sister duo Mary Mary.

"When people tell us that, you look back and think, 'Well, maybe we did,' " says CeCe. "But it's not something you dwell on, because you realize other people paved the path for you too. If it's true, then praise God, because I know without people like my brothers and Andrae Crouch, there was no way for us to do what we did. When you're out there, you're not really trying to be a trailblazer. You're just doing your music and hoping the world wants to hear it."

BeBe & CeCe Winans, ‘Grace,’ from the duo’s 2009 album, Still. An electrifying live performance. ‘That is singin’, honey!’ shouts the host.

BeBe & CeCe's legacy will be cemented Oct. 19 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- a moment that BeBe knows will be both proud and humbling.

"That's where you just sit back and start to laugh," he says. "To come all the way from Detroit to a star in Hollywood, it signifies that, wow, you really did do something with the little bit you have. Those are things that cause you to reflect, to say, 'I guess I really did contribute something.' "

But for songwriter BeBe, it's the one-on-one influence, via enduring hits such as "Heaven" and "For Always," that resonates most.

"If people are reflections of what we've done through the years, then the fan letters telling us how the music changed people's minds, how it helped them start believing in life, that instead of falling they got back up -- to me those are the real indicators about the effect our music has had on society," he says.

While he spent most of March rehearsing the BeBe & CeCe concert set--"the old, the new, the lyrics we'll forget," he says with a laugh--BeBe was also been putting final touches on the script for Through My Eyes, a stage show that will chronicle his family's eclectic musical story. Casting will begin this month, and he says a Detroit premiere may be on tap later this year.

BeBe and CeCe Winans: ‘There's nothing like family--nothing at all,’ says BeBe, ‘and that's something people fell in love with.’

The writing has given BeBe a chance to reminisce on a blessed life. It's also let him reflect on the magic in the duo's music.

"You start with the songs, and our songwriting has been vulnerable, a mirror of everyday life, whether you believed in God or didn't," he says. "We wrote about things people can identity with, and that alone set us apart from others, even those who could sing better than us.

"With BeBe & CeCe, we kept that chemistry through all our albums. There's nothing like family--nothing at all. And that's something people fell in love with."

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