*A Brooklyn street vendor is standing in 30 degree weather peddling Hip Hop mix tapes and DVDs from a six-foot table.
Encircled by a variety of CDs of Black motivational speakers and President-elect Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, there are some CDs bearing a guy on the cover wearing what resembles a zoot suit.
Referring to the music coming from his speakers the vendor hollers in a New York drawl, almost yawning the vowels: “Got that ‘Maaavin Saaapp!’”
Translation: “Marvin Sapp,” who is the Pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and noted gospel artist. He is the man smiling on the cover of the CD, the voice behind one of the most popular gospel recordings ever. A former member of Detroit-based gospel group Commissioned, the album “Thirsty” is Marvin Sapp’s 7th musical undertaking in his solo career. The song blasting through the speakers is “Never Would Have Made It,” the uber-popular lead single.
In 2008, Marvin Sapp was to music what President-Elect Barack Obama was to politics, a phenomenon. As one of the hottest musical commodities of 2008, the album sat high among the hodgepodge of selections at this make-shift record store, just as it engrossed spins at mainstream urban AC station, KJLH-FM to become the first gospel single to hold the #1 position.
That’s only the beginning of the impact “Never Would Have Made It” has had.
The record-breaking track spent over 40 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s gospel radio charts, successfully crossed-over to No. 1 on the urban adult contemporary chart, maintained the No. 1 position in Gospel radio for over 6 months, making it the longest number one song in the history of the Nielsen BDS Gospel Chart, plus the inspiring ballad became the longest running No. 1 single at radio across all genres in the history of Billboard analysis.
(Incidentally, many would argue that this was the top gospel recording of the year, but it never mentioned the words that some say define a song as a gospel song: “Jesus” or “God.“)
While its simple refrain, “never would have made it without you,” resonated deeply with everyday people who could feel the weight of a suffering economy, a dramatic election competition and a war that seems to have no end in sight, it also touched the hearts of famous rappers Lil Wayne and Nelly who were moved to lift their hands in worship when Marvin Sapp performed the song at the 2008 BET Awards. Marvin Sapp was honored with BET’s Best Gospel Artist Award that night and leads the list of Gospel music’s Grammy equivalent, The Stellar Awards with a whopping 9 nominations.
Understandably so … There is something special about this song that brings about a universal connection, although it penetrates on a personal level. I personally hadn’t seen nor felt this type of energy from a recording since “We Are the World.”
Yet, even with the stream of unprecedented accolades there is a level of honor the song will never attain–the coveted Grammy Award.
“Never Would Have Made It” never made it onto the 2009 Grammy ballot
Unlike any other award show, the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) issues the Grammy award based strictly on peer recognition–it is not a popularity contest or based on chart status or record sales. The basic eligibility requirements are to have nationwide commercial distribution or for digital releases to be available on a Web site other than the artist’s personal Web site such as CD Baby, Amazon.com or Itunes.
“Peers” are producers, song-writers, artists etc. who are dues paying members of the organization allowed to vote.
In Marvin Sapp’s case, “What happened was … ” Bill Freimuth, NARAS Vice President, Awards explains, “It didn’t really take off in the public consciousness until this year.”
The album was nominated in the Best Traditional Gospel category last year (for 2008) and re-entered for 2009, which is allowed in the allotted 2-year submission window. It was disqualified because continues Bill Freimuth, because “The live version was on the album that was entered into the process in the previous year.”
Essentially, the song had not peaked in mass popularity and did not receive enough votes the first time around and was disqualified in round 2, although it achieved public acclaim, because it was the same performance of the song according to Freimuth.
It’s an unfortunate reality that artists run into all the time, Freimuth says. As another example, “Alternative rock group MGMT, for the album Oracular Spectacular expected that they would be nominated but were disqualified because of a previous entry,” Freimuth stated.
“We live and die by our rules and we publish them to makes sure that everybody making the decisions knows.”
The bottomline in Bill Freimuth’s opinion is that time was not on Marvin Sapp’s side.
Pastor Marvin Sapp had not responded to an interview request by press time.