The six-time Grammy Award winning singer opened up to Washington Life about his inspirational life story, ahead of coming to Arena Stage July 1.
WASHINGTON LIFE: Talk about the moment you decided to tell your story as a staged production.
BeBe Winans: It was a phone call that I had years ago with Roberta Flack. She told me I had to get started right away. Four days after that conversation, I went to the hotel room in Montreal and opened up my laptop and it was like a faucet had come on. I wrote the first draft of what is now “Born for This.”
WL: Being a six-time Grammy Award winner is a major accomplishment. How has that type of recognition changed you for the better and what keeps you grounded and humble?
BW: Our parents reared us with the understanding that we could do all things through Christ who strengthens us. My father used to say that he was going to tell and teach us who we were before we go out and the world starts to tell you who you are. So it is understanding who you are, even before the hoopla. When you really recognize that, you live by that.
WL: Mentors are very important. Who are some of those great musical mentors that helped shape your career?
BW: Definitely my older brothers. Prior to them, we had Andrae Crouch and The Hawkins Family to learn from. All of that contributes to who I am and what I have done. There is always an enjoyable moment when I hear great singers and a great song.
WL: When you first stepped out onto the music scene with your big break with the Bakers, that audience perhaps presented a culture shock. How do you see this show as bridging the gap, educating everyone about Gospel music and your role in it?
BW: I have always been a fan of people. I remember when CeCe and I first signed with Capitol Records and they said that they did not know how to promote our kind of music. I said that it was not hard, send the music out to all the other people you send the music out to and let them decide what they like and don’t like. We could not be put into a particular category because people across the board enjoyed our music.It is the same thing that Charles [Randolph-Wright] and I have said from the beginning.It is an inspirational American story for all. Therefore, we have seen from day one Black, White, Jewish, Spanish, young and old all come to the musical and find their story without limitations.
WL: What has been the big adjustment for you, seeing your life lived out on the theatrical stage?
BW: Well, it is humbling. It really causes you to be thankful for the journey, the ups and the downs. I had no idea it would come to this kind of situation. It’s very cathartic and joyous at the same time. It is a range of emotions because it’s real. It’s my life. It has been an emotional ride. To work on it for all these years and now to see it performed on stage by such an incredible cast with my family present for opening night in Atlanta, for me that as the ultimate moment.
WL: The title of the musical “Born For This” basically says it all. Talk to us about living out your true artistic destiny despite what others may say or think.
BW: I think it had everything to do with my foundation. My parents saw the talent inside of us and they supported and nurtured it. There were no lawyers or doctors in my house and we knew early on that music is what we wanted to do, not knowing that it would be our livelihood. We were taught that if you were faithful over a few things that God will make you a ruler of many. So we were faithful in our church and school choirs. We gave our all and doors opened because of that. I encourage people to be faithful to that passion that they have. That is what opens the door and you find yourself being on stages across the world. If you can dream it, you can reach it.
“Born for This” runs July 1-August 28 in Kreeger Theatre at Arena Stage.