Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

You would be hard pressed to find someone with a more powerful testimony than Ron Winans. After literally dying on the operating table, he survived, thrived and now returns with a new album, "Family & Friends 5: A Celebration."

Winans is joined on this musical celebration by siblings BeBe, Marvin and CeCe and friends Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Marcus Cole, Rance Allen, the Katinas, Jesse Campbell and Gladys Knight.

The fifth in Winans' successful "Family & Friends" series, the collection was released Jan. 31 on Entheos Records, a Detroit-based label founded by producer Doreonne Stramler. With such songs as the autobiographical "I Shall Not Die but Live" and "Walking in My Season," Winans proclaims his faith and his victory over failing health.

The artist, who rose to prominence performing with brothers Marvin, Carvin and Michael as the Winans, became ill in 1996. Doctors originally diagnosed him with bronchitis. "I just felt sicker each day and it got so bad," recalls Winans, who was finally diagnosed as suffering a heart attack and having a torn aorta.

"The doctor told my family that he would not operate because he thought for sure I would die on the table," Winans says. "He suggested that I [not] have the operation, but the Lord saw fit to... let my heart beat with more [regularity]."

But when Winans finally went in for the surgery he needed, his heart did indeed stop during the operation, as the doctor had feared. "But God is not limited to go to death's door," Winans says. "He can go behind the door and say, 'Not yet,' and pulled me back in."

While Winans survived the surgery, doctors told his family he would likely never fully recover and that there had been too much damage to his lungs. He was only 39, and doctors said he would never sing again. On his new CD he proves them wrong, and he plans to tour behind the new record.

"Once I got back, I said, 'Lord, if you are able to do that, I want everything back,'" he says. "They thought I was going to be a vegetable."

"Family & Friends 5" was recorded last May in Detroit at Greater Grace Temple. The event was also taped for a DVD released the same day as the CD. The night of the recording, Winans says they "just had a wonderful time in God. We knew that if we could just transport that... onto the tape, the people that heard it afterward would be blessed."

The project reverberates with the heartfelt gratitude of a man who has been given a new lease on life. "I Shall Not Die but Live" is a particularly powerful track. Winans says the song was "very easy [to write] because, of course, I lived it."

Winans is joined by Lena Starks on "Walking in My Season." Allen, Cole, Shaun McLemore and Agee Smith guest on "I Made a Promise." Gwen Morton is featured on "Signs of the Times." Brother BeBe is spotlighted on "Safe From Harm," and sister CeCe joins in on "My Help."

Winans says he and his brothers will likely reunite for another project, as the Winans will celebrate their 25th anniversary next year. "We started in 1981," he recalls. "We were going to try to do something last year, but it kind of got set back. Hopefully this year it will [happen]."





Excerpted from the "In the Spirit" column in the Feb. 12, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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