Donald Lawrence took top honors at the 21st annual Stellar Awards, winning six awards including artist, producer and CD of the year for “I Speak Life.” J Moss netted three Stellars, among them the male vocalist of the year and new artist accolades at the Jan. 21st event held at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House.
Walter Hawkins and Lil iRocc Williams won two Stellars each. Icee Records’ Dianne Williams was named female vocalist of the year. Aretha Franklin was on hand to present Jonathan Nelson the song of the year Stellar Award for “Healed,” featured on Lawrence’s “I Speak Life,”
“The Bible says your gift will bring you before great men,” Nelson told Billboard backstage at the event, which took place at Nashville’s Grand Old Opry house Jan. 21. “Tonight the Lord has really opened up a major door by bringing my gift before great men. I really experienced the true favor of God tonight. I’m really excited about what God is doing. I’m excited that God has placed me in the hands of Donald Lawrence, who is my mentor.”
Fred Hammond was the recipient of the Most Notable Achievement Award, presented to him by Kirk Franklin, following a performance of Hammond’s songs by Joann Rosario and Men of Standard. One of the highlights of the evening was a tribute to the Winans Family. Chante Moore, Kenny Lattimore and Rizen performed a special tribute to the late Ronald Winans. The Rev. Jesse Jackson presented the family with a special award in recognition of their pioneering contributions to gospel music.
“It was an honor,” CeCe Winans told Billboard. “It’s always a blessing to be recognized and for people to tell you that your music changed them, and especially for them to think about Ronald. It was such an awesome moment.”
Nashville resident Kirk Whalum was among those happy to see the Stellars return to Music City. “I’m very excited to have it here,” says Whalum, who took home a Stellar for instrumental CD of the year for “The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter II.” “I’m glad they saw fit to bring it where so much of the music is recorded, where a lot of the heart of the music came from. It’s a perfect fit.”
Hosted by Vickie Winans, Donnie McClurkin and Israel, the Stellars are produced by Chicago-based Central City Production. The show will air in syndication from Jan. 28 through March 5.