CCM Classic Blog

How The Winan's Have Made A Differnce by Philip Mayab

For nearly 40 years now, Christian music fans have known the name "Winans" very well, because they are one of the most successful and talented families in the history of the genre.  After Andrae Crouch discovered older brothers RonaldMarvin, Carvin, and Michael, and helped get them signed to Light Records, the other members of the family began to work their way into the music industry.  In the early 80s, Benjamin (BeBe) Winans and sister Priscilla (CeCe) began singing on the PTL television show, and by 1984, they released their first album called "Lord Lift Us Up" on PTL Records. After leaving Jim Bakker's empire, they set out to nail down a new recording contract.

BeBe was then called on by mega producer Keith Thomas to perform vocals on two of the songs that appeared on his 1986 album Kaleidoscope. Thomas was very impressed (as well he should have been...BeBe won a Grammy for one of the two songs), and not long after, Sparrow Records stepped up, and signed the brother and sister duo to a contract.  When they went to record their first album for Sparrow, Thomas was called in to produce, and the finished product was nothing short of spectacular.  When their self-titled Sparrow debut was released in 1987, they started off with a bang, by having their first single "I.O.U. Me" reach a very impressive #24 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, as well as a brief stint on the R&B chart.  It became a huge success on the Christian music radio, and subsequent hits on the CCM charts, as well as multiple Dove and Grammy awards thrust the pair into the national spotlight, giving them enough exposure on the mainstream pop and R&B to set up their entry in our Vinyl Revival this week, 1988s masterpiece called "Heaven"

Produced again by Keith Thomas, Heaven is the album that shot BeBe and CeCe Winans into the stratosphere of the music industry, by placing one top 25, one top 15, and one top ten hit on Billboard's R&B singles chart.  The album itself was a monster success peaked at #10 on Billboard's Top R&B album chart, #3 on the Top Contemporary Christian album chart, and #1 on the Top Gospel album chart.  It wasn't just Christian audiences that loved the music, because R&B stations in America were placing the pair in heavy rotation, helping BeBe and CeCe eventually eclipse their four big brothers at the top of the Winans' family's musical totem pole.  

This album is a timeless piece of musical art.  The album's leadoff title track peaked at #12 on the R&B singles chart.  Their second single "Lost Without You" became the pair's first top ten R&B hit, and "Celebrate New Life" landed at #25 on the same chart. Eleven months after its initial release, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA) for selling half a million copies...not bad for a pair of singers who had been singing on television just a few years earlier.

There is a single thing not to love about this album. Elements of pop, r&b, smooth jazz, and some light funk make this a stylistically diverse LP, and the songs are top notch, even by today's standards.  In addition to the chart topping success of the songs already mentioned, two of the songs won Grammy awards for BeBe and CeCe individually. "Meantime" won Best Male Gospel Performance for BeBe, while CeCe won the Best Female Gospel performance for "Don't Cry".  Oh, and the title song won a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance by a group or duo as well. So as you can see, this album is the real deal, the awards don't lie.  Included in the set list is a great team up with Whitney Houston on "Hold Up The Light", as well as a fantastic cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

To sum it up, this album is great from start to finish, no duds in the bunch.  Multiple musical styles...check.  Great songs...check (the awards and charts prove it).  Great vocal perfomances...check (the Grammys prove it). For anyone who wondered if these two younger siblings of the Winans clan were for real, this was the LP that answered that question with a resounding YES!  Thirty years after its release, I still enjoy listening to this album, and pull it out quite often to listen to, that's why I am so excited to share it with our listeners on Vinyl Revival this week.  One last note, the CD release of the album contains a bonus track, which is the "Heavenly Dub" remix of the title song...but I decided to throw down by including the very rare "Heavenly Mix" version of the track for you to enjoy.  If you're looking for classic Christian pop music to put a beat in your feet, this may be the album you're looking for, so please enjoy "Heaven" by BeBe and CeCe Winans with me this week, won't you?


1. Heaven (LP Version)

2. Celebrate New Life

3. Lost Without You

4. You

5. Wanna Be More

6, Hold Up The Light (featuring Whitney Houston)

7. Meantime

8. Don't Cry

9. Trust Him

10. Bridge Over Troubled Water

11. Heaven (Heavenly Mix)

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