Born Karen Clark in Detroit, MI; daughter of Mattie Moss-Clark (a gospel singer); married Reverend John Drew Sheard; children: Kierra. Addresses: Record company--Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Pl. 17th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website:

Gospel singer Karen Clark-Sheard has performed with her older sisters since she was six years old. The Clark sisters, Jacky, Denise, Elbernita (Twinkie), Dorinda, and Karen, grew up in Detroit and learned to sing from their mother, the legendary gospel performer Mattie Moss-Clark. As a performing group, the Clark Sisters have won two Dove Awards, two Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Awards, a Stellar Award, and a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Award. They have also been nominated for three Grammy Awards and five Stellar Awards.

In 1998, Clark-Sheard released her first solo album, Finally Karen . . . Live! On this album, she sang "The Safest Place" with her daughter Kierra and also performed a duet with Faith Evans on the song "Nothing Without You." The album included a new version of the traditional gospel song "Balm in Gilead" and "Just For Me," a ballad contributed by Boyz II Men, Clark-Sheard's sisters also performed an arrangement of ''Jesus Is A Love Song.'' The Cleveland Call and Post remarked that Finally Karen was, "a blessing to the Body of Christ which spans the bridge between secular and sacred with faithful love in equal parts for gospel, pop and R&B fans alike."

In 1996, Clark-Sheard performed with Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker, and Donald Lawrence on the song ''Don't Give Up,'' a recording first released on the Don't Be A Menace movie soundtrack. Proceeds from the song were donated to the effort to rebuild African American churches throughout the United States that had been destroyed by arson fires. Clark-Sheard's performance on "Don't Give Up" attracted the interest of Hiram Hicks, president of Island Black Records, and he offered her a recording contract. Embarking upon a solo career was a difficult decision for Clark-Sheard. She consulted with her sisters and her husband, Reverend John Drew Sheard, before making her decision. In 1997, Clark-Sheard signed a contract with Island Black Records.

Proponents of traditional gospel music have criticized Clark-Sheard's unique style, while others have praised the contemporary flavor of her music and the beauty of her singing. The Portland Skanner used the words "angelic" and "anointed" to describe Clark-Sheard's vocal skills. In Billboard, her voice was likened to "a thing unleashed." The Detroit Free Press called Clark-Sheard's vocal stylings "velvety" and "soul-stirring."

In 1998, Finally Karen won a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Best Gospel Album. It also received a Grammy nomination. That same year, Clark-Sheard performed with other notable gospel artists at the six-day Gospel Music Workshop of America gathering in Philadelphia. At the 1999 Stellar Awards, she won awards for Female Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year, and Music Video of the Year. Her daughter also captured a Stellar Award for Children's Performance of the Year. In 1999, Clark-Sheard participated in a one-hour program, ''Verity Records' Women Of Worship Gospel 1999,'' which celebrated African American history through gospel music and inspirational readings. She also performed in a Broadway play, Mr. Right Now!

Clark-Sheard returned to the music industry with two new albums in the early 2000s, 2nd Chance, released in 2002, and The Heavens Are Telling, in 2003. The new project featured a few guest stars, including Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, who re-worked her most popular rap songs into worship songs. Recorded in the Detroit church where her husband is the pastor, The Heavens Are Telling "incorporates the best elements of her previous outings by showcasing six new live performances alongside five new studio tracks," according to All Music Guide.

by Eileen Daily

Karen Clark-Sheard's Career

Performed as a member of the Clark Sisters; sang with the Island Inspirational All-Stars, 1996; signed with Island Black Records as a solo artist, 1997-; appeared in the Broadway play, Mr. Right Now!, 1999; released Second Chance, 2002; released The Heavens Are Telling, 2003.

Karen Clark-Sheard's Awards

Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Best Gospel Album, 1998; Stellar Awards for Female Vocalist of the Year, Music Video of the Year, and Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year, 1999.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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