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Gary Samuels has a heart of gold and the pipes to match. Just one listen to his voice and it’s clear that he has been touched by God. A five-octave range and a tonal quality that rivals some of today’s best singers, Gary Samuels is truly a divine instrument. Having sung in front of Presidents and the Pope, he’s experienced what some only dream of. With an entry for the 2010 BET Awards for Best Gospel Video and successful runs of his autobiographical play, “Gospel of Blues”, Gary Samuels has experienced life to the fullest. But with success has come trials. The saying “to whom much is given, much is required” could have easily been written for the psalmist who has experienced tragedy after tragedy. But it’s the Grace of God, the title of his latest Versatile Entertainment CD, that has kept him.
Gary’s story begins in Harlem, New York City. One of fifteen children, he was surrounded by music. His father, a Jazz pianist, and his mother, a pianist and singer, nurtured their children’s gifts. In addition to his parents, his Grand Aunt Madam Susan Patrick was a strong influence as well teaching Gary his first song entitled “Wooden Church on A Hill”. Thanks to his Mother and Grand Aunt, his vocal abilities were honed, and through their instruction, he found himself developing a love for Gospel Music. Soon his home became the headquarters for “The Samuels Singers” and the family group toured the country. Traveling between Georgia and Connecticut, they sung God’s praises up and down the East Coast.
He broadened his musical horizons by singing for countless choirs including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Choir, The United Negro College Fund Choir, The Orangeburg Gospel Choral Union, The Serenity Singers, The Eternal Light Community Singers, Just By Faith Gospel Choir, United In Christ Fellowship Choir and United Eternal Voice In Christ Choir. As he continued to sing, his love for the musical art form grew, but it always seemed like he was the loudest in the bunch. “I was always referred to as ‘big mouth,’” recalls Gary. “I just couldn’t sing soft – although I tried. People would tell me that in a group of dozens of singers, they could hear me!” Not only was the vocalist a stand-out, but because of his unique gifting of a multi-octave range, he could easily float between tenor, alto and soprano, making it a challenge for choir directors to determine what part he should sing. “When you ask me what’s in my natural vocal range, it depends of the day of the week,” Gary quips.
It wasn’t until he heard vocalist Linda Hopkins sing that he knew he wasn’t alone. At the performance, he heard Hopkins glide between soprano and tenor effortlessly and realized that he truly had something special. But it was his cancer diagnosis in 1984 that solidified his calling in Gospel Music. Having strayed from the church as a young adult, the crisis brought him back to his church roots. After a miraculous healing (where doctors couldn’t locate tumors that had apparently disappeared), he knew that God still had His hand on him. Gary has experienced God’s healing power from paralysis and partial blindness as well as emotional healing from the death of a son and sexual abuse. All of his experiences have been poured into his music as God has written songs through him. “When I sing about God’s healing power and his saving power, it’s not from a movie screen or something someone told me,” says Samuels. It’s what I know. I know it for myself.”
God’s favor has followed Gary and he’s been blessed to sing for President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George Bush, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela. He’s performed at The Apollo and Radio City Music Hall. He’s sung with Opera Diva Grace Bumbry and Jazz Great Wynton Marsalis and opened up for Gospel Artists Kelly Price, Donnie McClurkin, and Mary Mary. Although he’s thrilled at the many opportunities he’s had to sing for notable people, he receives the most joy from singing at nursing homes, senior centers and prisons.
He’s tackled the role of Minister of Music at Bethel AME Church in Connecticut and at Progressive Baptist Church and Baptist House of Prayer, both in Harlem. Gary added the titles “Recording Artist” and “Co-Producer” to his burgeoning list of roles when he recorded two CDs, I Believe in 2009 and I Can in 2010. The ground-breaking video for the single, “I Believe”, which included appearances by gang members of The Bloods, The Crips and The L.A. Kings, was entered in the 2010 BET Awards for Best Gospel Video.
Living a dream, he’s been able to act out his life on stage with his play called, “Gospel of Blues”. With original music and riveting performances, the play merges two of his musical loves: Gospel Music and Blues. The play is a testament to the power of faith and is a theatrical display of Gary’s testimony.
It’s Gary’s testimonies that have been the impetus for his third project entitled Grace of God. An EP featuring the lead single, “Grace of God”, the recording showcases the singer’s stunning vocals and a sincerity that comes through crystal clear. “Grace of God”, penned by Jaeson Marks, an industry mover and shaker and head of Versatile Entertainment, is a beautiful ballad about the goodness of God, something Gary is well aware of. He says, “Grace of God is my testimony. Satan not only wanted my life, but he wanted my soul. But God said, ‘not so’.”