Interview with Dorothy Norwood

It seems that the legendary Dorothy Norwood has been singing forever. Indeed, with experience that spans the decades, and that goes right back to Mahalia Jackson, The Caravans and Reverend James Cleveland, Norwood has mastered the art of longevity.

Still going strong in 2004, and with her latest album, Standing On The Word in stores now, Gospelflava.com figured it was high time to speak with 'The World's Greatest Story Teller'. (see also, Insider Interview with Dorothy Norwood)

Gospelflava.com: Can you tell us a bit about your new project on Malaco Records, titled Stand On The Word?

Dorothy Norwood Dorothy Norwood: I invited all my friends, Albertina Walker, who is my mentor, sister and friend, Evelyn Turrentine-Agee and LaShun Pace —we don’t even need to talk about her.

I also invited Prince Yelder and the Disciples for Christ, who I met down in Birmingham, Alabama. Those young people can sing from contemporary to traditional. They are just well rounded. I certainly thank and praise God for it. What I do, is ask the Lord to give me something that can minister to the needs of His people, and this is what I came up with.

Gospelflava.com: What do you hear God speaking through your ministry for this season?

Dorothy Norwood: This is a project that can help people in these perilous times. It’s sad that the whole world, not just this country, is hurting. People need something that they can cling to in troubled times, because truly we are living in troubled times, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. It seems to be getting worst.

Somebody has to let them know that there is hope, regardless to your circumstantial situations. There is hope, and we don’t want to lose our hope, because when we lose our hope we are lost. I titled the album Stand on the Word, because of the story that I wrote there, about the little boy’s miracle that tells you that not only can you physically stand on the Word, but also in your heart. Sometimes that Word has to be hidden in your heart, and that is what we are talking about.

Album Review: Stand On The Word
CD Put a star beside "Heaven's Door", it's one of the album's standout songs. With a serious band drive and one of those traditional melodies that while new, it creates instant appeal to all who hear it. The Disciples For Christ propel the cut....

See full album review.

Gospelflava.com: Are there any significant differences between your previous albums and Stand on the Word?

Dorothy Norwood: They have a saying in the industry, that you are no better than your last record, so you better get better than your last record!

Gospelflava.com: How did you come to be called 'The World’s Greatest Story Teller'?

Dorothy Norwood: I think I was one of the first ones to start telling a story. However, I was inspired by a lady from years back, Sister Edna Gallmon Cook. She used to tell parables, not necessarily stories, but she talked. So I started telling stories, like "Johnny and Jesus" and "Denied Mother".

One story that I consider to be a masterpiece is "Hattie B’s Daughter". I consider it as a story, but it is really a true story. Alot of stories are from my imagination, because I can tell things that happen in ordinary life, and put them together like you write a song. But "Hattie B’s Daughter", well I am Hattie B’s daughter. And thank God for mothers, people talk about that now. That story tells a little part of my own life story, and what inspired me to branch out and pursue a career in Gospel music. I’m humbled by that.

But God is The World’s Greatest Story Teller.

However, I can be in the airport and have my voice recognized. That just truly blesses me, I take no credit, it’s only by the grace of God, to have favor. I’m highly favored.

Gospelflava.com: What pitfall, in your opinion, should artists avoid?

Dorothy Norwood: Don’t get so high and mighty that people can’t touch you and you start thinking you don’t have time for them people. Sometime I come off stage and go to my record table, and I am so tired, but people want to come up and take pictures and have autographs. Keep the attitude that if you are in this field, then you are a public servant. Always ask, 'How can I serve the public?' Remember that those same people that put you up there, they can just pull you right down.

Dorothy Norwood Gospelflava.com: Your first solo album came out in 1964, so you have experienced alot over the decades in Gospel music. Do you see any consistent issues that never seem to fade, and is there any issue that is unique to this decade? And how do you feel about the changing landscape of Gospel Music?

Dorothy Norwood: I feel good about it, because you have people of all nationalities now that are familiar with Gospel music simply because it has gone to another level. This industry is that we have a lot of newcomers, and they're reaching a wider stand of people. Many people love the contemporary Black Gospel and Christian music. There is even an audience for rap and hip-hop Gospel. Certainly this audience for Gospel won't go away. There are young people who love traditional Gospel, so it is [still] spreading. Traditional Gospel music just gets better with time, like old wine.

Gospel is also being recorded differently than when I first started. We used to do an album in 2 hours!!

Oh yes, what I say about But the main thing is that we’re not losing any, and what I mean by that is that Gospel music lives on. Regardless of how much [people today] want the hip-hop (and I love that —I like all kinds of good music that expresses the Lord), it's like a pair of shoes, it may not be in style like it was 30 years ago. It is not so for the Gospel,

There is more money being put into production, and we are competing with the secular music. We are attracting more people. It is a blessing that we have spread our wings.

Hailed as the “World’s Greatest Story Teller”, Dorothy Norwood announces another important proclamation in this season —Stand on the Word. With a career spanning nearly four decades, Dorothy Norwood’s purpose is true and certainly steadfast.

interview by Ceeairrah Van Cobb

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