One of the major figures in gospel music in the 21st century, Donnie McClurkin occupies a territory that lies somewhere between the modern gospel of Kirk Franklin, the gospel soul of Andraé Crouch, and the contemporary traditionalism of Marvin Winans. McClurkin owes a significant personal and professional debt to Winans, as he served as an associate minister at Marvin's Perfecting Church prior to establishing his own Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York in 2001. By that point, he had one hit record under his belt -- an eponymous 1996 set for Warner Alliance -- and the Perfecting Church served as a foundation for McClurkin to not only build upon his musical career but to expand into television and film.
Raised in Amityville, Long Island, Donnie McClurkin saw his fair share of trauma as a child. At the age of eight, he lost a younger brother in a hit-and-run accident, leading his parents to send him to a relative's house while they mourned. There, he was sexually abused by an older relative. The combination of these two events led McClurkin to turn to the Lord at an early age, devoting himself to worship at the age of nine. An aunt sang with Andraé Crouch and, inspired, he formed the McClurkin Singers while he was an adolescent and would create the New York Restoration Choir, which recorded an album called I See a World before McClurkin headed to Detroit to be an associate minister in 1989. While serving as associate minister, he signed with Warner Alliance, which released his self-titled debut in 1996. Featuring the hit "Stand" along with "Speak to My Heart," revived from the New York Restoration Choir record, Donnie McClurkin turned into a hit, winning a Grammy for Traditional Soul Gospel Album and earning Dove Award nominations; it would later be certified gold. This helped establish McClurkin as a star in his own right, leading to him contributing two songs to the 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt, and he gained greater momentum with the 2000 release of Live in London and More..., which hit number one on the Billboard gospel chart on its way to platinum certification; it also gave him his only R&B crossover in the form of the single "We Fall Down."
In 2001, he was ordained and founded the Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York; he remained there as a pastor as he continued to pursue careers on stage, screen, and record. That year, McClurkin also published Eternal Victim, Eternal Victor, a memoir addressing all of the turmoil of his youth as well as his faith. In 2002, he co-hosted the Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards -- it would be the first of six -- and the following year he released his second album, Again; it went to number one on the gospel chart and was certified gold. Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs followed quickly in 2004 -- it was released on Zomba and would go platinum -- and that year also saw the release of the documentary The Donnie McClurkin Story: From Darkness to Light. He appeared in the 2005 film The Gospel and a live album called We All Are One (Live in Detroit) before he settled into a steady pattern of preaching and performing for the next few years. He resurfaced in 2014 on RCA Inspiration with the Duets album -- it debuted at number four on the gospel chart -- and in 2016 the same label issued The Journey (Live). ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine