At this year’s Grammy Awards, we once again take the time to celebrate the best of the music industry. Though there are many terrific artists and musicians that deserve mention, Generations United wanted to highlight two individuals that have risen to great heights from humble beginnings; humble beginnings which involved growing up in grandfamilies.
LL Cool J
LL Cool J, an award winning rapper, actor, and entrepreneur, was this year’s Grammy Awards host. His story of success starts with living with his grandmother at the age of three in Queens, New York. LL Cool J attributes much of his success to his grandmother’s strong and stable presence in his life. At age 11 LL’s grandmother gave him DJ equipment to stop him from riding motorcycles, and he began to write his own songs; the beginning of what would be a successful career in the entertainment industry.
Before his grandmother passed away she requested he produce an album she would enjoy listening to, and he made it his mission. He even wrote a song in honor of his grandmother thanking her for taking him in and raising him as her own. Below are lyrics taken from her song “Big Mama Unconditional Love.”
A toast to a woman that raised a man
In popular demand all across the land
You're my lawyer, my teacher, my doctor, my friend
My mother, my father, you with me 'til the end
I love you, I mean that from the bottom of my heart
That's the reason why my record's #1 on the charts
I'm a tell it like it is, I love you forever
Dead or alive, we'll always be together
Big Mama I love you
Kirk Franklin is an internationally known gospel musician. He has been recognized for transforming traditional gospel sound to incorporate hip beats and delivery to inspire traditional and urban gospel congregations alike. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, to a teenage mother, he never knew his father and was adopted at the age of three by the only mother he ever really knew--his great-aunt Gertrude.
At an early age, Gertrude took special interest in assisting Franklin to develop his interest in music. She and her young nephew would collect recycling cans and newspapers and use that money to fund his piano lessons beginning at age four. Her commitment to helping him find his passion has resulted in Franklin receiving numerous awards as an accomplished musician. Adding to his accomplishments, Franklin now can include the two Grammy’s he received at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Gospel Song and Best Gospel Album. There’s no doubt that great-aunt Gertrude was in his mind as he took home these honored awards. "She taught me everything. She taught me how to respect people and respect myself, and that's something I'll never forget."
Photos courtesy UPI Photo/Jayne Kamin-Oncea and WENN