Discovery House Music
Larnelle Harris is doing some redecorating in his house. After three decades in music, with five Grammy Awards, 11 Dove Awards, an Ad Council Award for Distinguished Public Service, and many more accolades sitting on his mantle, Larnelle took them all down the other day, and placed a picture of a well there. “I have finally figured out what I want to be after all these years,” says Larnelle. “I want to be a Star.”
Now, for anyone that knows Larnelle Harris, they know he has wanted to be anything BUT a star over the course of his career. It is well documented that Larnelle has turned down major events and tours when they conflicted with his daughter’s basketball schedule or kept him away from his wife too long.
But in spite of his efforts, stardom found Larnelle anyway -- because pure talent cannot be ignored or hidden from view. Named Male Vocalist of the Year three times by his peers in Gospel Music, honored by U.S. Presidents and international dignitaries, featured on numerous mainstream tv shows as well as participating in the longest-running PSA campaign in television history, Larnelle is renowned the world over as one of the premier vocalists of our generation. As one reviewer aptly stated, “Larnelle could sing the phone book and inspire you!”
But Larnelle is using a connotation of “star” much different from the norm. In a culture where American Idols rise and fall every day, there is an immediate reaction to the word “star.” Most people think of artists who sing or play instruments, actors in movies, or sometimes even common criminals become celebrities with their own personal fan clubs. But Larnelle points out that the world’s view of stardom is very different from that of God’s.
“The Bible says that ‘those who turn many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever,’” he explains. “When Jesus was talking to Peter and asked him three times, ‘Peter do you love me?’ Peter was answering ‘yes,’ but he really did not comprehend the question. Jesus was speaking ‘God-Language’ and Peter was speaking ‘Human.’ Jesus was really asking Peter to look beyond his own personal definition of love, and find God’s definition. It’s the same concept here. I do want to be a Star, but it’s the kind of Star that God says we will be if we use our talents and our gifts to lead people to Him.”
I Want To Be A Star is Larnelle’s first recording in over three years. Produced by Kent Hooper, it is a CD brimming with the impressive vocal performances that have always set Larnelle apart in the music world. And this time, Larnelle had a heavy hand in the CD’s direction.
“This CD is an offering,” says Larnelle. “I feel good about what it says. We’ve always managed to find songs over the years that have moved and encouraged people, but this time I really felt like I had some specific topics I wanted to write about. And my prayer is that it will comfort and challenge people from all walks of life.”
One stand-out cut is “If Not For The Storm,” a poignant song that puts life into perspective. “I’m like anyone else,” says Larnelle, “I don’t like storms in my life. I don’t appreciate them when they are happening. But one thing I have learned over the years is that if I didn’t have the storms, I might not have the relationship with the Lord that I have today. In fact, I may have never known Him at all. Storms are not pleasant, but they push us to find shelter with the only unmoving, unwavering thing we can find – and that is ultimately, God.”
A song called “Soon I’ll Be Praising Again” takes that concept one step further. “God told us that though the ‘weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.’ And I know that even on the darkest night when the storms won’t stop and the thunder is rolling hard, somewhere in my spirit I can remind myself that there is an end coming.
“We want God to just part the waters, fix the problem, and simply remove the storm. And sometimes He does just that. But there are other times when He just says ‘let’s stay here together for a little while.’ He never leaves us alone in the storm. Jesus was there in the boat as it was sinking with the disciples. But He picked His moment to show His power. I have discovered that instead of asking ‘Why is this happening?,’ I need to ask ‘What am I supposed to learn from this storm?’ We are concerned with the temporary circumstances in our lives, but God is more concerned about eternal things.”
Larnelle has learned to ask the right kinds of questions over the years. On one of the songs on the new CD, Larnelle asks the listener to consider their own personal ministries with the thought-provoking tune “Look At Your Hands.”
“I’ve been in the East Room of the White House where the floors were so clean you could eat off of them, and I’ve been to the most poverty-stricken parts of the world where you wouldn’t even want to eat off the tables. But God expects us to minister to people in both places, regardless of our own comfort level.
“I heard about a pastor of a church who got the idea to dress as a hobo,” recalls Larnelle. “And he went to the houses of the church deacons and knocked on their doors, just to see what kind of reaction he would get. It was an interesting experiment, and a great reminder to all of us that true ministry calls on us to do some things we normally wouldn’t do. When I was singing in youth choirs back in high school, we would go to places that had a real problem with a black kid being in a choir so I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of intolerance and inequity. You have to really get past yourself in order to do God’s work. Whether it is how we react the drunk on the street, or just someone who walks into our church that may be dressed differently than us. We, as the body of Christ, are supposed to be about cleaning up people who are in need of restoration, and loving people unconditionally. And to do that, sometimes we have to get our hands dirty.”
On a recent trip to the most impoverished parts of Africa, Larnelle stood in the middle of nowhere with only the earth as his acoustics to sing to five different tribes of people who are rapidly dying of AIDS. As he watched those villagers then turn and sing a Welcome song to him, Larnelle’s heart broke, and he knew he had to do something to assist those people. He took notice of the exceptional distance the villagers had to walk just to get drinkable water. And that’s why there is now a picture of a well on the wall where his awards used to be. It is a photo sent by the villagers to thank Mr. Harris for helping them build a well.
“You know, every time I pass by that picture, I start to cry,” says Larnelle. “There are people standing around that well who are losing an entire generation of family and friends to AIDS. They go through hardships on a daily basis that none of us can even comprehend. And there they stand, beside a well that I had a small part in building. Long after I’m gone, and no one remembers the name Larnelle Harris, that same well will be there in that village, offering life-giving water to people centuries from now. When you stack that up against Doves and Grammies, there really is no contest what is most important.”
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