Get to know Bebe Winans
Written by G Njuguna on February 2, 2024
On this weekly feature of Getting to know people we continue with the Winans and today we look at Bebe Winans. Benjamin “BeBe” Winans was born September 17, 1962 and is an American gospel and R&B singer. He is a member of the noted Winans family, most members of which are also gospel artists. Winans has released nine albums, seven with his sister CeCe as BeBe & CeCe Winans and one with three Winans brothers.
The PTL Club
Winans released several albums, first with his sister CeCe, and later as a solo artist. Jim Bakker’s television show The PTL Club took interest in BeBe and his sister CeCe as background vocalists for the show. After going to North Carolina to audition they were accepted. The siblings moved to the PTL campus in North Carolina, and were on the show for about five years.
During their time on PTL, BeBe and CeCe recorded Lord Lift Us Up on PTL’s label after popular demand on the show. Eventually the success warranted another effort: a full-length album. The album did well on the charts. BeBe and CeCe left PTL to pursue their singing career and recorded five albums together including self-titled BeBe & CeCe Winans, Heaven, Different Lifestyles, First Christmas and Relationships. In 1995, BeBe and CeCe split up to pursue solo careers. But in 2009, they did the album Still together. On it was the song “Close to You,” which won a Dove Award in 2010 in the category of Urban Recorded Song.
In 1989, BeBe won his first Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Male for his contribution to “Abundant Life”, a track on his brother Ronald’s Family & Friends Choir.
BeBe signed with Atlantic records in late 1996 and delivered a self-titled solo debut in 1997. The album featured the singles “In Harms’ Way”, “Thank You”, and the international crossover hit “I Wanna Be the Only One” featuring British soul trio Eternal. The song topped the UK Singles Chart in Eternal’s native United Kingdom in May 1997.
The next album released was the fruit of a new deal with Motown Records. Love & Freedom was released in 2000 and featured production from Warryn Campbell, Brian McKnight, Masters At Work and others. The lead single “Coming Back Home” was a slow swinging ballad featuring R&B luminaries McKnight and Joe. Another single was BeBe’s remake of the Stevie Wonder classic “Jesus Children of America” featuring his older brother Marvin (The Winans, Winans family) and Stevie Wonder himself.
Two years later, a live album Live & Up Close followed. The album was recorded live at BET studios and featured guests such as his sister Debra Winans-Lowe and Stephanie Mills. The set was released on both CD & DVD. The CD included the studio version of “Do You Know Him?” which served as the album’s first single.
By 2003, BeBe had started his own record label, The Movement Group, and partnered with Still Waters, an inspirational and gospel imprint of Hidden Beach Recordings. The first album under this deal was 2004’s largely orchestral holiday album entitled My Christmas Prayer which first appeared exclusively for sale at Starbucks coffee shops nationwide. Between releases, BeBe made his film debut with a small role in the 2004 remake (featuring Denzel Washington) of The Manchurian Candidate.
Early the next year, BeBe released his third proper solo album Dream featuring the single “I Have A Dream”. The song featured samples of the historic speech by Martin Luther King, and was released to several radio stations to coincide with King’s birthday celebrations. The cover of the album features a hand painted portrait of BeBe standing in front of a Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. street sign. Also “Miracle Of Love,” a duet with Angie Stone included on the album, also appeared on a soundtrack of songs inspired by the film The Passion Of The Christ.
On September 30, 2003, at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, Bebe performed two songs with Anastacia; a duet for her song “Heavy on my Heart” and backup vocals for a cover version of the Aerosmith song “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”. The performance was for the fourth annual “Women Rock” benefit for breast cancer, which was broadcast on October 23, 2003, on the Lifetime cable channel.
Winans performed a duet with Eden Espinosa on the 2008 Alma Awards which was broadcast on ABC on September 12. 2008. Winans and Espinosa sang “I Don’t Know Much” as a tribute to honoree Linda Ronstadt. Bebe performed “Born for This” on the Obama/Biden Inauguration tribute Change is Now CD+DVD set. BeBe & CeCe Winans had confirmed a reunion album scheduled for early 2009.
Winans hosts his own nationally syndicated radio program, The BeBe Winans Radio Show. BeBe Winans has starred in Broadway’s The Color Purple as Harpo as of January 9, 2008. He is starring alongside Chaka Khan who is playing his wife, Sofia.
Winans was one of the judges for a gospel music competition show on BET called Sunday Best, along with gospel duo Mary Mary. He was invited to participate in the remake of “We Are The World” to benefit Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Bebe together with Cece and Mary Mary featuring the West Angeles Choir performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In 2012, Winans released The Whitney I Knew, a memoir about Whitney Houston, who had died earlier that year. Winans was a close friend of the singer, and sang at her funeral.
In March 2014, Winans joined British pop/R&B group Eternal at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, to perform the number one hit “I Wanna Be the Only One”, as part of The Big Reunion live shows.