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Gospel star, Thomas Whitfield, dies in Detroit on 20th June.
The gospel world is looking for a new leader following the shock death of the 'master producer of gospel' Thomas Whitfield, who died of a heart attack in June, whilst eating out with choir members.
Born into a Christian family in 1954, Thomas began playing at the Nazarene Church in his native Detroit at the age of 10 and landed his first recording contract with Stax Records whilst still a teen. He was 21 before he decided to become a fully committed Christian.
It was as a producer of other artists that Thomas became well known and by the early 80's was one of gospel's most sought after producers. He produced Vanessa Bell Armstrong's first two albums; 'Chosen' and 'Peace Be' still are regarded as gospel classics.
As producer, arranger and composer, he worked with such luminaries as Shirley Caesar, Edwin Hawkins, Yolanda Adams and James Cleveland. Thomas served as musical arranger on Aretha Franklin's last gospel album 'One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism'. As a recording artist Thomas made several memorable albums, receiving Grammy nomination for 'And They Sang Gospel' for 'Sound Of Gospel' in 1989 and 'My Faith' in 1990.
His current Benson album 'Alive And Satisfied' was released in February and has become Thomas' best selling album ever. Brian Spear, Thomas' manager and friend described him as a warm and caring person who always took time to listen to others. He added, "Aside from James Cleveland, Thomas Whitfield was the first person gospel announcers, artists and gospel contemporaries would think of as helping gospel music to move forward. He always had a contemporary approach but never compromised the gospel message."
Thomas brother Larry said that the singer/producer loved the thought of crossing over and attaining secular success but did not want to compromise and leave out the name of Jesus in his music. He was committed to gospel music and his faith until the end.
Whitfield is survived by his mother three brothers and fiancée
Gwendolyn Morton, whom he was due to marry on 3rd October.