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Karen Clark-Sheard (born Karen Valencia Clark; November 15, 1960) is an American gospel four-time Grammy Award winning singer, musician, and songwriter. The youngest daughter of pioneering gospel choral director Mattie Moss Clark, Sheard began her career as a member of the Grammy-Award winning, gospel legendary female group, The Clark Sisters. She is the mother of contemporary gospel singer and actress Kierra "Kiki" Sheard.
During the hiatus of the Clark Sisters, Sheard rose to fame after she recorded her critically acclaimed and much anticipated solo album Finally Karen, which spawned her hit, "Balm in Gilead" (a re-recording of a song she originally recorded as part of The Clark Sisters back in the 1980s for their Heart & Soul album) the R&B-flavored "Just For Me" and "Nothing Without You" - a contemporary duet with R&B diva Faith Evans. Finally Karen became one of the most successful gospel albums of 1998 earning Sheard a Grammy nomination and earning her a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for "Best Female Vocalist".
After her debut album success and much touring, Sheard was hospitalized in 2001 after one of her blood vessels burst during a minor surgery, resulting in doctors giving her a 2% chance of survival. Her testimony inspired the title name for her long-awaited sophomore project, Second Chance released in 2002, featuring a "Secret Place" - which is now considered a classic amongst fans. Sheard recorded two more live albums, including The Heavens Are Telling and It's Not Over (which featured some studio recordings), before releasing All in One, Sheard's first all-studio-recorded album in 13 years. The album debuted at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Chart and #98 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart, while its first single "Prayed Up" has so far peaked at #10 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Songs chart.
Sheard is in talks to play Kitty Parham (a member of The Famous Ward Singers) in Aretha Franklin's upcoming biopic.
Sheard released her latest single "Sunday A.M" in 2014, which is nominated for the Best Gospel Song in the 57th Annual Grammys.
Karen Clark Sheard was born November 15, 1960. She has five older siblings : Leo, Jacky Clark Chisholm, Denise Clark-Bradford, Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark, and Dorinda Clark Cole. Her parents are Pastor Elbert Clark and Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, a pioneering Detroit-based gospel choral director. Clark-Sheard is best known for being a member of iconic gospel group The Clark Sisters. She is the Soprano of the group, The Clark Sisters. Clark Sheard is known for her high vocal ranging abilities.
On June 16, 1984, Karen Clark wed John Drew Sheard, a minister. Her husband is senior pastor of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ in Detroit. Together they have 2 children: Kierra (1987), who is also a gospel recording artist, and John Drew Sheard II (1989), a young musician and up-and-coming producer. Kiki is also a gospel recording artist, with four albums, plus various projects to her credit. Karen is also the Grandmother to J. Drew's son Jacob Dillon Sheard and daughter Kali Drew Sheard.
In 2001, Clark-Sheard was faced with a life-threatening crisis when a blood vessel burst during a scheduled hernia surgery. Her doctors only gave her a 2% chance of survival due to her complications. After the blood clot was surgically removed, Clark-Sheard fell into a coma. The coma lasted three and a half weeks, but Clark-Sheard says she made a miraculous recovery. Despite citing hernia surgery, which led to complications of hernia and brain aneurysm since after the ordeal Sheard returned in 2001 looking 1/3 of her size..
Singers Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, Coko of SWV, Jovan Lacroix, Blu Cantrell, Lil' Mo, Missy Elliott, and Fantasia all count Karen Clark Sheard as one of their vocal influences.
The Clark Sisters:
Karen's involvement in the Island Inspirational All Stars' "Don't Give Up" in 1996 (along with Donald Lawrence, Hezekiah Walker, and Kirk Franklin) led to her signing with Island Records.
Her solo career began with the release of her debut album Finally Karen in 1997. The album, consisting of half studio recordings and half live recordings, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 1998, won Sheard the Lady Of Soul award for Best Gospel Album that same year and peaked at #28 and #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums charts respectively.
A Second Chance:
After Yolanda Adams, Karen Clark Sheard became the 2nd gospel artist to sign to Elektra Records. She released her Elektra debut album 2nd Chance in 2002 (so named because of the "second chance" she was given by God after her near-death experience - which is referenced in her daughter Kierra's song "You Don't Know").
The album was led off by the single "Be Sure" and though Clark Sheard was in excellent form vocally, the slick, progressive sound of the disc was not received well in the gospel community. However, the album still performed well commercially and critically reaching #82 on the U.S. Billboard 200, #27 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (her highest chartings on those charts to date) and #2 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums.
The Heavens Are Telling:
The 2003 followup The Heavens Are Telling fared well, but came at an awkward time when Elektra Records was being dissolved into Atlantic Records and so failed to match the commercial success of Sheard's previous albums, peaking a whole 106 places below 2nd Chance at #188 on the U.S. Billboard 200 - though it managed to reach a respectable #44 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, a high #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums chart and was her first album to chart on the U.S. Billboard Christian Albums chart, where it peaked at #11.
It's Not Over:
In 2005, after a bidding war with several labels, Sheard finally signed with Word Records and issued It's Not Over, (Originally Finally Karen 2: There's Something About Worship). the following year. Most of It's Not Over was recorded live in 2005 at Karen's home church in Detroit, Michigan while the last three tracks were studio-recorded. It was Sheard's first solo album not to feature guest vocals from her daughter (Kierra Sheard) and was the first to include production from Israel Houghton - who handled the majority of the project. Despite having a much grander sound than her previous albums, it was another critical success for Karen and charted modestly at #124 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and #4 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
As the songwriter, on February 10, 2008, Sheard won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Song for "Blessed & Highly Favored" sung by The Clark Sisters.
Karew Records and fifth album:
In early 2009, Karen and her husband, J.Drew Sheard partnered together and launched a new record label entitled Karew Records (Karew being a combination of both their forenames: Karen & Drew, pronounced: Kuh-rue); Distribution is via EMI Gospel. The Clark Sisters' Christmas album - which was released in October 2009 - was the first project to be released from Karew Records.
On January 31, 2010, Karen won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance for Wait on the Lord which she was featured with Donnie McClurkin.
On April 6, 2010, Sheard released her fifth album (and first on her newly founded own record label - Karew Records) titled All in One, which features additional vocals from her daughter Kierra Sheard, son J. Drew Sheard II, sister Dorinda Clark Cole, niece Angel Chisholm and cousin J. Moss. Though her first all-studio-recorded album since her 2002 release 2nd Chance, All in One managed to debut and peak at #98 on the U.S. Billboard 200 (her second highest charting on that chart to date) and #3 on the U.S. Billboard Gospel Albums chart, while the album's lead single - "Prayed Up" - peaked at #9 and stayed over 22 weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart.
Tours and concerts:
2007-2008: The Clark Sisters Live One Last Time Tour,
2010 Blessed & Cursed (movie),
2011-2012 Church Girl (stage play),
2012 For Richer Or Poorer' (stage play),
2013 "The Sheards",
2014 "BET HONORS"