“And the Grammy goes to … CeCe Winans!”
The 64th annual Grammy Awards took place in Las Vegas on April 3, but CeCe Winans was over 2,000 miles away, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“I had already made a commitment to be somewhere else that night,” she says.
Knowing that she was nominated in three categories, CeCe chose to forgo the red carpet and star-studded awards ceremony for an evening worshipping and praising God with Liberty students. And even after winning all three Grammys, she stayed on campus through the following day, visiting some classes and holding a question-and-answer session with music students.
“It’s encouraging to be recognized by your peers, but to me, it’s ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’” says CeCe, whose powerful voice renders such songs as “Goodness of God,” “Believe for It” and “Worthy of It All.”
CeCe, the bestselling and most-awarded female Gospel artist of all time, is now the owner of 15 Grammys, but those gold-colored gramophone statues are not without strings attached.
“Winning 15 Grammys definitely gives you more influence in this industry, and even outside the music industry,” she tells Decision. “And so, my question is always, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do with this influence?’
“I know that every stage, every platform comes from the call that He has on my life. He’s entrusted me with these opportunities. I just pray that 15 Grammys behind my name will make people remember who He is.”
The eighth child and the first girl born to David and Delores Winans (known as Pop and Mom) in Detroit, Michigan, Priscilla Marie—nicknamed CeCe by family and friends—often felt as if she had seven additional fathers.
“There wasn’t much dating, that’s for sure,” she says jokingly.
But thankfully she had two younger sisters to share her burden.
Pop and Mom intentionally raised their brood to respect others, work hard and most importantly—honor God.
There was no secular music allowed in the house. The girls were forbidden to wear pants, short dresses or makeup. The movie theater was off-limits. But looking back now, CeCe thanks God for her parents’ commitment to remain firm in their faith and raise their children in a way that was pleasing to the Lord—however unconventional their parenting methods seemed.
“Even though they were strict, they were full of love. Their rules built character in me. Today, I can wear makeup and know I’m not sinning, but at the same time, I can go without it and know who I am. And while I also don’t believe there is sin in wearing pants, their rules landed me in a place of modesty.
“They never had us look down on people who believed differently than we did or had different rules and standards. We were raised to love people and respect their beliefs, but also be able to stand firm in what we believe.”
Now 57, CeCe still remembers her 10-year-old self navigating the waters of preteen peer pressure and knowing she had a choice—start basing her decisions on her love for God or give in to the ways of the world.
“I remember having to take a stand for righteousness, and that’s when I asked God to be my personal Lord and Savior.”
But accepting Christ’s gift of salvation didn’t automatically mean CeCe was willing to fully embrace the plan He had for her life.
“Singing in the background, singing in the choir, I was totally satisfied with that. But singing out front—that wasn’t for me. Yet my parents saw the talent that was in me, and between them and the kids choir teacher, I didn’t have a choice.”
It wasn’t until years later, at the age of 17, that CeCe began to see for herself what others had seen in her all along. At the time, she and her brother Benjamin, known as BeBe, were singers on The PTL (Praise The Lord) Club, a Christian television program in Charlotte, North Carolina. For three years, the brother-and-sister duo dazzled viewers with their rendition of “Up Where We Belong,” which led to their debut album, “Lord Lift Us Up,” in 1984.
The four oldest Winans brothers, Marvin, Carvin, Michael and Ronald, also performed as a quartet. But CeCe, dubbed the “reluctant star” by family and friends, was hesitant to commit to a career as a performer.
“Being an artist was not my goal, yet I started to realize the anointing that God had given me,” she says. “I saw the reactions of people as I was singing, and whether they were crying or deep in worship, I felt the presence of the Lord.
“I got to a point when I said, ‘Lord, if people are going to be blessed by my voice, then yes, I’ll perform.’”
To this day, CeCe admits that as much as she loves singing, she loves being at home more. But 17 million records sold and countless performances later, she cannot deny God’s calling on her life.
“It’s been His leading,” she says. “Even when I mess up, I know at all times that God is with me and He loves me.”
Through the ups and downs of her career in the music industry, the death of her brother Ronald in 2005 and emergency stomach surgery in 2008, one person has stood by CeCe’s side without waver—her husband of 38 years, Alvin Love II.
Before they married in 1984, when Cece was just 19, she sought the blessings of both her parents and her pastor.
“I couldn’t see as far as they could see because I was young and in love. I knew they were God-fearing people and full of wisdom, so I made up my mind that if they weren’t fully persuaded and weren’t behind us, I wouldn’t marry Alvin.
“I will never forget my pastor’s words: ‘CeCe, I believe this is of the Lord because he loves God more than he loves you.’”
Over the years, CeCe and Alvin have grown together in their understanding that their marriage is meant to reflect the Lord’s glory, and to do that, they must make the decision to crucify their flesh every day. But that doesn’t mean fun is off the table.
“Alvin and I laugh a lot,” she says. “We’ve got to. Life is short, and when you recognize the blessing of waking up every day, and you both love Jesus, it’s important to have fun and laugh.”
The couple, who now live near Nashville, have two children—Alvin III, 37, and Ashley, 35. And in 2020, they became grandparents to Wyatt, Ashley’s son with her husband, Kenny.
Now a grandmother, CeCe has found herself in a new, and somewhat unexpected, season of life.
“Time kept going, and all of a sudden, I looked up and realized, Wow, I’m part of the older generation now.”
In her new book, “Believe for It: Passing on Faith to the Next Generation,” CeCe aims to emulate those who invested in her character and spiritual growth all those years ago.
“My parents’ generation really magnified God in a way where I wanted what they had. I saw God move in their lives. I saw their stability; I saw their commitment to Him; and I saw the rewards. God blessed their lives.”
Her response to her forebearers is that she wants to “die empty,” which is the purpose of her book.
“I’ve got to pour out everything they poured into me into the next generation coming after me. I need to pass the baton. I’ve got to make sure I’m preparing the next generation to run a better race, to run a stronger race, to understand who they are in Christ.”
CeCe believes that it’s every Christian’s responsibility to impart spiritual wisdom and knowledge into those newer to the faith.
Psalm 145:4—“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts”—sums it up, says CeCe.
“No matter your age, or where you find yourself in life, there’s someone you can be pouring into. This is how God is the Father, the Lord, of every generation. He is depending on us to pass it down.” ©2022 BGEA
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2022 BGEA