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Priscilla Marie Winans was born in Detroit on October 8, 1964. She was one of ten children (and the first daughter) born to Delores and David Winans, a couple who were devoted members of the Pentecostal Holiness Church. Secular music was forbidden in the family's home, and Priscilla (who was nicknamed CeCe by her grandmother) grew up on a musical diet of classic gospel music, though she would hear pop and R&B music from her friends at school, and members of the Four Tops lived in her neighborhood. Her mother regularly led CeCe and her siblings in song, and she performed in church for the first time at the age of eight. This eventually led to the Winans family forming a gospel vocal group, and they developed a nationwide fan base through appearances on the Christian television series The PTL Club. While her brothers Carvin, Marvin, Michael, and Ronald Winans split off into a successful quartet, the Winans, CeCe and her brother BeBe found a loyal audience for their duo performances. PTL's record label took BeBe & CeCe Winans into the recordings studio to cut their first album, 1984's Lord Lift Me Up. Three years later, the pair had cut ties with the PTL organization and signed with Capitol Records, releasing the LP BeBe & CeCe Winans in 1987.
Between 1987 and 1994, BeBe & CeCe issued five albums that fared well on the gospel and R&B charts, until the two split off into separate solo careers, with Sparrow Records issuing CeCe's Alone in His Presence in 1995. The album earned her Grammy and Dove awards (she would go on to win 12 of the former and 20 of the latter), and sold over a million copies. That same year, she recorded a duet with Whitney Houston, "Count on Me," which appeared on the soundtrack album to the hit film Waiting to Exhale. 1998's Everlasting Love fared even better, spawning a pair of gospel hits, "Slippin'" and "Well Alright," and featuring the track "On That Day," which was co-written and produced by Lauryn Hill. Later the same year, Winans delivered her first holiday album, His Gift.
She next launched her own label, Wellspring Gospel, debuting the imprint with 1999's Alabaster Box, which included guest vocals from Take 6 and production from gospel star Fred Hammond. She added stronger contemporary R&B and hip-hop flavors for 2001's CeCe Winans, with the gospel rap group GRITS joining her for the sessions. It was followed by a set of traditional worship songs, 2003's Throne Room, which saw Wellspring Gospel moving their distribution to Epic Records. 2005's Purified gave Winans a chance to explore R&B, funk, and pop sounds while maintaining a gospel outlook, and it was followed in 2007 by her first album for youngsters, a story with music called CeCe Winans Presents Kingdom Kidz. That year, she also released CeCe Winans Presents Pure Worship, a set of impassioned worship songs with straightforward arrangements and production. 2008's Thy Kingdom Come was another powerful gospel set, and 2010's Songs of Emotional Healing, as its title suggested, focused on material that offered spiritual comfort to those dealing with troubled times. In between those projects, she found time to record a reunion album with her brother BeBe, Still, that was a success on the R&B and Gospel charts.
Winans put her musical career on the back burner in the early 2010s when she and her husband, Alvin Love, founded a house of worship, Nashville Life Church. Her duties as a pastor kept her away from the recording studio for several years, but at the urging of her son, composer and producer Alvin Love III, she began working on an album influenced by classic soul and R&B sounds, the sort of music she couldn't listen to in her parent's house as a child. With Love at the controls, 2017's Let Them Fall in Love marked Winans' musical comeback, and she wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, following in 2018 with Something's Happening! A Christmas Album. In 2021, she gave fans her first live album, Believe for It, a collection of worship songs recorded in front of an appreciative audience. ~ Mark Deming