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Life-Changing Recordings: Mary Mary
(Every artist has a soundtrack that reveals their musical journey. But what is the one recording that proved to be a transformative moment? In this ongoing series, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists will reveal their answer to the deceptively difficult question: What recording changed your life?)
"Count It All Joy"
Heart & Soul (1995)
"The record that did it for me is 'Count It All Joy' by the Winans. It was a stage when I was in college. Erica and I were living in an apartment sharing rent that was just pennies. We had no other expenses and we couldn't manage the pennies to cover rent. I was in college, I was working too, and I was trying to take care of business and establish myself as an adult and become responsible without mommy and dad's help. And we couldn't manage to pay our rent.
"I was thinking, 'I'm in school, I'm working part-time, I'm trying to take care of business and be responsible, and here we are, losers, about to get kicked out of our place because we can't even afford rent.' I was trying to do the right thing, and was wondering, 'Why is this happening?' And I just felt like I was just a loser and I couldn't believe that it's what I had become. I was 22.
"[My sister] Erica put on the song 'Count It All Joy,' and the song said: 'Count it all joy /Even when it seems so hard to/ He'll never give you more than you can handle.' I was trying to connect with scripture, from which the Winans almost always derive their songs. And it's a scripture in the Bible that says, 'God won't put more on you than you can bear.'
"I had thought I was gonna fall apart at that point. And that song told me not to give up, that something was gonna work out, that one of these part-time gigs was gonna bring enough money in where we were gonna get our rent money, and stay in school, and become something in life.
"And that song, I will always remember that song, because I thought I was nothing, and that song helped me to pull through and persevere through the hardships as a new adult."
Tye Tribbett & G.A.
Victory Live! (2004)
"It's a hard question because there have been so many songs throughout my life that have helped me with what I was going through and what I was facing.
"Right now the one at the forefront of my mind is 'Victory' by Tye Tribbett.
"Tina and I were already Mary Mary when this happened. We were already on the road; we were actually on tour. It was probably one of the most devastating emotional situations in my life that I had ever, ever dealt with. I really thought that it was gonna break me. And it didn't because of this song.
"This is the most triumphant song I could have listened to at that point in my life. The lyric in the song comforted me so that I could get through the phase I was going through. There was one line in the song that impacted me so heavily I would hear it every day, and it was not even a long line: 'Every situation I face, I win.'
"[The track] has incredible music and the horns are crazy, and the energy is like go-go music. But that line, 'Every situation I face, I win.' It sustained me.
"If it was a normal situation, if I was a normal person, I might have just left and gone and sat in the corner and cried. But I didn't. I kept going. I kept singing. I kept doing what I had to do because of that line in the song.
"So I didn't quit, I didn't stop, I didn't crumble, it didn't break me the way I thought it would. Because I realized that every situation I face, I win, because I said I would. I know it in my heart. I know people in similar situations in which it absolutely did take them out. But knowing that every situation I face, I win, [it] helped me to move forward, knowing that I could take it, that I could do it, that I could really have victory over that situation.
"I think when you say that line, you are testing yourself, and you are seeing if you really believe this. You can tell somebody else to hold on, but what's gonna happen when you go through it? Will you hold on? Will you make it with what you're going through?
"And we did make it, and we have the testimony to prove it. And it came by music, which is even more beautiful. Because we really, truly know the power of song, the power of music."
(Two-time GRAMMY-winning gospel duo Mary Mary are currently nominated for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and Best Gospel Song for "Go Get It." Their most recent studio album is 2011's GRAMMY-nominated Something Big.)
(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On Songwriting, Conversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)