Vanessa Bell Armstrong
October 2, 1953
When I started out, I was a contemporary vocalist however the late Thomas Whitfield mixed it up with a traditional feel and since then I never went far from that... I love the contemporary and I love the traditional... to me the time-honored sounds of Gospel music is our medicine... it gives us hope... it encourages, but the contemporary-up tempo stuff is what lifts us up. It all works together.— Vanessa Bell Armstrong
Armstrong made her solo debut on Onyx/Muscle Shoals Sound Records in 1983 with the album Peace Be Still. The title track has since become one of Armstrong's signature songs. Armstrong's second album Chosen hit number one on the US Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart.
Armstrong performed on the 1st Annual Soul Train Awards ceremony. Her 1986 album Following Jesus won a Soul Train Music Award for Best Gospel Album – Solo in 1988. She is also a seven time Grammy Award-nominee.
Armstrong enjoyed a slice of mainstream success in the late 1980s. Her self-titled 1987 Jive Records debut yielded the Billboard-charting hit "You Bring Out The Best in Me," as well as the club favorite "Pressing On." The next year's follow-up album Wonderful One featured a cover of the Labi Siffre anti-Apartheid anthem "Something Inside So Strong." The song was later remade in 1995 by Armstrong along with Shirley Caesar, Fred Hammond, Tramaine Hawkins, Yolanda Adams, and a host of other gospel artists as a tribute to Rosa Parks. The song was serviced to radio stations to play on the 40th anniversary of the civil rights icon's arrest.
Armstrong appeared on Broadway in 1991 in a production of Don't Get God Started. "Always," a Marvin Winans composition that anchors the play, also appears on Armstrong's 1987 self-titled album. Her Broadway role lead to a cameo appearance in the Oprah Winfrey TV special The Women of Brewster Place. Armstrong was also chosen to record the theme to the popular 1980s NBC sitcom Amen.
Armstrong took a three-year self-imposed hiatus from recording before releasing A Brand New Day under a new deal with Tommy Boy Gospel in 2001. She was presented with a lifetime achievement award during 2004's Gospel Superfest.
Armstrong's 2007 album, Walking Miracle, is her first release in 6 years, and blends traditional gospel fare like "So Good To Me" (produced by Smokie Norful) with contemporary songs like "Til The Victory's Won" (produced by Fred Jerkins III) and the title track (produced by Rodney Jerkins). The latter song was inspired by Armstrong's son who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Other works and collaborations
Armstrong was a frequent musical guest of the early projects of John P. Kee & The New Life Community Choir, and lent her voice to several classics that include "We Walk By Faith", and "We Glorify".
Awards and honors
- Grammy Nominations
- Best Soul Gospel Performance – Female for Peace Be Still (1983)
- Best Soul Gospel Performance – Female for Chosen (1985)
- Best Soul Gospel Performance – Duo, Group, Choir or Chorus for "Choose Ye" (1986)
- Best Soul Gospel Performance – Female for "Pressing On" (1988)
- Pollard, Deborah Smith (2013). "Armstrong, Vanessa Bell". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2234178. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- J. Matthew Cobb (August 31, 2007). "80's Countdown". PraiseHymnOnline.com. Archived from the original on March 18, 2007.
- "Soul Train – Don Cornelius Production". SoulTrain.com. Archived from the original on July 25, 2013.
- Hardy, James Earl (1995). "Hip deep in gospel – American African music form continues to change". American Visions.
- Holden, Stephen (October 31, 1987). "The Stage: 'Don't Get God Started,' a Gospel Musical". The New York Times.
- "Vanessa Bell Armstrong – A Brand New Day". GospelCity.com. December 28, 2001. Archived from the original on September 14, 2005.
- Rosenthal, Phil (January 23, 2004). "What are you looking at?". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Vanessa Bell Armstrong EMI Gospel Press Release". Archived from the original on October 8, 2007.
- North, Stan (November 6, 2001). "A Brand New Day Album Review". GospelFlava.com.
- "Vanessa Bell Armstrong Award Nominations". The Envelope (Los Angeles Times).
- "Vanessa Bell Armstrong". soulwalking.co.uk. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
- Roberts, Roxanne (October 12, 2003). "For black sororities". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.