Since his debut, 1993’s Kirk Franklin & the Family, Kirk Franklin has been one of the brightest stars in contemporary gospel music. The album spent 100 weeks on the gospel charts (some of those on top), crossed over to the R&B charts, and became the first gospel debut album to go platinum. His second album, Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas, became the genre’s first Christmas album to make it to number one, and his 1996 album Whatcha Lookin’ 4 went gold as soon as it was distributed. With such phenomenal success, Franklin remains a humble, devout Christian, eschewing the title ”entertainer” in favor of labeling himself as just a ”church boy.”
Franklin’s road to the top, though quick, was far from smooth. Abandoned by his mother and never having known his father, Franklin was reared by his Aunt Gertrude, a deeply religious woman who raised him as a strict Baptist. When he was four, she paid for his piano lessons by collecting aluminum cans. The lessons were money well spent, for Franklin was a natural musician who could sight read and play by ear with equal facility. At age 11, he was leading the Mt. Rose Baptist Church adult choir near Dallas. Despite, or because of, his church background, Franklin began rebelling in his teens and getting into trouble until one of his friends was accidentally shot and killed at age 15.
Realizing that he had chosen a bad road, Franklin returned to the fold and began composing songs, recording, and conducting. Support from his pastor, his wife Tammy, whom he married in early 1996, and the four children they brought to the marriage help keep Franklin close to his religious core.