When Fred Hammond released his 2012 effort, “God, Love & Romance,” it was met with no small amount of adversity.
On “Love,” the perennial gospel favorite addressed matters of the heart, which had fans from both the gospel and secular sects raising Cain.
“A lot of people wrote me off and said ‘When this comes out, he’s done,’” Hammond said. “I heard it from both sides. Some people said ‘you should stay in gospel. You’re not as slick as some of the others’ and comparing me to artists who sang more lustful lyrics, and I said ‘this is not a lust song album, this is a love song album.’”
Scheduled to perform Feb. 16 at Gary’s West Side Theatre, Hammond has been a mainstay in the universal gospel strata for more than three decades.
Reared in Detroit, Hammond was introduced to the masses in the early '90s as the bassist for the Winans before co-founding Commissioned in 1984. The band released nearly a dozen albums from the mid '80s through the mid '90s and was nominated for a slew of Grammy and Stellar Awards, gospel music’s equivalent to the Grammys.
Hammond released his solo debut, “I Am Persuaded,” while still with Commissioned in 1991, and concentrated on his own works without the band with 1996’s “The Spirit of David.” He has received a shelf load of Dove and Stellar Awards on his own over the course of the last two decades-plus and, in 2008, took home a Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album Grammy for his 2008 set, “Free to Worship.”
For last year’s “Love,” Hammond found inspiration in '60s and '70s Motown greats such as the Temptations, Smokey Robinson Eric Roberson and Stevie Wonder, as well as in the gospel roots which have grounded him for more than three decades.
“I wasn’t trying to be Trey Songs or R. Kelly,” Hammond said. “I was just trying to keep it smooth and give the body of Christ something to listen to. A lot of people are going through a lot of different things. Even in the church … it gave some people something to think about from a guy with a Christian perspective.”
“I’m not a monk,” he added. “I’m not a guy who lives on a mountain. I’m a regular man who loves God. But I absolutely love relationships. I love looking for a wife. That’s just the mode that I’m in.”
While Hammond may have caught no small amount of flak for “Love” on the onset, he would go on to have the last laugh; the album not only topped Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums Charts upon its release but landed in the eighth spot of the all-genre encompassing Billboard 200 chart, no small feat for a gospel album.
“I didn’t put too much thought into it, but I was happy when it happened,” Hammond said of “Love’s” mainstream chart success. “You do expect some things (to happen) when you put out quality work. You do hope to do something like that.”
Next month will see the release of the debut set by United Tenors, a vocal super-group featuring Hammond alongside fellow crooners Dave Hollister, Eric Roberson and Brian Courtney Wilson. The self-titled set is slated for release March 26.
“This is praise and worship, gospel and very inspirational record,” Hammond said. “It’s a throwback to the days when I was in Commission and when the Winans were around. But it’s a fresh new moment.”
In addition to the West Side Theatre box office, tickets for Hammond’s Feb. 16 performance are also available at Billco’s Barbershop, 2448 Broadway, Gary, Big Daddy’s BBQ, Cleveland St., Gary and Groove Dimensions Beauty & Barber Salon, 1720 Broadway, Gary.