The Clark Sisters

The Clark Sisters
The Clark Sisters
Also known as The Dynamic Clark Sisters (1980)
Origin Detroit, Michigan
Genres gospel, urban contemporary gospel
Occupations Singers
Instruments Vocals
Years active late 1966–present
Labels Billmo, Sound Of Gospel,
Rejoice/Word, Sparrow,
EMI Gospel
Associated acts Mattie Moss Clark,
Kierra "Kiki" Sheard,
J Moss
Jacky Clark Chisholm(1966-present)
Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark-Terrell(1966-1990)1996- to present
Dorinda Clark-Cole(1966-present)
Karen Clark Sheard(1966-present)
Past members
Denise Clark Bradford(1966-1986)

The Clark Sisters are an American gospel vocal group consisting of four sisters:Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Karen Clark Sheard. A fifth sister, Denise Clark Bradford, no longer performs with the group. The Clark Sisters are the daughters of legendary gospel musician and choral director Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. They are credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream and are considered as pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: "Is My Living in Vain?" "Hallelujah," "He Gave Me Nothing to Lose," "Endow Me," their hit song "Jesus Is A Love Song," "Pure Gold," "Expect a Miracle,"and their largest mainstream crossover gold certified, "You Brought the Sunshine." Some of the Clark Sister's greatest classics dominated Billboard's R & B and gospel charts during the '70s and '80s. Their albums have sold millions, paving the way for newcomers in gospel to continue to take gospel mainstream such as Detroit's own The Winans Family, including Be Be & Ce Ce Winans, Commissioned, Kirk Franklin, Trin-i-tee 5:7, Mary Mary, and many more contemporary gospel artists. The Clark Sisters have won two Grammy Awards. Despite similarity in names, there is no connection with the 1940s/1950's jazz quartet "The Original Clark Sisters" (also known as The Sentimentalists when they recorded with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra). With 16 albums to their credit and millions-upon-millions in sales, the Clark Sisters are the largest selling female gospel group in the history of gospel music.[1]



The early years

The Clark Sisters were born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. They each began singing at an early age and by the late 1960s they were all performing together in church services, usually singing songs written and arranged by their mother. A few years later, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark turned over control of the group to Twinkie, who would then go on to write, arrange, conduct, and produce all of the Clark Sisters' recordings. In 1973, the sisters recorded their first album, Jesus Has A Lot To Give, on their uncle's local label Billesse Records.[2]

The following year, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark Presents The Clark Sisters was released and people around Detroit began to take notice of the group. The Clark Sisters signed to Sound of Gospel Records in 1974. Under this association, the group released albums such as Unworthy, Count It All Joy, and He Gave Me Nothing to Lose. It was not until the early 1980s that The Clark Sisters began to become the phenomenon that they are now. Their popularity soared with the release of the live recording Is My Living In Vain. The first live recording by The Clark Sisters spent an entire year at number one on Billboard's Gospel Music chart. Opening with the bluesy title track, each sister vocally declares that their dedication to Christ is not a useless effort. The innovative "Haya" was funky enough to find its way into a Tonex produced track over two decades later. Songs such as "Pure Gold" and "They Were Overcome" were derived straight from the word of God. Deep faith is roused by Karen Clark's positively possessed lead on "Speak Lord" while the call to worship is raised on the emphatically delivered "Now Is The Time". Another hit from this release "Expect Your Miracle" is still a staple on Sunday mornings in black churches across the country.[3]

Their next release You Brought the Sunshine would prove to be a monster hit as the title track. Reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster (Jammin')," became a hit in church houses and on dance floors, including New York's fabulous Studio 54.[4] "Sunshine" was picked up from its original independent gospel record label Sounds of Gospel and distributed by both Westbound Records and Elektra Records. In 1983, the song peaked at #16 on the Black Singles chart, #27 on the Club Play Charts, and #80 on the Hot R&B Charts[5] driving the album to Gold sales.The classic ‘80s release from The Clark Sisters features the title track that secured their bonafide hit on the Gospel charts while establishing their controversial crossover appeal into secular music genres. This album continues to display Twinkie’s signature blend of scripture with unprecedented vocal and musical arrangements on biblically based songs like “Psalms 31.” Nostalgic Clark fans find their favorites like the sincere prayer found within the lyrics of both “Center of Thy Will” and “Endow Me,” featuring a young but still vocally mature Karen, and also the simply sassy “Overdose of the Holy Ghost” where Dorinda’s alarming similarity to her mother’s vocal dexterity is evident. The discothèque-inspired “He Keeps Me Company,” complete with its bubbly syncopation, is sure to encourage listeners everywhere during even the loneliest of moments as we continue to fight the good fight of faith.[3] The sisters delivered another progressive effort in 1982, Sincerely, which included "Name It And Claim It" and the politically charged "World." The only problem is that its success was overshadowed by the prepotency of the previously released block buster hit "You Brought The Sunshine", but that did not stop this from receiving a Grammy nomination.[3]


In 1983, the Clark Sisters were invited to perform at the Grammy Awards. It proved to be one of the highlights of the annual awards ceremony, but the church did not approve of it. The church told their mother, Mattie Moss Clark, that she should not perform with her girls again. There were more problems closer to home.

More Success

After a four-year gap between releases, the sisters would continue as a foursome, signing with Rejoice Records, a division of Word. This new deal yielded the Grammy-nominated Heart & Soul (1986) featuring the mainstream single "Time Out". This project made an impressive top 5 debut on Billboard's Gospel Charts and garnered the group a coveted Dove Award. Featuring the original versions of “Jesus Is A Love Song”, “Balm in Gilead”, and the prophetic “Pray for the USA", which has been re-recorded several times. The harmonies and musicianship present us the maturing and seamless sound of The Clark Sisters that we have grown to love. The music takes on a more contemporary sound with programmed drums and synthesizers, but the vocals remain true to form. Also included on this hard to find classic is “Smile, God Loves You”, “Time Out”, “I Am Blessed”, and the funky “He’ll Turn Your Scars Into Stars.”[3]

In 1988, The Clark Sisters released their Billboard, chart-topping, critically acclaimed, Conqueror album. One of the most critically acclaimed albums ever released from the Clark Sisters, Conqueror, spills out from your speakers with futuristic vocal arrangements and spectacular studio production featuring a bolder, more intense sound from the Clark Sisters collectively and individually. Twinkie’s musical genius is exhibited as she borrows from more progressive sounds of the late ‘80s to enhance the overall foundation of the project. Her engaging songwriting skills and inimitable vocal chops remain strong and forceful, but even turn sweet and charming on the adorable R/B-influenced “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.” Karen’s anointed powerhouse vocals on “Take Me Higher” ascend way beyond imagination while Dorinda preaches her way through the drum machine-heavy synthesized “I Won’t Let Go Till You Bless My Soul.” Catch Jacky as she grabs the mic and confidently bounces into a deep ‘80s pop groove on “So Much Joy Inside Me.” Conqueror quickly became a fan favorite with hits like the encouraging “The Darkest Hour Is Just Before The Day” and the original studio version of “Jesus Forevermore” while gaining the Clark Sisters yet another hit album.[3]

In 1989, The Clark Sisters released their highly anticipated LIVE SET, Bringing it Back Home. The last recording from The Clark Sisters on Word Records’ Rejoice imprint and the last group album with Twinkie just before the launch of her solo career, this album brought the sisters back to their hometown of Detroit, Michigan and back to the live stage setting where all the magic happens. This recording features a complete package of surprises for the die-hard Clark fan with a medley including some of their greatest hits like “Is My Living In Vain?”, “You Brought The Sunshine,” and “Hallelujah.” The Clark Sisters also bring new material with Twinkie’s signature lead vocals as she jams on “So Much He’s Done For Me,” Jacky’s soothing presentation on the praise number “Wonderful Counselor”, Dorinda’s blazing energy and improvisations on the hit single “My Redeemer Liveth”, and Karen’s commanding performance on “Prayers of the Righteous.” The album even features guest appearances from gospel icon Rance Allen and backing choir vocals from The Michigan State Choir directed by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.[3]

In 1994, the Clark Sisters released their last studio album before breaking grounds into their successful solo careers. Their last studio album of the decade, Miracle, was the first album The Clark Sisters recorded without the songwriting and vocals of Twinkie Clark. Produced by BeBe Winans & Michael J. Powell, this disc features a very pop version of the Clark Sisters classic "Expect A Miracle" (now titled Miracle), a remake of the classic "Jesus Is The Best Thing" and a breath taking rendition of "Amazing Grace" with Karen taking it home as only she can. Also, one of Karen's most subdued recordings is on this disc, the beautiful "Simply Yes". Upbeat numbers such as "He's A Real Friend", "No Doubt About It" and "It's Gonna Be Alright" round off this project. Also, Dorinda made her songwriting debut on a Clark Sisters recording with "Work To Do". That album, although it fared well in sales, did not match the success of the Clark Sisters previous successes due to the Clark Sisters not being able to tour and promote the project, due to the illness of their mother, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Dr. Mattie Moss Clark passed in September 1994 from diabetes complications.[3]

Emerging solo artists

Following their last Word Records release, Twinkie resumed her calling as a minister and recorded the independent solo album Comin' Home in 1992. Twinkie Clark re-appeared in 1996 with a pair of albums to her credit: the solo studio release The Masterpiece for Ben Tankard's Tribute Records label and the live project Twinkie Clark-Terrell presents FAMU Gospel Choir. The latter released on CD, VHS, & DVD featured The Clark Sisters on a showstopping remake of their own hit "Nothing To Lose."

Karen delivered her much-anticipated solo debut Finally Karen in 1997. The album, featuring star turns from The Clark Sisters, Faith Evans, and daughter Kierra Sheard, was nominated for a Grammy in addition to winning a Soul Train Lady of Soul award. She has since released three more solo albums: 2nd Chance, The Heavens Are Telling, and It's Not Over. Dorinda released her first solo album, Dorinda Clark-Cole in 2002, earning her two Stellar awards, and a Soul Train Lady of Soul award. Dorinda has since released two more solo albums: Live in Houston and the most current release Take It Back, each of which have earned Dorinda the award for Female Vocalist of the Year at the Stellar Awards. Jacky released her first solo effort, Expectancy respectively in 2005 which features The Clark Sisters on the soul-stirring track "Blessing Me." The Clark Sisters have all contributed in various capacities to each other's albums, whether they sang or wrote lyrics.

The sisters' reunion

More recently, The Clark Sisters did a live recording on July 8, 2006 in Houston, Texas entitled Live... One Last Time. The recording was directed and produced by Donald Lawrence and was released as a CD on April 10, 2007[6] on EMI Gospel, followed by a CD/DVD Special Edition release June 19, 2007. In support of the reunion album, The Clark Sisters embarked on a 25-city Concert Tour beginning October 4, 2007. The tour began in Nashville, Tennessee and visited cities such as New York, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Baltimore.[7]

Following the group's resurgence in popularity, Rhino Entertainment is releasing a greatest-hits collection sampling recordings from no less than 3 albums recorded for Word Records from the mid 80's through the early 90's, including the Grammy-nominated Heart & Soul. The album Encore: The Best of The Clark Sisters was released February 12, 2008.[8][9]

Clark sister Dorinda mentioned during an acceptance speech at the 2008 Stellar Awards that due to the overwhelming response to Live... One Last Time, the group may soon record again.

Pastor J. Drew Sheard, (Karen's husband) hinted at the sisters' Grammy Celebration on talks of a new album, that would be aptly titled, The Clark Sisters..."Back By Popular Demand!"


Gospel Grammy awards sweep

Though The Clark Sisters have been thrice nominated previously for the Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy with 1983's Sincerely, 1986's Heart & Soul, and 1988's Conqueror without a win,[11] the group won three Grammys in 2008. Live - One Last Time won the Best Traditional Gospel Album. Its album track "Blessed & Highly Favored" won the Best Gospel Performance. As songwriter of "Blessed & Highly Favored," Karen Clark Sheard won the individual Best Gospel Song.[12][13]

Additionally, at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony featuring a gospel segment with Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Israel & New Breed, and Trin-i-tee 5:7, The Clark Sisters performed a snippet of their signature "You Brought The Sunshine" when the ceremony was broadcast on February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.[14] The Clark Sisters recorded a Christmas Cd followed special appearances with Karen's daughter Kierra Sheard and their cousins Bill Moss Jr. and James Moss known as J Moss and produced by J Drew Sheard

"The Clark Sound"

The Clark Sisters are renowned for their unique vocal stylings, dubbed as "The Clark Sound." They incorporate high and fast melismas, acrobatic trills and riffs, and deep, soulful growls, or "squalls". The sisters are also well known for each distinctive sound that they contribute. Jacky (alto/tenor) is known for her soft, deeper vocals. Dorinda (alto), the "jazzy" sister, inputs scats and riffs. Karen (soprano) is known for her riffs, runs, growls and very high vocal range, and has also been known to implement an "echo" in her live performances. Twinkie with her soulful squalls and growls (alto/tenor/soprano/bass) is credited with being the "heart of the Clark Sisters." Early in the group's development, Twinkie was the chief songwriter, music and vocal arranger, producer and also possessing a wide vocal range from soprano to contralto.

There is no single lead vocalist in the group. Jacky leads songs such as "Wonderful Counselor," "I've Got An Angel," and "So Much Joy",and "God Understands All".Dorinda leads "Overdose of the Holy Ghost," "Time Out" and "My Redeemer Liveth","I Won't Let Go Til You Bless My Soul","Determination","Looking To Get There(Heaven)",and "Sanctify Me Lord". Karen sings lead on "Hallelujah," "Endow Me," the Grammy-winning "Blessed and Highly Favored." Twinkie leads on "Pray for the USA," "I've Got The Victory", and their biggest hit "You Brought The Sunshine." Denise Clark sings lead on Something Worth Living For,Count It All Joy And Christ Is Born Today."

The Clark Sisters are the largest selling female gospel group of all time having sold millions upon millions of albums and have paved the way for the contemporary genre of gospel music.[15]



  • 1973: Jesus Has a Lot to Give
  • 1974: Dr. Mattie Moss Clark Presents the Clark Sisters
  • 1975 Sound Of Gospel Presents
  • 1976: Unworthy
  • 1978: Count It All Joy #20 (US Gospel)
  • 1978: New Dimensions of Christmas Carols
  • 1979: He Gave Me Nothing to Lose (But All to Gain) #18 (US Gospel)
  • 1980: Is My Living in Vain #18 (US Gospel)
  • 1981: You Brought the Sunshine #9 (US Gospel)
  • 1982: Sincerely #12 (US Gospel)
  • 1982: Gospel
  • 1984: Heart and Soul (First version Never released)
  • 1986: Best
  • 1986: Heart and Soul #5 (US Gospel)
  • 1988: Conqueror #7 (US Gospel), #29 (US Contemporary Christian)
  • 1989: Bringing It Back Home #13 (US Gospel)
  • 1994: Miracle #8 (US Gospel)
  • 2007: Live - One Last Time #1 (US Gospel), #56 (US Billboard 200)
  • 2008: Encore: The Best of the Clark Sisters
  • 2008: The Clark Sisters Definitive Gospel Collection
  • 2009: A Clark Family Christmas #15 (US Gospel)


Year Singles Chart Positions Album
US Gospel US R&B Hot Dance Club
1973 "Jesus Has A Lot To Give" 20 - - Jesus Has A Lot to Give
1980 "Is My Living In Vain" 1 - - Is My Living In Vain
1982 "Name It Claim It" 2 - - Sincerely
"World" - - 8
1983 "You Brought the Sunshine" 8 80 23 You Brought the Sunshine
1986 "Time Out" 1 - 43 Heart & Soul
"Jesus is a Love Song" - 105 -
"Pray for the U.S.A." - - -
1991 "My Redeemer Liveth" - - - Bringing It Back Home
"Hallelujah" - - -
2007 "Blessed & Highly Favored" 1 - - Live: One Last Time
"Livin'" 2 117 -
2008 "Looking To Get There (Heaven)" - - -
"Something New" - - -
2009 "Instrument (Re-issue live)" - - -

Other Appearances

  • "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" - Commissioned & The Clark Sisters (from Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration) (Reprise, 1992)
  • "Nothing to Lose" - Florida A&M University Gospel Choir featuring The Clark Sisters (Crystal Rose, 1996)
  • "Jesus Is a Love Song" - Karen Clark-Sheard featuring The Clark Sisters (from Finally Karen) (Island, 1997)
  • "Pure Gold" - Karen Clark-Sheard featuring The Clark Sisters (from Finally Karen... Live! - VHS Only) (Island/Polygram Video, 1997)
  • "Show Me the Way" - Dorinda Clark-Cole featuring The Clark Sisters (from Dorinda Clark-Cole) (Gospocentric, 2002)
  • "You Brought the Sunshine" - Kelly Price feat. The Clark Sisters (Def Soul, 2003)
  • "I'm Not Perfect" - Missy Elliott feat. The Clark Sisters (from This Is Not a Test) (Elektra, 2003)
  • "I Made It" - Twinkie Clark featuring The Clark Sisters (from Home Once Again) (Verity, 2004)
  • "Blessing Me" - Jacky Clark-Chisholm featuring The Clark Sisters (from Expectancy) (Entheos, 2005)
  • "Higher Ground" - Robert Randolph & The Clark Sisters (from Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration) (EMI Gospel/Vector Recordings, 2009)[16]
  • "I Wanna Thank You"- The Clark Sisters, Kierra Sheard, and J Moss(from "Silky Soul Music... an All-star Tribute to Maze feat. Frankie Beverly) (Brantera Music Group, 2009) the clark sisters is the best singing female group in gospel in secondary music they blending in harmonizing is so perfect



  1. ^ Gospel Music - The Clark Sisters New Album
  2. ^ "The Clark Sisters Biography". 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g
  4. ^ J. Matthew Cobb (August 31, 2007). "80's Countdown". 
  5. ^ "The Clark Sisters Chart History". Allmusic. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Clark Sisters Concert Tour
  8. ^ New Releases 2008
  9. ^ Encore: The Best of The Clark Sisters on
  10. ^ "The Clark Sisters May Record Again". January 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  11. ^ "Awards Database". The Envelope.,0,7169155.htmlstory?selectsearch=awardsdb&target=article&searchtype=all&Query=Clark+Sisters. 
  12. ^ "50th Annual Grammy Awards Nomination List". 
  13. ^ "50th Annual Grammy Awards Nomination List". 
  14. ^ Mariel Concepcion (January 24, 2008). "Beyonce, Rihanna, Underwood Performing At Grammys". 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. March 27, 2009. 

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