For the last two decades, Darius has thrived in almost every musical capacity imaginable from songwriter, singer and instrumentalist, to arranger and producer for a host of Gospel luminaries that includes Shirley Caesar, Vickie Winans, the Mississippi Mass Choir, and Ricky Dillard, Daryl Coley as well as R&B icons Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and current chart-topper Avant, to name but a few. But by far his greatest, and most celebrated work—until now—has come from his prolific and unprecedented association with Gospel patriarch Reverend Milton Brunson and his famed choir, the Thompson Community Singers, affectionately known as the “Tommies.”
As an integral part of Rev. Brunson and the Tommies’ long string of No. 1 albums, from the mid-‘80s through the late-‘90s, and writer and featured vocalist on such Brunson classics as “My Mind’s Made Up,” “If I Be Lifted,” and “Safe In His Arms,” Darius has earned a formidable and enduring place in the annals of Gospel history. And yet, with a resumé already to his credit that most artists can only dream of, Darius rises to an even greater level of artistry and inspiration with the passionate, powerful, and perfectly crafted Your Will.
A sampling of stand-outs on an album filled with classics-in-the-making, includes “Your Will,” a majestic ballad, proclaiming absolute faith in the wisdom, unfailing love and provision of the Almighty for His children. “Hezekiah Mind” jubilantly harkens back to Darius’s roots in hand-clapping, foot-stomping Sunday-morning Gospel. The gorgeous “No One But You” rides atop a delicate acoustic guitar and orchestra, with his young vocal ensemble, SDM, lending stirring choral vocals to Darius’s poignant lead, as the song builds to a dramatic crescendo that resounds like an anthem for the ages. And literally rattling the rafters and shaking the house is the hammering, hard-rocking, bone-rattling “High Lift Him”—featuring a searing rap from SDM’s Nedra Sobule—in an absolutely commanding shout of praise and glory to God.
Darius was born and raised in Chicago, where he still resides today with his wife Debroah, and the couple’s one-year-old daughter, Dasha Lyric Brooks. He was one of fifteen brothers and sisters, whom he recalls, only half-jokingly, as “real `pork-and-beans and hot-dogs’ children.” With a father he remembers seeing “maybe once or twice” in his entire life, he was raised by his mother, Ethel Armstrong. An accomplished pianist, and a well-known figure in Chicago’s thriving Gospel community, she regularly accompanied many of the legendary performers of the day, including Mahalia Jackson, Albertina Walker, and Inez Andrews, among countless others.
Equally vital in Darius’s raising were his godparents, Mr. & Mrs. Ellis Price, with whom he spent every other weekend as well as every summer throughout his young life. With a strong Christian faith and a solid, nuclear family life, they gave Darius a rock of stability on which to grow and flourish.
Darius was born a musical prodigy, whose gift was first realized as a small boy, when he seated himself at the piano and began to pick out full melodies, and soon accompaniments as well, completely by ear. His mother was, not surprisingly, a huge influence in his musical development, nurturing his gift and giving him pointers and instruction as he grew.
As early as age four, Darius would attend choir rehearsals with his mother, who would at times stand him up in a chair and let him “direct” the choir. While all the adults were tickled at the precocious youngster’s antics, by the time he was nine, Darius was indeed actually conducting choirs, with full awareness and understanding of the task, and the music, at hand.
While Darius grew up on a steady diet of all the great traditional Gospel that both preceded and surrounded him, he drank equally from the well of the definitive R&B and pop music of his formative years, by legendary artists that included Earth, Wind & Fire, the Commodores, the Chi-Lites, Peabo Bryson, and Patti LaBelle. That musical freedom birthed in Darius a diversity that has become a hallmark of his own music, and which shines brightly throughout Your Will.
“I was never restricted or limited in what I could listen to, and I’ve been influenced by any and all the great music and I’ve ever heard,” Darius says. “My godparents were a different story. They were more what you’d call `sanctified,’ and they weren’t having any of that worldly music, but my mother was very liberal. She knew great music when she heard it, and I came up the same way. My godparents gave me a strong rooting in the Word and the faith, and my mother gave me my musical foundation. “It was a perfect combination, which only God could have orchestrated,” he continues, “and as a result, I’m not afraid to incorporate R&B and pop into what I do, because I know who I am in the Lord, and I believe when God gives you a gift, it’s for the world.”
By the time Darius was a teenager, Gospel patriarch Reverend Milton Brunson knew of him through his mother, and was well-aware of his musical gifts when he asked her if she’d mind her son playing with the Tommies—already a Chicago institution, soon to become one of the most important and beloved choirs in America and the world She consented, and Darius, then only 18-years-old, eagerly accepted the invitation, beginning what would be a richly rewarding and highly celebrated association with “The Reverend” and the Tommies that would last for the for nearly 15 years. Darius remembers that first rehearsal well, as he taught the choir one of his original compositions, “Safe In His Arms,” which a few years later would be recorded by the Tommies, garnering a Grammy nomination and becoming part of its unparalleled repertoire of classic songs.
Darius’s mother, who passed away in 1985, was not only instrumental in introducing him to Reverend Brunson—and opening the door that would so profoundly shape her son’s musical destiny—she also helped instill in him values and character that would serve him well in the years to come. “My mother was a wonderful woman and she taught me a lot of virtues, one of which was loyalty,” says Darius, “and I felt a great sense of loyalty to Reverend. In all the time I spent working with him, I realized it was his season, not mine, and I felt blessed and happy to be in the place I was for those years. And we also know biblically that seasons change, and ultimately you really do reap what you sow.”
In 2000, with seven Grammy nominations and three Grammy Awards already to his credit, plus a trophy case full of Stellar and Dove Awards, the Scriptural declaration to which Darius eludes, from the first verse of Ecclesiastes, Chapter One, “To everything there is a season,” came to pass in his own life, as he felt the call to set out on a solo career path, forming the independent label, Journey Music Group (JMG). He also established the Simply Darius Music foundation, an organization devoted to discovering and mentoring young talent, from which he soon drew SDM. Darius’s profile continued to grow as he became musical director for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition. The attention garnered Darius’s debut JMG album, and its two successors in 2001 and 2002, inevitably led him back to a major-label affiliation, when he signed with EMI Gospel in early 2004.
Your Will is the full flowering of the seeds Darius Brooks has spent a lifetime sowing in his illustrious life and career, and as he finally steps to the forefront of the world of Gospel, he speaks with seasoned assurance of his both his passion for his music and its purpose. “I don’t really hold onto `hopes and dreams’ anymore,” he concludes, “because over time I’ve come to a place where I just trust God totally and His plans, whatever they may be. I know that I was created for His purposes and glory. He’s given me this platform, and I’m going to follow as He leads and obey as He speaks, and whatever He gives me will fall exactly where, when, and the way He chooses.”