Kirk Franklin Biography: Family, Career, Songs, Albums, and Awards


Kirk Dewayne Franklin, a gospel singer, songwriter, and choir conductor, was born Kirk Smith on January 26, 1970, in Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas. His parents were teenagers, and when he was three years old, his mother abandoned him, leaving him with his great aunt Gertrude Franklin. Gertrude and her husband legally adopted Smith, giving him the surname Franklin.

The Franklins were devoted Christians and members of Mount Rose Baptist Church in Fort Worth, and they promptly enrolled young Kirk in the church. They enrolled him in piano lessons when he was four years old, and by the age of seven, Franklin had been offered a recording contract, which his aunt declined. Kirk joined the church choir at the age of 11 and was chosen choir director.

During his adolescence, Franklin rebelled against his rigid upbringing. He went out in the streets, drank, and smoked marijuana until he was 15 and witnessed a close buddy get shot. Devastated by the loss, Franklin returned to the church, joined the choir, and co-founded The Humble Hearts, his first gospel group. He attended in Oscar Dean Wyatt High School but was expelled before graduating due to poor behavior.

Franklin’s great uncle had died years earlier, and his Aunt Gertrude had died when he was 17, leaving him to care for himself. He began working as a pianist for his prior music teacher, Jewell Kelly, and her choir, The Singing Chaparrals. Kerrion, Franklin’s first child, was born when he was 18 and a single parent.

After The Humble Hearts recorded one of Franklin’s compositions, he was invited to lead the DFW Mass Choir in a recording, and his big break came at the 1990 Gospel Music Workshop of America Convention. In 1992, Franklin formed The Family, a 17-voice choir, and signed a contract with GospoCentric Records. Kirk Franklin & The Family, their debut album, was released in 1993 and has since been certified platinum after selling over one million copies.

Franklin went on to create many albums with The Family and God’s Property before starting on a solo career in 2000.

Sunday’s Best, a gospel competition hosted by Franklin, broadcast on BET in 2007. Following a four-year absence from 2015 to 2019, the show returned in 2020 with Franklin as the host.

In 2013, Franklin founded his own record label, Fo Yo Soul Recordings, in cooperation with RCA Records. Throughout his career, he has released 13 albums, each of which has been certified gold (500,000 copies sold) or platinum (1 million copies sold). 16 Grammys, an American Music Award, 23 Dove Awards, 23 Stellar Awards, and a Soul Train Award are among his numerous honors.

Franklin is the first inductee into the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame, which will open in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2021.

Franklin married his wife, Tammy (Collins), in 1996, and the couple have two children together, and two children from previous relationships. They reside in Texas.

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