If Aretha is the queen of soul, then Babbie Mason has to be the queen of Christian soul. Hers is a voice that belts a soulful jazz number then effortlessly switches to a tender ballad, seemingly as easily as an artist changes paint color. Years of hard work and determination have earned her a solid position as one of the Christian music industries greatest artists of our time.
Babbie was raised in Michigan, a bona fide preachers kid all the way. “I think I went to church 9 months before I was born,” laughed Babbie as she recalled her rich legacy of a committed Christian family. In their family was five generations of pastors, and Babbie could not recall a time when she did not know about God. After accepting Christ at the young age of 8, she was playing the piano full time from the age of 9.
“I was a working woman, and I earned $8 a week! It was with that money that I bought my first bike and school clothes,” she said with gratitude, thankful for that entrepreneurial spirit that she so eloquently uses in her ministry today.
Though her foundation was solid, Babbie had dreams of her own, dreams that would take her to Motown. “I wanted so bad just to be in the same room with Aretha, just to carry her cloak!”
As a young woman, Babbie’s musical ability earned her a full scholarship to Spring Arbor College, now a full university. During this time, she was still singing in her daddy’s church, but was also working hard at making her secular music dreams come true. Playing in the bars on weekends and in the church on Sunday seemed fine, until one day she experienced a defining moment when all that would change, all over a cup of soup.
“I was living 2 lives, hanging on to those bars on weekends waiting for my big break. At the time Christian music was in its infancy, and there were not many African American Artists in that genre.”
Though her parents did not agree with Babbie’s double life, they trusted in her foundation and did not worry much about her weekend jobs. They knew God had a plan for her life and trusted Babbie to stick close to her roots of faith and family.
That defining moment came one day while sitting in the snack bar at college watching the news. “I was eating a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup, enjoying a few minutes of down time. Then a friend stopped over and we talked for a while, just long enough for my soup to get lukewarm. When I started to eat the rest of the soup, the grease began to separate and coagulate, and then suddenly it was not appetizing anymore. The whole image, the oil separating from the soup, the plastic spoon and bowl, and it was just no longer appealing. In that moment God gave me a visual image of my life.”
“My bible was not open, but I heard the voice of my dad-pastor speaking from Revelations Chapter 3 vs. 15-16. It says, ‘I know your works and I know that you are neither hot nor cold and I wish you were one or the other, but because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold I’m about to spew you out of my mouth.”
Babbie knew in that moment God was speaking directly to her, not in an audible voice, but the message was clear. “Seeking that lifestyle of music was not for me. This was not His plan.” Though this was clearly from God, this required Babbie to let go of that Motown dream and that was a difficult decision to make. But she did let go and began to seek new opportunities and ways to allow the artist in her to express herself and the music within her.
Soon, opportunity began to present itself in exciting but methodical ways. The dean of the music department offered her an opportunity to become a part of a traveling team of musicians called Common Bond. The next year, she was invited to join that group again, but this year as a soloist. It was this group that would help her to record her first album; in what is now the Gaither’s studio. “The Bible says despise not small beginnings,” remembered Babbie as she recalled this major hurdle of having her first record. “Everyone on campus supported me and bought my album. I remember the day that big freight truck came driving up to my little apartment. I’m putting boxes under my bed and in every nook and cranny and selling records out of my car,” Babbie chuckled.
“God has been very faithful, one thing has always led to the next,” Babbie says as if to emphasize the step by step nature of God bringing about the opportunities that lead to her successful ministry.
The next phase in her life was getting married and moving to Georgia, where she got a job teaching for Cobb County Schools. Charles (also known as Killer due to his job as an exterminator at one time) joined in during our interview and had a quiet smile that was bright as a sunny day. Cutting most of her career ties in Michigan; Babbie was in a sense starting over in Georgia.
One of her first places to perform here was Mt Paran Church of God. Though this was a difficult place to get into for the first time, it was here that things began to take off for Babbie in the south.
One of the most recognizable opportunities was singing at the Governors Prayer Breakfast on the same day that Billy Graham was scheduled to speak. “Billy Graham could not make it and Cliff Barrows, (Longtime Music and Program Director for the Billy Graham team) came in his stead.” It was after Babbie sang one song that Cliff Barrows invited her to sing Great is thy Faithfulness at the next Billy Graham Crusade.
With both Charles and Babbie working full time while also pursuing ministry, it became clear that she needed to quit her job in order to allow the time to commit to her passion of music. “1984,” said Charles, his first words during the interview, remembering the stressful decision they made at that time. “A friend came in that very day and offered to pay our health insurance for one full year, while I was getting my ministry going fulltime, keeping in mind we had two boys by this time,” she said, seeming to still remember how that generous gesture allowed her the freedom to fully pursue her dreams.
After winning a songwriting contest in Colorado, Babbie had a newfound passion for songwriting, and began writing a lot. “A few days after that I wrote ‘All Rise’, which is one of the most recorded songs in the 80’s and 90’s.” That song opened new doors in the arena of songwriting, which lead to signing with a record company. “We made 5 albums on our own, which is very costly and hard work. Record companies began to realize that I was serious, and we are now working on album 16.”
With over twenty years in ministry, Babbie has covered the gamut in reaching others for Christ. “Singing lead to songwriting, song writing lead to book writing (Faith Lift/Treasures of Heaven), all of which are closely related,” she said, again emphasizing the order in which God has allowed her talents to be used.
Living her dream of being a successful musician, she has a heartfelt understanding for those who do not know what to dream or which talents to pursue. “In seeking a life of purpose, two things really matter. God and people. First of all, you need to establish a strong vital relationship with Christ, that is where you begin to understand who you are and why you are here. It is then when you can embrace, yes, God does have a plan for me. Usually your plan is closely related to your gifts and talents. Everyone has gifts and talents, even if they seem to be nominal. Those talents are best discovered when hooked up with Christ and that relationship is your daily focus.”
Keeping that focus in her life requires daily discipline that Babbie is committed to during this busy season of her life. “We are falling prey to too much, thus the term multi-tasking. All these gadgets (motioning to her cell phone) and devices take a little more time every day. We are bombarded with interferences. You can hardly even go to a worship service that cell phones don’t ring. I am more determined than ever to protect my peace. I think these distractions are for the most part a tool of our adversary to keep us anxious and on edge. Thus we will need prescriptions and therapy when really we might all just need a little more peace. I will make a deliberate effort every day to read my Bible even if it means finding a quiet place and closing the door.” Says Babbie with conviction.
“A pastor not long ago said it best. There are three seasons in life. The first is a season of learning. The second is a season of earning, and the third is a season of returning. No matter the season you are in, acknowledge Gods Word and believe Him, He who began a good work in me will continue to carry it into completion until the day of Christ.”
To learn more about Babbie, log onto babbie.com. One of her newest projects is a home-based studio where she is helping others develop their songwriting skills. In addition she has an annual Music conference, this year is May 2006 (open registration available). In addition check your local listings for Babbie’s House television show on WATC TV 57.