Sweet Honey In The Rock was founded in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagon, who was teaching a vocal workshop with the Washington, D.C. Black Repertory Company. Reagon retired from the group in 2004. The name of the group was derived from a song, based on Psalm 81:16, which tells of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed from them. Johnson has said that this first song in which four women blended their voices was so powerful, that there was no question what the name of the group should be. The ensemble’s most powerful messages are proclaimed through an enormous catalog of songs addressing the world’s woes. They are currently occupied with immigration injustices, congressional greed and lack of compassion for citizens, the environmental imbalance, racial issues and women’s issues.
The sixth member of the group is a sign-language interpreter, and the deaf community is encouraged to attend these joyous performances.
Sweet Honey In The Rock has received several Grammy Award nominations, including one for their children’s album, Still the Same Me which received the Silver Award from the National Association of Parenting Publications. They won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for their version of Lead Belly’s “Grey Goose” from the compilation album Folkways: A Vision Shared.
Their vocals appeared in a number of animated counting cartoons on the long running PBS series Sesame Street, and the group was the subject of the 2005 documentary Sweet Honey In The Rock: Raise Your Voice.
The group has ventured through 20 vocalists since its creation. Embarking on a new chapter in their musical journey, Sweet Honey In The Rock now includes four core vocalists—Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard (both founding members) Nitanju Bolade Casel, and Aisha Kahlil—plus Shirley Childress (an American Sign Language Interpreter who has been performing live with the group since 1981).
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