Remembering The Clark Sisters' Father Elder Elbert Clark – Key Facts about His Life and Death
A new Lifetime film, "The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel" premiered on April 11, bringing to light the story of one of gospel music's great vocal groups, including the life and death of their father, Elder Elbert Clark.
"The Clark Sisters" is an American gospel vocal group that is credited for bringing gospel music to the mainstream and regarded as pioneers of contemporary gospel.
The group initially consisted of five sisters, Jacky Clark Chisholm, Denise Clark Bradford, Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Karen Clark Sheard, all daughters of the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Denise later left the group.
The Clark Sisters altogether have released 17 albums and have three Grammy Awards to their name. They also performed at the memorial service of Aretha Franklin.
While fans bore witness to the group's inspiring vocals, there were a lot of things happening behind the scenes that were revealed in their new Lifetime movie, "The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel," including details about the group's mother, Dr. Mattie, who was their choir director.
The film also sheds light on Elder Elbert Clark, of whom little is known about. Elbert was Mattie's second husband. They got married in 1952 and divorced in 1973.
Dr. Mattie Moss Clark was born March 26, 1925 in Selma, Alabama. She moved to Detroit in the 1950s during the Great Migration, which is where her gospel music career took off. Over the next 40 years, she recorded dozens of gospel albums, until her death September 22, 1994. pic.twitter.com/jBybf0nTYF— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) April 12, 2020
Elbert fathered four of "The Clark Sisters" - Denise, Twinkie, Dorinda, and Karen. It was in his church, Berea Church, that the girls started singing. However, by the time they took off as a group, he and Mattie were finalizing their divorce.
Kierra revealed that she was pleased about the way Aunjanue Ellis played Dr. Mattie.
It is well known that Dr. Mattie died on September 22, 1994. However, no one knows when Elder Elbert died, though he kept running his church and remained committed to it before his death.
Elder Elbert Clark was Dr. Mattie Moss Clark’s husband and father of Denise, Twinkie, Dorinda, and Karen. His daughters began singing in his church, Berea Church of God on the city’s Westside. He divorced their mother in 1973, around the time they took off as a group. pic.twitter.com/OMQFGzLAmw— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) April 12, 2020
In the Lifetime movie, Karen's daughter, Kierra Sheard, a Grammy-Award winning artist, portrayed her mother. Kierra said she did not know the details of her grandmother, Mattie's relationship with Elbert but that he remained her grandfather.
Although Kierra did not know the details of her grandparent's relationship, she reportedly revealed that Elder Elbert was abusive to Dr. Mattie.
Kierra also revealed that she was proud of the way her aunts were portrayed in the movie, and most particularly pleased about the way Aunjanue Ellis played Dr. Mattie.
The famous Clark Sisters from Detroit consist of Jacky, Denise, Elbernita (Twinkie), Dorinda, and Karen. The gospel group was created in 1966 by their mother, gospel legend Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. The sisters are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel music.#TheClarkSisters pic.twitter.com/IV4K3P6tXP— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) April 12, 2020
Meanwhile, many people have wondered about the whereabouts of "The Clark Sisters." One clear thing is that Jackie, Dorinda, Karen, and Denise are all married with children. Twinkie has a son with speculations that she was married but is now divorced.
The oldest of the sisters, Jackie, debuted a solo album in 2005 and signed a new record deal last year. She also works as a nurse and balances her medical life with her singing career.
Since departing from the group, Twinkie has applied her talents to helping other artists. She is also a member of the Hammond Hall of Fame.
Denise “Niecy” Clark-Bradford is the second oldest of the Clark Sisters, born in 1953. She performed with her sisters for over 20 years, before leaving the group in early 1986. In an interview in 2019, she said she was kicked out for having children out of wedlock by a pastor. pic.twitter.com/16kXYP1JN6— Detroit Griot (@JustCallmeBHunt) April 12, 2020
Dorinda is the Clark sister with one of the most successful solo careers. She once contemplated suicide, overcame addiction, and witnessed Twinkie's nervous breakdown.
After that, she devoted her time to become a mental health advocate, using her music to spread her message. Dorinda was also a teacher at the Clark Conservatory of Music and is an administrator at the Greater Emmanuel Institutional COGIC.
Karen is the youngest Clark sister and enjoyed the most success as a solo artist. She survived a coma following an elective plastic surgery operation after which she strengthened her faith, becoming an advocate for self-love, acceptance, and body positivity.
Denise left the vocal group in 1986 due to the growing resentment between her and her mother because she got pregnant out of wedlock. She did not have any contact with her sisters until her mother's death.
That reunion in 1994 did not go so well and she remains estranged from her siblings. She, however, maintains her love for them. Denise is married and is a mother of seven children. She sings and ministers at her local church.