The title of Anthony Brown and Group Therapy’s latest single, “Blessings on Blessings,” perfectly captures its namesake leader’s life at present. Just this week, the jubilant song rode all the way to number one on the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart. Brown returned to Morgan State University, which he attended in the early 2000s, on Thursday to receive a special award for his success in the gospel music world: his first-ever gold record.
According to a post-event press release, fellow gospel musician and event host Maurette Brown Clark read a letter from Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young during the Thursday ceremony at The Murphy Fine Arts Center. Later, Bryant Scott, president of Brown’s label Tyscot Records, surprised Brown on stage with a large gold record plaque from the Recording Industry Association of America that certified 500,000 sales of “Worth.” The honor took place four years after Brown and Group Therapy, the singer’s longtime ensemble that consists of several Morgan State peers, first topped the Billboard charts with “Worth.”
“It’s never been about trying to go after success, or get up the charts or any of those things," Brown said after the surprise award left him overcome with emotion, according to the release." I just knew that if I wrote a song that resonated with people that it would go wherever it needed to... So, this [gold record] is evidence of that. It’s never been a chase after success. It’s been a chase of trying to write music that would touch people where they’re at. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
One day earlier, Brown admitted that he still didn’t know specifics about the event.
“The crazy thing about this is, all I saw was an update on my calendar that on Thursday, I get to be at Morgan State for a special honor,” Brown said. “I have no idea what the honor it is, and I have no idea [of] the background as to how it happened. I’m just grateful to have gotten the phone call.”
Dr. Eric Conway, who leads the historically Black university’s choral program and fine/performing arts department, mentioned that “a Baltimore city delegation” helped coordinate the honor. A spokesperson for Mayor Young did not return requests for comment.
Morgan State’s public relations director Dell Jackson described the event as more of a “homecoming” for Brown and celebration of his success than a specific honor.
Regardless of the specifics, Brown said he felt “pretty overwhelmed” by the recognition.
“To be honest, it’s a lot to take in, especially considering that I didn’t see any of this coming,” he said. “I just started doing music because I believed that I was called to do it.”
Brown boasted gospel roots before he was even born. Both his late grandfather and father were bishops in the Baptist church, and his father served as pastor at several churches, including Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore County. His mother led a church choir program, and both parents recognized early on that Brown had a talent for the piano.
“By the time I was 12 years old, I was minister of music at my father’s church,” Brown said. “Gospel music was just always a part of who I am.”
Brown eventually took his talents to Baltimore School for the Arts and beyond as he followed his father’s footsteps to Morgan State in 1999. He studied under the university’s late choral director Dr. Nathan Carter. Conway, then the university’s main piano instructor, met Brown around that time.
“He always had an excitement about him,” Conway said. “A high energy individual, absolutely. I remember him sharing original compositions of his way back then.”
“They were hard on me, but it was the kind of hard where you know that somebody expects you to do something great,” Brown said of Conway and Carter. “With Dr. Conway specifically, he knew my gospel roots, he knew that I played by ear, and he would force me to not let that become a crutch. He made me learn to read [music], he challenged me to think outside of my gospel roots box.”
Brown remains proud of his Morgan State training, even though he ultimately left the school before graduating in 2005 to pursue his music career in earnest. He returned to the school for homecoming and other special occasions over the years, even as his reputation in popular gospel grew. Brown also stays committed to the greater region’s musical heritage. For instance, when he’s not touring, he serves as the assistant minister of music at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Prince George’s County, where he currently lives. “Blessings on Blessings” notably features an extensive percussion section and driving beat that he said pays tribute to Washington D.C.'s native go-go music.
“I think Baltimore’s one of those places where people, if they’re doing gospel, they’re definitely coming through Baltimore, they’re definitely coming through the DMV,” he said of the region’s reputation in the gospel community. “They want to be near Baltimore in some way.”
“Blessings on Blessings” comes from “2econd Wind,” Anthony Brown and Group Therapy’s fourth album, which comes out on October 19.