A family labor of love

A family labor of love

Check out the video of Lamar "Marty B" Browning and his family singing "You Made A Way."

Music has been a part of Lamar Browning’s life for as long as he can remember, ever since his dad first plopped him next to the piano so they could sing together.

As Lamar and the family grew, so did their musical repertoire. They are the gospel Von Trapps.

Lamar and his four siblings — Maya, 16; Morgan, 13; Jon, 7; and Madison, 5 — sing in church choirs together, in school, at family reunions. They sing around the house, with dad Jon Browning leading Blog Photothe kids in three-part harmonies. There was Lamar’s experiment with the drums, and later a couple of gospel bands, and his first-place finish in the C-U Superstars contest (and sister Maya’s third place last summer).

Now, at 24, Lamar — aka “Marty B” — has turned his passion for music, particularly gospel, into a budding singing career.

His first single, “Just For Me,” comes out Monday, and the family has organized a release party/concert at 7 p.m. Friday at the Church of the Living God in Champaign (see ticket info below).

“I come from a musical family. It’s something that was really instilled in me as a child growing up,” Lamar said.

As a Champaign teacher and mother, Tyra Browning knows the power of music to soothe even the rowdiest child (to paraphrase the old saying).

“It is something that is so instrumental in the lives of children. Music is words put to song, but it’s so powerful because music just puts you in a certain mood,” she said.

“When we’re down, and I hear them singing or we’re singing, it just does something to your spirit to lift you. I think it’s just so powerful to have that gift, of being able to move people just through song.”

Lamar’s career goal is not fame but “looking to effect change within the world through music,” as his tagline states.

“I want to be the person that somebody says, ‘Wow, his music helped change my life,’ or ‘When I listened to this song I got joy. I was able to smile again.’ ”

It’s a lesson instilled by his father, and manager. Jon Browning is a minister and “the singing man of the family,” Lamar said.

When Lamar was young, the two would practice “day in and day out,” until he was comfortable singing in front of a crowd. Lamar’s first gig was at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Champaign, where the family attended. Jon Browning travels to preach at different churches, so Lamar would also go along and sing for the congregation.

But it wasn’t until high school that Lamar started thinking about music as a career. Before that, he played sports, and singing was mostly for fun.

During high school he started entering talent shows, singing at the Champaign-Urbana Days celebration at Douglass Park and other competitions. During his junior year at Champaign Central he formed a group with some friends, called “Ignite,” which won the 2009 C-U Superstars talent show and a chance to perform at the Urbana Sweet Corn festival.

From there, Lamar’s career goals solidified.

“It really became serious to me, seeing how my singing and everything kind of affected people. I had a lot of people around me who were into gangs and drugs. The power behind the music started to affect them and change their lives,” he said. “A lot of my friends who didn’t go to church or didn’t even listen to gospel music started to come around and change for the good.”

The members of “Ignite” eventually went their separate ways. After graduating from Central in 2010, Lamar majored in vocal performance at Parkland and worked several jobs before signing on as vocal coach for CU Superstars in 2012, working with talented youth from across the county.

In 2014 he formed another group, “Marty B and a Bunch of Believers,” which sang at churches and events around the area. The band started working on his new song, but when it, too, dissolved, Lamar decided to pursue a solo career.

Late last year Lamar and his dad connected with a Chicago gospel music producer, Curtis Lindsey of C.L. Keys Music, who agreed to produce “Just for Me.”

“We let him know the vision for the song ... and he created just that,” Lamar said. “I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

The song will be available digitally through iTunes, Google Play and Amazon starting Monday.
Blog PhotoThe inspiration was the Bible passage Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

“I really believe that it’s a great song. I feel like it’s going to touch some people’s lives,” he said.

Browning’s love of soul music (particularly Marvin Gaye and Al Greene) are evident in his style. Soul is “from the heart, it’s so powerful,” he said. But country music is also a favorite (Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan in particular) because of its emphasis on lyrics.

“They either explain life’s trials and tribulations, or they explain the love of their life,” he said. “It’s so detailed, it’s almost like listening to a story.

“I’m a gospel artist, but I want to be able to reach all people,” he said. “You have to understand what they listen to.”

Lamar has performed at churches, festivals or concerts in St. Louis, Houston, Detroit, Louisiana and Florida.

His career has become a family business. Jon is the manager, but Tyra is the organizer, helping arrange tour dates and logistics for the rest of the family. At church on Easter Sunday, 7-year-old Jon sat at the ticket table, shaking hands and charming potential customers.

“Everyone plays a role, from the youngest to the oldest,” Tyra Browning said.

On Monday, working on two hours’ sleep, she was typing up job descriptions for the countless volunteers and others involved in Friday’s concert. She’d been up until 3 a.m. Monday, then took Lamar to his day job at 5:30 a.m.

“She’s the support system. She keeps us balanced,” Lamar said. “She understands the music. She has to hear it 24/7 because if I’m not singing, someone else is. We make a song out of anything.”

Tyra and Jon Browning meet together every night, making sure all the details are covered. They’ve made financial sacrifices to help launch Lamar’s dream, but they’ve also had lots of help from sponsors and others.

“It’s been a blessing,” Tyra Browning said. “This is a big deal for our family. It’s a long time coming. He’s been so faithful, not only to his calling and his ministry, but to his family and his parents. He’s Blog Photobeen such a good boy and hasn’t given us too many problems. He still respects us, he’s still here supporting us if we need him.”

Lamar — who surprised his mom by writing a song for her 40th birthday last year — bounces the credit right back.

“What better manager could I have than my father? He’s a great supporter, a great encourager. He’s always helping people. They’re loving people. That’s where I get it from.”


Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or Twitter.com/jawurth.


'Marty B' concert:

What: Single release concert for gospel artist Lamar “Marty B” Browning
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Church of the Living God, 312 E. Bradley Ave., C
Headliners include: Gospel star Bryan Wilson, a Danville native; Pastor Daniel X. Smith and the New St. Matthew Inspirational Choir
Guest hosts
: Minister Chuck Spearman of WESL Radio PRAIZZE 1490; Evangelist Terri “14kt” Gold of Dr. Bobby Jones Presents on Impact TV
Tickets: General admission, $5 in advance, $7 at the door; VIP seating $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Sections (1):Living
Topics (3):Music, People, Religion


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Mercia Gwendolyn wrote on April 25, 2016 at 3:04 am

Lamar's story on how he got music in his life is a real inspiring for the youth and all families out there. I strongly agree, that he was influenced by his parents for their love and support to music. Yes, it is a family labor of love.  Lamar could not step into this kind of beautiful life and music without a positive outlook in life in which he adapted from his parents and siblings.