Alvin Slaughter was selling burglar alarms in Brooklyn and singing at weddings and churches in his spare time when his career took an unexpected turn.
“I was the wedding king of Brooklyn and Queens in 1990,” Mr. Slaughter said with a laugh. “I grew up in the church and always sang and played an instrument, but never in a million years would I have thought that today I'd be traveling the world and singing full time.”
Just back from a trip to Uganda, where he sang for a crowd of 50,000 in a stadium - adding that 60,000 more people had to be turned away - Mr. Slaughter will be in Toledo to perform a Christmas concert tonight and tomorrow.
The switch from selling burglar alarms to singing gospel music came through Mr. Slaughter's role as lead vocalist of his church choir. It wasn't your average, everyday church choir, however - it was the Grammy Award-winning, 250-voice Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
“It was a great choir and it was getting a lot of recognition,” he said. “But the greatest thing is that it was a great church with a great sense of community and it had a spiritual impact on my life and on my family's life.”
The 46-year-old singer known for such worship songs as “Rain Down” and “God Can!,” said his music reflects his life experiences, including the tough times, which makes it real for people who are also struggling.
“When I first started going to Brooklyn Tabernacle, my life was a mess,” Mr. Slaughter said. “I grew up in the church but I lived in so much deceit. I went through 16 jobs. My marriage was in deep trouble. I didn't have the skills to be a good husband and father. Brooklyn Tabernacle was a great place of healing for my marriage and for my spiritual growth.”
Some people expect Christian artists to have everything together, Mr. Slaughter said, but he wants to break down the barriers between himself and his audience.
“Hey, I'm no different than anybody else. A lot of people are going through things that would shake the rafters of the church if people knew their stories. They wonder, `How can God love me?' When I tell them about my own experiences, they know God's love is real.”
His 19-year-old son, Sean, is another example of how God can change someon's life, Mr. Slaughter said. Sean is a Christian rapper who often opens concerts for his famous father. But only a few years ago, the teenager had turned his back on God.
“When he was 16, he became a racist. He didn't want to be involved in church anymore,” Mr. Slaughter said.
“I didn't know it at the time but he was doing drugs. He was my audio engineer and used to come to the concerts high. I thought he was just mellow. I was so busy traveling around the world I didn't even know he was in trouble.
“But 31/2 years ago, he had an encounter with God. It was an incredible turnaround. God touched his life through music. We don't need three-point sermons with a flowery introduction and a conclusion, we just need more encounters with God,” he said. “And not just one time. I don't want to take my wife out to dinner one time; I want to do it often. It's the same with encountering God.”
When Mr. Slaughter gets rolling, he speaks with the fiery rhythm of an evangelist.
“Everybody says I ought to be a preacher, but that's the last thing I want to be,” he said. “But I can introduce a song for an hour.”
He is putting the finishing touches on a new album, tentatively titled “Power and Glory,” scheduled for release in March on the Hosanna! Integrity label. He said he waited until he felt inspired to write and record the songs.
“It's been three years since my last recording,” Mr. Slaughter said. “It got to a point where the songs I was writing and the songs people were sending me just weren't hitting me. Everything sounded the same instead of being written with a pure heart.”
He said he will include some Christmas songs in his Toledo concerts, but will also sing a number of his gospel hits and favorites.
“I don't want to leave the baby in the manger,” Mr. Slaughter said, “because he's a grown man.”
Alvin Slaughter will be in concert with the Calvary Choir at 7 tonight and tomorrow at Calvary Assembly of God, 5025 Glendale Ave. Admission is free but an offering will be taken.