America America is Winans' seventh studio album and is comprised of nine classic patriotic songs and three original songs. "The inspiration for America America is the times we are living in," said Winans. "Sometimes, we forget that we are all Americans. At sporting events, when the National Anthem is sung, everyone stands -– Black, White, rich, poor -– everyone."
ESSENCE.com caught up Winans to chat about America America and his message for all Americans this 4th of July.
ESSENCE.com: You've done so much in your career, both solo and with your sister CeCe Winans. What inspired you to do a patriotic album?
BEBE WINANS: I've always been a writer that's written or recorded songs that I think are relevant. There is no limit. I'm one who should never be limited to one category. This, to me, is no big ordeal. I think that if anything is out of the norm it has everything to do with a full patriotic album being recorded by any artist in any genre. I didn't learn that until I was done with the project. You have artists who have done a single here or a cut there but never an entire album. I was inspired to do it and I really had a wonderful journey. I love songwriting more than anything. I think the reason why these songs touch us and have been around for many years is because they came from experiences and they came from the heart of the writers. A thought that dropped into my heart and at the same time, I just felt compelled to do it. It's not out of the norm. I've never been one to worry about what others thought or a reaction.
ESSENCE.com: Collectively, with the songs on the album, you're crafting a particular message. What would that message be to Americans?
WINANS: After sitting back and listening and knowing what the journey meant to me, I think if anything I want to send the message out to everyone that we are Americans. We all are Americans, no matter what color, creed or lifestyle or what party you belong to. We are first all Americans. We realized that we can come together even when we disagree and accomplish anything.
ESSENCE.com: Some Black men would say they're not proud to be American. Tell us why you are.
WINANS: I'm one who is proud. I am proud because of the opportunities to travel all over the world and realize the freedoms we have in America are worth every struggle and every sacrifice that has been made. We are a blessed country even though we don't feel it sometimes nor can we see it. Sometimes people haven't had the opportunity and some people just haven't taken the opportunity to travel around [outside of] one state. Therefore the vision is one-sided. I'm affected when I see something going on in Syria. I realize they are human beings just like we are. With that travel I'm able to state how proud I am to be an American. I know a lot of people who feel the way I feel. For those who don't, I pray these songs -– a song has a power to change minds and to bring knowledge -– will bring them other views.
ESSENCE.com: You mention that you want to heal the nation through music. Does that mean you believe the nation is broken?
WINANS: I think so. I think it's everywhere. You won't find paradise until you get to heaven. Everywhere you turn there is something unsure. With every right there is a wrong. I've learned over the history of my career how songs have done just that. Whether it's natural or spiritual. I have been blessed to meet people who have been blessed by my music and decided to give life a try. But people still come to a point where life is not the answer. I don't know what brings people to that point. We all have our ups and downs but music plays a role in bringing the positive.
ESSENCE.com: You recorded your own version of "The Star Spangled Banner." No one has been able to duplicate Whitney Houston's 1991 version. You spoke to her about recording your own version. What did she say?
WINANS: Whitney and I, and our families, are like family. We talked about the patriotic album. One of her funny remarks [about me doing the National Anthem] was, "You sure you want to do that after I did that?" My answers was, "Your God is my God. I'm not scared of you!" She responded with laughter. All of us knew that when she nailed the National Anthem. It would be hard for anyone to come behind it. One of things I learned early on was no one can be the best BeBe except BeBe. I do the best BeBe can do.
See the video for the album's lead single America America below.