Kirk Franklin was abandoned as an infant by his biological mother and, never knowing his father, was raised by his Aunt Gertrude, a deeply religious woman who paid for his piano lessons by collecting aluminum cans. He became fascinated with gospel music and by age eleven was directing adult choirs in the Dallas, Texas area. In 1993 he released his debut album, Kirk Franklin and the Family. Widely and almost immediately accepted, it went on to spend 100 weeks at the top of Billboard's gospel charts, while also crossing over to the R&B side and becoming the first gospel album to sell more than a million units. Franklin has quickly become the most important figure in modern gospel music. Though he describes himself as a "church boy," his undeniable soul is compelling even to listeners who are not spiritual. In fact Franklin has had a very successful crossover career as a mainstream R&B artist, and has worked with Mary J. Blige, U2's Bono, and R. Kelly.
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