Smokie Norful Biography
Smokie Norful is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album I Need You Now and his 2004 release, Nothing Without You, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2005.
Norful, a minister who is also the son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas but grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, deeply involved in his father's church. He was interested in music from a very young age, reportedly picking out one-finger piano melodies from the age of two. His parents supported him with music lessons, and, unusually for his background, allowed him to experiment with and listen to the current R&B and soul music of the day as well as gospel music.
Norful graduated from the University of Arkansas as a History major and spent four years teaching high school. In 1998 he felt "called" to the ministry, and pursued a Masters of Divinity degree at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Upon graduation and ordination, he took a position as assistant pastor at a church in Chicago. He participated in an album release by the Thompson Community Choir, a well-known gospel group, and contributed a song as well as solo vocals. He was then offered the opportunity to make a solo album for EMI Gospel, I Need You Now. The album was a slow starter but eventually went gold, spending two years in the upper reaches of the Billboard Gospel Charts.
He was nominated for and won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. He is also signed to EMI-CMG Publishing and his own Norful Music Publishing as a songwriter. He performed on June 6, 2005, for President George W. Bush in a concert honoring Black Music Month.
Norful's music is best described as a fusion between gospel, 70's soul and contemporary R&B; the influences of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and other male soul/R&B vocalists of the 70's and 80's is clear.
Norful is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.