Most gospel music fans know the smash hit “Praise Is What I Do”—the title track from Shekinah Glory Ministries’ 2002 gold-selling album—much better than they do the name of its writer, William Murphy. But that is about to change, and in bold and dramatic fashion.
With the release of William’s major-label debut album, All Day, the world can now hear the amazing voice and deeply moving songs of a young man who already is one of the brightest lights in the firmament of contemporary praise & worship music.
Possessing a voice that is nothing short of stunning, in range and dynamics, and with seasoned hit-makers flare for instantly accessible, engaging and unforgettable words and music, William makes music that crosses all lines of age, creed and color. William Murphy makes for the masses, and All Day is the calling card introducing one of the most formidable talents in contemporary music.
Recorded live before a vocally enthused and inspired audience, All Day runs a gamut of musical influences from modern gospel, urban, R&B, rock and pop, all drawn together into a brilliant and original combination that defies easy, preexisting categories. Don’t bother with labels. Just call it William Murphy, and be prepared to be amazed.
The classic “Let It Rise,” the album’s first single and video, moves from simple guitar and percussion to a full-throttled gospel/R&B and rock-fueled anthem, as William and his band and vocal ensemble soar above it all, giving new life and high-octane energy to the venerable standard.
“Created to Worship” kicks in with William’s passionate vocal riding atop a torchy, bluesy piano. The song’s power swells as the band and ensemble fall in, leading to a thrilling crescendo that suddenly drops to a gentle, reverential coda.
William adds his own, definitive spin to “Praise Is What I Do,” again letting the acoustic guitar lead off what build into a powerful congregational anthem, as William lays down astonishing vocal improvisations off the choir’s rock-solid rendering of the eminently singable chorus.
As William movingly addresses on “I Know Why I Am Here ,“ he was born out of wedlock, to teen-aged parents who never married, though as he makes clear in the song’s narrative, neither his nor any birth is ever a “mistake” in God’s sight. Raised by his mother, in her house, he was also in close proximity and relationship with his father as well throughout his life and received strong parenting from both.
William was given a solid foundation in both the church and its music, as his father and grandfather were musically gifted, and the elder a Baptist minister and his son a minister and bishop. Both men, still active in the ministry and in strong voice, join William on All Day on the powerful, fervent ballad, “Be Strong.”
“Church is what I’ve known all my life,” he says. “My family is rich in the heritage of the Gospel, in spoken-word ministry as well as music. That was the foundation I grew up on.”
William was born and raised in Detroit, where he lived until his late 20s, before moving to Atlanta in 2001 to take the position of Senior Minister of Worship at Bishop Eddie Long’s renowned New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
While William came from strongly religious surroundings, he describes that environment as having been “very balanced,” and in addition to absorbing the work of a number of great gospel artists, Marvin Winans and Kirk Franklin foremost among them, he was allowed to listen to popular secular artists. Particular head-turners to the young William included Lionel Ritchie, Luther Vandross (“Man, I went through a phase where I wanted to be Luther Vandross!” he laughs); and the multitude of legendary figures on the 1985 , uplifting smash, “We Are the World” (“I could sing everybody’s part…Lionel, Michael, Diana Ross! I had that one down!” he adds.)
Although he had cousins who had been, proverbially, singing from the cradle, William’s talents were later in coming to the fore, as he sang for the first time in front of a congregation at age 14, after having first been active in school musical programs
“I was the late bloomer in the family,” he remembers. “I just woke up one morning and discovered I could sing! For a number of years I thought I would just use that gift in my father’s and grandfather’s church, and that would be it. But I was 19, and at a Kirk Franklin concert in Detroit, and I heard the Lord telling He had given me this voice to go a lot farther than that. I felt Him calling me to reach nations. Still, it took about another 10 years to get to the point I’m at now.”
In that interim, after being part of a choir on an album produced by gospel legend, the late Thomas Whitfield, as well as music director at his father’s church, he took a job as a bank teller. It was not long, to say the least, before William felt the Lord speaking to him in a considerably louder voice about His intentions for William to go into full-time ministry.
“One day at the bank a man came in and proceeded to clean out my cash drawer at gunpoint,” William recalls. “I decided immediately it was time for me to make a change!” The banking world’s loss, however, proved a marked gain for music ministry, though William’s ascent to prominence was still a number of years in the offing. His first major step up the ladder of recognition as a worship leader came when he met Bishop Bishop Paul S. Morton, the International Presiding Bishop at a national convention of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship in 1995. William was asked to record a song for the album released from that conference, on which Bishop Long gave a spoken introduction. The two became friends and William was soon after offered the position as the Fellowship’s worship minister.
As his presence rose in the denomination in the fellowship, and word of his immense talents spread ever farther, William was presented the opportunity by Bishop Long to serve at New Birth in 2001. William and his wife and two children moved to Atlanta as he became the church’s Senior Minister of Worship, a position he held until only recently. In 2005, as his personal ministry built to a level that called him to travel and lead worship in churches across America on a frequent basis, he chose to step down to an associate’s role at New Birth, which he still maintains.
As the release of All Day sees William truly fulfilling the calling he first heard at that concert more than a decade ago, he is both clearly excited as well as humbled by all that awaits him.
“Great musicians touch the hearts of men,” he says, “but worshippers touch the heart of God. I would hope the two come together in what I do with a kind of power—and in a language—that anyone can relate to and be touched by, inside as well as outside of the church. I’m not putting any limitations on God anymore. I’m ready to take this as far as He wants it to go.”