December 9, 2007 / 3:05 AM / in 10 years

Gospel star Franklin, fans in "Fight" club

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Kirk Franklin has forged a successful career creating cutting-edge gospel music that hits his audiences where they live. He does so again on “The Fight of My Life,” due in stores December 18.

<p>Kirk Franklin performs during the concert "Rebuilding the Soul of America - One Year Later", dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 29, 2006. Franklin has forged a successful career creating cutting-edge gospel music that hits his audiences where they live. He does so again on "The Fight of My Life," due in stores December 18. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>

Franklin says the album’s title sums up the way a lot of people are feeling.

“A lot of people are trying to stay above water. People are fighting for their peace of mind and to keep their homes from being foreclosed or fighting for their children,” the five-time Grammy-winner says. “I want people to know they aren’t in it by themselves.”

“The Fight of My Life” is Franklin’s second release on his own Fo Yo Soul imprint, which is marketed and distributed via a partnership with Zomba Gospel.

Franklin has also won 13 Gospel Music Assn. Dove Awards, most recently for “Imagine Me,” from his 2005 album “Hero.” That effort has shifted 909,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

For “The Fight of My Life,” he enlisted guest turns from gospel music pioneer Rance Allen, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Donovan Owens and the Williams Brothers. Franklin also teamed with singer/songwriter TobyMac for “I Am God,” which they recorded in Nashville.

“When black people play rock music, it sounds like black rock,” he says. “And what I wanted to do is have it sound very authentic. That’s why I used Toby’s band. We had it all (done) in a day.”

Franklin believes the tune “Help Me Believe” will make an impact.

“The first verse (says), ‘I want to believe, but I‘m having a hard time. I want to be free, but every time I try to fly, I realize I don’t know how,”’ Franklin says. “That’s an honest plea to God.”

Franklin has booked a December 21 slot on NBC’s “Today,” and will also make in-store appearances at retail outlets. The release will also be heavily exposed on BET, where he hosts the weekly series “Sunday Best” and will guest on the network’s New Year’s Eve countdown.

Tour plans for 2008 are still coming together, but Franklin, who this year played in Italy, Nigeria, the Netherlands and Jamaica, hopes to spread the gospel to a wider international base.

“(Those) audiences are great because it’s not something they get a lot of,” he says. “So when they do get it, they are very receptive and they are very excited.”

Reuters/Billboard

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