Benajmin "BeBe" Winans, part of the legendary Winans musical family, will perform during both the opening ceremonies and the patriotic memorial service at The American Legion's 95th National Convention in Houston.
Winans has topped the charts with gospel, R&B and inspirational music, and has won numerous awards since getting his start in the mid-1980s. In 2012, he released "America America," a patriotic album that includes both standards and several songs written by him.
Winans recently spoke with The American Legion about his inspiration behind "America America" and coming to national convention.
Q: Why do you think you were invited to national convention?
A: I think a lot of it has to do with a couple of things, one of which is my appreciation for the armed services. I had traveled, for the second or third time, overseas to sing for our troops. And one thing led to the other. And so I'm looking forward to coming and being a part of the convention this year.
Q:How did you start performing for the troops?
A: I found out after being in music as long as I have that your music travels across the waters. And because of that, I've received invitations to travel the world and sing for our troops, as well as just concerts overseas. And I have been richly blessed by doing so. The troops tell you how much they appreciate what you've done, but you have a chance to tell them how you appreciate what they've given.
Q: Are there particular songs that you get requested to sing?
A: Yes. Our national anthem. They love to hear it sung. At the same time, it represents all of America. And it's a song that I know a lot of people get nervous when they sing, but I sing it when I'm not on stage. It's a song that I've always loved, and so I'm the least nervous when I sing that.
Q: What do you think is the key to making a good showing of the national anthem?
A: I think with any song, it's to believe what you're singing. And so it's a song that I believe in, and that I actually love singing. And so with anything, practice makes perfect. If you're just being asked for the first time to sing it, and you've just learned it before you sing it, you're going to have trouble. But I know that song like I know my ABCs. It's just that simple. If you're comfortable with it, it's easier to sing.
Q: Were there particular ideas you had in mind when you wrote "America America?"
A: I was inspired. I write when I'm inspired. Some of the songs I was inspired to write when I'd visit a base and sing "God Bless America" and the other public domain songs. And so "America America" derived from one of those moments. "We're the United States of America" is another. And the song "Ultimate Sacrifice" I wrote because one of those visits was right before we went to war. In Iraq, I went and sang for the troops, and the reality of going to war is that ... some lives are going to be lost. So it was amazing to me that these brave young women and men were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice. So that song was a song of gratitude to these incredible, brave people who were willing to do just that.
Q: What are you most looking forward to during the national convention?
A: I think anything and everything. When I go anywhere – and it's a simple answer – I love people. And whether the people are of my faith or not, whether they're of different races or different creeds, I love people. And so for me to be invited and come to a convention where there are people, I'm always excited to do so. This convention and opportunity is really exciting for me because in the last couple of years, I've been more attuned to the sacrifices of those who are in the service, and their families who sacrifice as well. And so I'm very excited to come and, through song, say ‘thank you' to an organization that does something to help and better the lives of those who have served this country.