Jennifer Hudson: Faith, Tragedy and New Music

Scott Roth/Invision/AP
Donald Kaufman
Donald Kaufman is an L.A.-based producer, composer and mix engineer. He is also the songwriter and frontman of the band Visceral Design. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Kaufman began…
Donald Kaufman

Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Jennifer Hudson is preparing to release a new album, “JHUD,” in September — her third studio album and her first since the conclusion of the lengthy trial of the man who killed three of her closest family members.

In a telling interview with Tim Adams at The Guardian, Hudson touched on the ups and downs of her life and career so far.

Raised without the early guidance of her father and sharing the same bed with her mom till she was 16, she lent her talents at her local church as lead soloist. She found her voice through singing in the church and survived hardships through her faith — even though that belief was put to the hardest kind of test by the loss of her nephew, brother and devout mother.

Hudson first entered the limelight by trying for the top prize on “American Idol” in 2004, making it as one of the final seven contenders before being cut. She eventually won critical acclaim and big-screen stardom in “Dreamgirls” in 2006, for which she won an Oscar for best supporting actress.

She followed up that win with the release of her debut album, “Jennifer Hudson,” winning a Grammy in 2008. But at the height of her fame and while she was on tour, in October of that year, she got the call from her sister that her mother, Darnell, with whom she kept in contact every day, and her brother, Jason, had been shot and killed. Her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was also missing and was found dead three days later.

The culprit, her brother-in-law William Balfour, received three life sentences in 2012. The church that was the spark and guide to her monumental and transcendent voice became the foundation for coping with her grief.

It is often said of great soul singers that all the grief of the ages is embedded in their voices; have those awful experiences, I ask, changed the way she feels about her own vocal expression? She thinks for a moment. “No,” she says. “Certainly there is a lot of emotion there, but I think I have always been in that kind of space. What do they say in church? Sing from your heart, because you are singing to God. You know, when I used to sing those solos in church I would go through every line and ask the director: ‘What does this mean? What are we trying to convey here?’ If you can’t feel the emotion of a song, how do you expect anyone else to? It’s like a testimony in that way.”

Although her first single, “Walk It Out” — which is in essence about the quick seduction of the singer — seems to fall into the pop-sex category that she has critiqued, she says she hopes to sing about more wide-ranging topics. She certainly has the back story to do so.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman

A performance of “One Night Only”

A performance of “I Will Always Love You” at the Whitney Houston Funeral Memorial

New music video “Walk It Out”

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