Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I’m Tavis Smiley.
Tonight, Grammy-winning a cappella sextet, Take 6, joins us for a conversation and special performance from their latest project. It’s called “Believe”.
We’re glad you’ve joined us. Take 6, a conversation and performance, coming up right now.
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Tavis: Pleased to welcome Take 6 to this program. We’ll kick things off tonight with a performance of “When Angels Cry” from their new CD, “Believe”, and then we’ll return for a conversation. But first, here now, Take 6.
Tavis: “When Angels Cry”. 25 years later, y’all still got it. You still got it. Let me give you a proper introduction. Alvin, Khristian, Dave, Claude, Mark, Joey, good to have you all here. I said 25-plus years later, you got still got it. I’m cheating just a little bit.
Dave Thomas: Just a little bit, just a little bit, but we appreciate it.
Mark Kibble: We appreciate the 25 [laugh].
Tavis: I was teasing you guys when you walked on the set because I’ve been at this–this is our 13th season on PBS, and I have never had six guests on one stage. So a shout-out to my team and our crew for fitting all these Negroes on one stage. I don’t know how they fit [laugh].
But I can’t imagine six people I love to talk to more and to celebrate the success you’ve had over the years. Alvin, does it feel like 25-plus years now?
Alvin “Vinnie” Chea: Sometimes. I mean, as I was getting ready and I was shaking up my Just For Men bottle, yeah [laugh]. Sometimes it feels like 25. But we still laugh a lot and have fun. It’s like no other soldiers I’d rather be with. I know everything about these guys.
Tavis: What allows for a group–I was teasing you guys earlier about starting to look like the Black version of the Rolling Stones [laugh]. You been together–that’s a compliment, that’s a compliment.
Chea: Thank you.
Thomas: I don’t know about that [laugh].
Tavis: You been around a long time and you’re still together. What allows for that? And all jokes aside, one of the things I celebrate about the group, Mark, is that you’re six Black men who’ve been together and stayed together and achieved together and loved together and served together.
And I think–you know where I’m going with this. I think there’s an inherent message in that to Black men and to the larger society. What allows for that sort of cohesiveness all these years later?
Kibble: Well, it really comes from the fact that our first love is our love for God and that message and that drive to share His love unites us. Then that kind of pushes our self out of the way. You know, we have differences.
We got a bunch of them, but that’s what has taken us through those differences, those fights. We, you know, take it to the Lord. You know, let that come first and then some of who we are, we can just kind of push to the side and let the main thing go.
Tavis: Claude, for those who haven’t discovered that Supreme Being and put Him at the center of their lives, what does this togetherness say to people on a more secular level?
Claude V. McKnight: Well, you know, for us we also had to learn that it’s really about respect. You know, moving the ego out of the way. You know there are going to be differences, but when you look at what you want the common greater good and goal to be, then you can all win together.
You know, it doesn’t have to be “I got to get mine” and “in spite of you” and tear you down to make it happen. So I think what the message of us being able to be together so long is really about saying, “What is the vehicle going to be? Where do you want to go and how an we all do our part to make it happen?”
Kibble: How it could happen, we build each other up. How can we help each other out?
Thomas: I was just going to add, you know, if you break it down to a single word, it’s purpose. And at the end of the day, we say almost every night when we get onstage is that we’re all human beings and it’s like one body. If one part of the body is suffering and you don’t care about that and it doesn’t move you, something is definitely wrong.
We just got through singing “When Angels Cry” and that’s what the song is about. When someone is hurting and we can just go about our day as if nothing ever happened, something is wrong. Nowadays we seem to focus more on differences than the things that bring us together.
Tavis: I want to get Khristian and Joey here involved in just a second here, but while you got the mic, Dave–well, you all have mics actually. That’s the way it works with Take 6. Everybody got a microphone, huh?
Thomas: We don’t fight now. We don’t fight.
Tavis: You don’t fight about that, huh? Enough mics to go around. Dave, what have you learned–I’m sure the others might want to chime in on this, but you first. What have you learned about the balance, the relationship–you choose the right word–between the secular and the spiritual when it comes to your performance?
Thomas: Really, for me–and I’m speaking personally–it all blends together. Because if you don’t have a spiritual connection to your secular everyday life, again, something is wrong because you have to understand that we as human beings, there’s something that we call an innate sense and you kind of have the intuition.
Well, that intuition is part of the spiritual connection that not only do we have with God, but we have with each other. So coming on the show, you know, I can sense where you’re coming from and that’s how we start to relate. It’s almost unspoken. So for me, it’s one single thing and that’s the balance for me.
Tavis: Khristian, I think you all have proven over the years that there is a dialectic between this relationship that you can do both. Quincy Jones, who I know is a big fan of yours, has been for years, says all the time there’s only two types of music, Tavis. Good music and bad music.
That’s Q’s take on it. But what say you about this balance between the music that you all decide to do, be it secular or traditional, spiritual?
Khristian Dentley: Well, for me, in a lot of ways, it’s like going to a fine dining establishment. You’re coming to this establishment because you have a need. You have to eat something. So we have the ability to prepare what you need, but the presentation is equally as important.
If you take a steak, for instance, and you put it on top of a trashcan lid, nobody’s going to eat that. It’s like, well, it looks great. I don’t care who the cook is. So I think that the blending of the two, having a message, but having the way to present it are equally as important.
I think me being the youngest member of the group now, I’ve learned over the years these guys have made me better in every area of life just by watching how the message that we have regardless of whether it’s sacred or secular could be dealing with love, relationships, things that we all deal with as men, as people, as Americans, as just general people.
We take those messages and package it in something that you can receive in a way that is entertaining, because that’s important as well. If we focus on one or the other, I think that there’s something missing in the middle.
Tavis: I’m glad Khristian said entertaining, Joey, because I want to ask how it is that a group that has God as its central focus musically delivers a message of empowerment without proselytizing. How do entertain people without proselytizing?
Joey Kibble: I think what’s important to understand is that if you’re a believer, there’s an out-working of how your life is going to be to benefit other people as well as your community. I think, when you begin to focus on your community’s needs, when you begin to focus on their personal needs, you’re able to open up a floor that they were probably not open to at first.
So even as entertainers and the fact that we’re believers, when we approach people on things that they feel that they need, that they’d like to see, that they’d like to hear, that they’d like to take home to empower them, I think it opens the door to the message that we’re talking about.
But you have to first speak their language. You have to first show that you’re connected to what it is that matters to them. We could talk all day about stuff that we believe. If there’s no connection to what people are actually going through, it’s going to go right over their heads.
Tavis: Speaking of believe, the new project is called “Believe”, so I ask this simple question, Alvin, believe what?
Chea: Believe in yourself, believe in God, believe in the better nature. There’s a lot of things that we’ve had to reach in and pull from over the years. You know, life throws curveballs and all kind of different things. What is it that keeps you going?
A few years back, I had some unfortunate things that happened to me and I remember I got to the point where I didn’t even really want to hear about God and all of this stuff. I was like, man, I mean, this is my gig, but whatever. Wait till you guys go through something. Let’s see if you’re still talking about it.
And just over time, you know, I remember the song, “Something Within Me”. Just hearing that or somebody would say something like, well, “Thank you, Jesus.” Something else happened, like “Praise God.”
Where is this coming from? If that deep faith that’s anchored in there, that after all of the rains and the winds stop blowing, if you’re still anchored, then you got something you can stand on. That’s the belief.
McKnight: The really great thing is there’s no song called “Believe” on this new CD.
Tavis: I was about to get to that, yeah. You’re a mind reader too, huh [laugh].
McKnight: See how connected it is?
Tavis: He’s a mind reader too [laugh]. You’re a mind fixer, a mind…
McKnight: Everything you just said is about what this album is about.
Tavis: So why call the album “Believe” and not have a song on it called “Believe”, since you went there, Claude?
McKnight: Well, you know, for all the reasons Alvin just said. You know, I think in this world and in this time, there has to be belief. You have to believe. The title was brought to us and, when it was all said and done, it was like, “You know what? This is perfect. We’ll just call it Believe and then we’ll talk about why it’s called that without a song being on there.”
Tavis: Dave, let me ask you to set your modesty aside, yours and that of the entire group. It seems to me you all did something 25-plus years ago to really a cappella back on peoples’ radar. I mean, I first got exposed to you guys 25-plus years ago, thanks to Stevie Wonder.
Stevie was such a huge fan of yours then and now, obviously, that he just introduced you guys in a way that I said, “Who is this Take 6 group?” I became a fan immediately once Stevie sort of introduced me to you. But what do you think–set your modesty aside. You guys did something to really put a cappella back on the map.
Thomas: The funny thing about it is the school that we came from, Oakwood University, it wasn’t as unique as it might seem to the rest of the world. So we were just one of other groups. Now because of the great Mark Kibble, our arrangements were like to the next level.
So because of that, you know, even when I wasn’t married at the time, but my girlfriend who’s now my wife said, “What are you doing?” “Yeah, I’m about to go sign a record deal.” It was really not that deep because this is just what we did. When the world heard it and everyone was amazed, we were like, wow, this is something special.
You know, it’s just, I guess, the matter of the things that you listen to, the things that you feed your own mind and you feed yourself with musically, it just comes back out. And that’s what we had been listening to, Gene Puerling, Singers Unlimited, Hi-Los, things like that. It just came right back out.
Tavis: For all those creative types, Mark Kibble, who are watching tonight, just say a word–I don’t want to color the question deliberately too much–say a word about arranging for this group all these years.
Kibble: We were using some serious vocal technique, but what we added to it was something that you could feel, some soul, some spiritual power that comes behind all that stuff, and it was undeniable. Everybody could listen to it. They immediately felt something. They might have been wowed, but they felt something.
And I would dare say, if you do any music, that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to connect with people on some level that they truly feel in their soul. When they do that, you got them. And we didn’t know what we were doing back then, but evidently the world told us what we were doing [laugh].
Tavis: Joey, how would you describe what this project is, “Believe”, and how it fits into the corpus of Take 6 over the years?
Kibble: You know, every project seems to bring out a new aspect and really a new aspect of where we are in our lives. While he was talking, I was thinking about when we first started. Some of the songs that we sang, we actually had to grow into, to grow into understanding what it actually means. You know, “I
Need Him Every Hour” or whatever, we were just singing lyrics. But then you live life and you’re like, wait a minute. I’m busted now. Man, I actually need something greater than myself.
This project is another step along that experience of how our lives are being walked out, where we’re seeing our faith and where we’re seeing encouragement and how we benefit other people. That’s the next step in this process. So the whole of our collective is a story and that’s the next chapter of the story.
Tavis: Khristian, you mentioned earlier you’re the youngest in the group. Have they stopped hazing you now? Are you being treated with the respect and dignity that you deserve [laugh].
Dentley: Just a couple of minutes ago, we had a situation. We had a situation. Had to call the people to help me out with a situation. But, no, they really have. One of the things, I mean, they’ve adopted me as a brother. When you asked the question earlier about how the staying power of the group, it is definitely the love that flows between our hearts.
I’ve become–when we accepted the GMA Hall of Fame award, I was saying to the guys that you guys make me better because the 20-whatever dude I was when I joined the group and who I am now, because of these guys, it’s been incredible. I’m a better man as a result of it.
Tavis: I’ve seen you more times than I can count here stateside, but I’ve never seen you outside the country. What kind of reception–what’s it like when you’re touring and singing to audiences where English is not their first language?
Chea: It is amazing. You really realize the power of music. There are people who can barely say anything to you after your performance in English. They just point to their hearts and, you know, tears. We were the first group brought in when Cuba and the U.S. resumed their trade agreement.
Take 6 was the first group brought in and we performed at Karl Marx Theater, of all names and places. We performed at 10:00 at night. This guy missed his flight, but nobody moved two hours later.
Tavis: It was Take 5, huh [laugh].
Chea: It was Take 5 for a minute.
Thomas: They stayed there for two and a half hours waiting on us.
Chea: They stayed there for two and a half hours. Didn’t blink. And it was one of the most amazing performances and opportunities to minister and entertain. We were representing, our God, our country, our race, and it was really an amazing opportunity when you get to travel the world as an ambassador and touch people. It’s incredible.
Tavis: What happens when one person misses his flight and you got to sing…
Dentley: Thank you, thank you!
Kibble: We wait!
Kibble: A hazing idea! We got to haze him [laugh]. I don’t want to call him names, but…
Dentley: We wait [laugh].
Tavis: Alvin put you out there. He could have said somebody missed their flight. I wouldn’t have known it was you.
Dentley: We wait two hours [laugh]. There have been very rare occasions where we’ll do something with five vocals. You know, we can kind of cover it, you know, depending on who it is.
Tavis: How do you cover? I mean, not that I would know the difference anyway, but how do you cover? How does that work?
Dentley: Somebody might try to sing two parts at the same time.
Tavis: Two parts, okay.
Dentley: Just go back and forth between the two parts. If Vin’s gone, we can’t really cover that. He’s like…
Tavis: So you can’t miss your flight [laugh].
Dentley: Claude usually sings lead and everybody knows the melody, so we depend on the audience for that.
Tavis: That’s how that works, yeah. I got 45 seconds here. I’m about to make way for you guys to do one more song and it is the song that made me fall in love with you all. I’m so glad you honored us tonight by doing what you’re about to do now.
But what does this song mean, “Spread Love”, to you? You mentioned earlier, Joey, that you sing something years ago and, over time, the meaning of it changes where you relate to a change. What does “Spread Love” mean all these years later to you all?
Chea: It’s our mission statement. That’s what we’re doing, you know, through our lives, through our ministry, our families, through this entertainment group. We take that everywhere and, if you know about God, that’s great. If you know about music, that’s great, arrangements, but we want to show you love. That’s what we’re all about.
Tavis: Nicely put. Alvin, Khristian, David, Claude, Mark, Joey, good to have you all here. They are together Take 6. Thankfully, tonight nobody missed their flight [laugh]. So we get to hear–I’m so glad. They honor me closing with this because I requested this.
I’m glad to hear that they’re going to do “Spread Love”. It’s their classic. The new project from Take 6 is called “Believe” and here they come. So thanks for watching. As always, keep the faith, and don’t move.
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