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Thomas Lee Barrett, Jr. (born 1944), better known professionally as Pastor T.L. Barrett and Rev. T.L. Barrett, is an American Pentecostal preacher and gospel musician. Barrett is a preacher on Chicago's South Side who released gospel albums in the 1970s; as a musician, he was largely unknown outside of Chicago until a resurgence in interest in his music occurred in the 2010s.

BiographyEdit

Barrett was born in New York City, but his family moved to Chicago when he was young. Barrett's father was a gospel musician who was involved with the music at a church run by Barrett's aunt. He attended Wendell Phillips High School, where he was expelled.[1] His father died when Barrett was 16, and he then moved to Queens, New York, where he lived with his uncle and took a job at Flushing Hospital extracting glands from cadavers.[1] At 17 he was arrested for failing to pay child support to a 37-year-old who bore his child.[1] In New York, he worked as a shoeshiner and played piano at parties and at venues such as the Waldorf Astoria and the Village Gate.[2] Eventually, he decided to become a preacher, returning to Chicago and starting his own youth-focused ministry.

His career as a pastor began in 1966.[2] He was pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, in the Washington Park neighborhood of Chicago in the 1970s. After a theological disagreement with the elders of the Mt. Zion church, he left to form his own ministry, the Life Center COGIC church, in the same neighborhood.[1]

Barrett was charged in 1989 with orchestrating a pyramid scheme, by encouraging his congregants to donate to a series of economic development fundraisers which yielded over two million dollars in total.[2] The financial viability of the plan was judged by a court to be infeasible, and Barrett was ordered to place his church's title in receivership as a result.[2] He was ordered to repay 1.2 million dollars in 1998, which he did successfully.[2]

In 1998, the Illinois House of Representatives honored Barrett for contributions to civic life in Chicago.[2] The city of Chicago named a portion of Garfield Boulevard, close to his Mt. Zion church location, in Barrett's honor.[1] In 2007, Barrett's youngest daughter, Kleo, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.[3]

Musical careerEdit

In the 1970s, Barrett's congregation included many noteworthy Chicago-area musicians, such as Maurice White and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire, Donny Hathaway, and Phil Cohran.[2] Barrett, recording as Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir, released the album Like a Ship (Without a Sail) in 1971. The Youth for Christ Choir, led by Barrett, was an approximately 40-member ensemble of children ages 12 to 19, which grew out of his Tuesday night weekly choir meetings.[1] The album featured instrumental contributions from Phil Upchurch, Gene Barge, Charles Pittman, and Richard Evans (of Rotary Connection).[4] It was reissued by Light in the Attic Records in 2010 to critical acclaim[4][5][6] and praise from musicians such as Jim James and Colin Greenwood.[2] Barrett also released several further albums of music over the course of the 1970s, as well as discs of sermons; he also recorded as Rev. T.L. Barrett.

In 2016, Kanye West sampled the song "Father I Stretch My Hands", from Barrett's 1976 album Do Not Pass Me By, in the song "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" from the album The Life of Pablo.[1] In 2016, Barrett's music was used in an Under Armour commercial directed by Harmony Korine and on the soundtrack to the film Barry.[1]

DiscographyEdit

Albums
  • Like a Ship...Without a Sail (1971)
  • I Found the Answer (1973)
  • Do Not Pass Me By (1976)
  • Roots (1977)
  • Do Not Pass Me By Vol. II (1978?)
Sermons released on LP
  • Please Don't Squeeze the Charmine
  • John M. Smith (Or Do You Say Smythe?)
  • If I Should Wake Before I Die
  • It Tastes So Good
  • How Would You Like to Have a Nice Hawaiian Punch?
  • Dry Bones in the Valley

ReferencesEdit

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