- Smooth Jazz Network
Ben Tankard: Behind the Beats
Updated: May 4, 2022
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Ben Tankard.
Ben Tankard is a man of many talents: musician, NBA player, television star and producer, Minister, pilot, motivational speaker, and Grammy nominee. We spoke with him about it all in our 2021 Year-End BEATS magazine. Check out the original article below but keep scrolling for the extended version of our conversation.
Read the rest of the BEATS magazine here.
You hit #1 with your brilliant cover of the Marvin Gaye tune ‘Just Like Music” this year. It’ll definitely be one of the biggest singles of 2021. Tell us about your decision to record the tune.
Thanks! I believe EVERYONE has a favorite Marvin Gaye song (or two). I love his music because it was always timely and thought provoking AND has strong melody lines make it easy for an instrumentalist to cover it. I picked "Just Like Music " because I look at life and relationships like a song. We all can agree that with the tough times our nation has been through as of late, NOW would be a good time for us to pull together, support each other and create peaceful melodies together with our love for one another and live in harmony ‘just like music.’
That also is why I selected that song for this season of "Thicker Than Water: The Tankards our 4th season on the small screen. Our show is all about family sticking together, even in tough times.
How did you come up with the idea for your reality family show?
I wish I could take credit for it but it was NOT my idea. It just kind of happened. As a practical joker, I started uploading goofy videos of my blended family to YouTube back in 2012. Some of them got viral type responses and the next thing I know NBC/Bravo approached us to do a family reality tv show. I thought "What the heck, I'm already going to be MYSELF, I might as well get PAID for it"...LOL. Our 4th season just aired and you can watch it on demand at www.TheTankards.Com or wait to watch it again over the holidays on the TUBI Network (owned by FOX).
You are often referred to as the "Godfather of Gospel/Jazz". How did that come about?
Well, most Jazz musicians have an inspirational or gospel tune in their performance repertoire and on the same token most gospel musicians take a poke at a jazz style song from time to time. What makes me the "Godfather of GospelJazz" is I was the FiRST one (that I know of) to commit an entire CD to it (1989's All Keyed Up) and it was so well received that I eventually made an entire career of it with now 20 CDs to my credit, 30 years of touring in festivals AND churches, and probably about 4000 performances in that time. We are so honored and blessed to make people feel good with this smoothjazz music infused with inspiration and the "gospel" which means "good news".
When did you start playing piano? Tell us how you developed into a professional musician.
I played tuba in the high school band but piano did not come into play until I left the NBA my first year with an injury. I went to a church service and the minister prayed for me and instructed me to sit down to the keyboards. That night I discovered I had a God given talent to play keys. I never took lessons, I just began to play under inspiration from God.
You have received several awards and recognition throughout your career. Any stand out more than the others?
Well, the 15 gold and 6 platinum records on the wall ‘paid the bills,’ but the highest honor was being inducted into the Stellar Awards Gospel Music Hall Fame, NAACP Image Award nomination and of course the Grammy nominations as a producer for Yolanda Adams.
Tell us about your work with Yolanda Adams.
I started a record label in Nashville in 1990 called Tribute Records with an investment from a white gospel label that was looking to tap into black gospel. They signed me as their first black artist, made me VP of the company and gave me the budget and the power to hit the road like Quincy Jones and "discover" some new gospel talent.
Someone had sent me a demo of a third grade school teacher that sung gospel like Whitney Houston. I loved what I heard and contacted her asked her did she want to be a third grade school teacher forever? She said “No" and the rest is history. We recorded about 40 songs together over the years and she became the platinum winning artist we all know as Yolanda Adams.
Any singers on your short list that you would like to work with in the future?
I'm pretty good with the female voice and have had hits with Yolanda Adams, Kelly Price, and Shirley Murdock.......but how about something with Gladys Knight along with some guitar from Earl Klugh? That would be cool !
You wear many hats. How do you keep life in balance?
I like to BE in the moment...as a certified aircraft pilot I am trained to fly by the instruments so I know how to focus on ONE thing, even though there are a dozen other things going on so I use that skill and apply it to my many hats. I use to think I was busy until I met a man that had 53 businesses! Since then, I REFUSE to be overwhelmed...it's just a state of mind.
What is on tap for you in 2022?
Good question, new music, new book of daily devotionals called the Book of BENspirations, a new dedicated 24/7 Apple TV channel - Smooth Life TV (music, movies, motivation, and more)......Life Is Smooth !
Keep up with Ben Tankard by visiting his website, here.