March 27, 2009 / 11:01 PM / 9 years ago

Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Some of secular music’s top acts — among them Queen Latifah, Jon Bon Jovi, Joss Stone and 3 Doors Down — take a walk on the spiritual side for “Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.”

The EMI Gospel/Vector Recordings collection will be released March 31 exclusively at Wal-Mart.

“It’s something that we’d never really done before, and it seemed like it would be a lot of fun,” 3 Doors Down lead vocalist Brad Arnold said of the band’s foray into gospel music with “Presence of the Lord.” “It seemed like it would also be a challenge because we’d never really recorded that style of song.”

3 Doors Down is backed by the Soul Children of Chicago, a nondenominational community choir. “Oh Happy Day” also features such pairings as Heather Headley and Al Green on “People Get Ready,” Patty Griffin and Mavis Staples on “Waiting for My Child to Come Home,” Bon Jovi performing “Keep the Faith” with the Washington Youth Choir, and Robert Randolph and the Clark Sisters on the classic “High Ground.”

“Being in the gospel world, you dream of opportunities like this,” EMI Gospel vice president Larry Blackwell said of the enthusiasm the mainstream acts brought to the gospel project. “The fact that Brad with 3 Doors Down is so gassed about the record is proof positive of the power of the music. For these artists to want to be involved with this, I think just speaks more for the love of the genre than anything.”

Though artists are sometimes hesitant to talk or sing about their faith, Arnold said it wasn’t a concern for 3 Doors Down. “We all grew up in church and we’re all Christians. We were happy to do it,” he said. “There was no discussion at all of whether or not we should.”

Vector Management and Recordings principal Ken Levitan had the initial idea and shared it with Bill Hearn, CEO of EMI Christian Music Group. “I’ve always loved gospel music and always loved secular artists in it as well, and Bill loved the idea,” Levitan said. Vector Recordings partnered with EMI CMG to create and release “Oh Happy Day.” “It was a total collaborative process to do this. They were fantastic to work with. We think it’s potentially a series.”

Levitan also thinks the record will appeal to a broad audience. “It could be one of those coffee-table records,” he said. “The best promotion is word-of-mouth when somebody tells you, ‘You have to hear this record.’ It’s interesting that out of this Heather Headley did her gospel record and now Patty Griffin is doing her own gospel record.”

Headley’s album, “Audience of One,” which was released January 13, topped Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums and Top Christian Albums charts and came in at No. 6 on the R&B chart.

Physical sales of “Oh Happy Day” will be exclusive to Wal-Mart, but the album will be offered online through most digital outlets.

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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