Jonathan Nelson has quickly emerged as one of the leading voices on today’s praise and worship music scene. Over the last half a dozen years, he’s put his stamp on urban praise music as the composer of now classic tunes such as Donald Lawrence’s “Healed,” Youth for Christ’s #1 smash “The Struggle Is Over,” and Bishop T.D. Jake’s “My Praise Is My Weapon.”
Then, in 2008, Jonathan Nelson stepped from the shadows to reveal himself as a charismatic worship leader with his Top 10 smash "My Name Is Victory" which spent an astounding 65 weeks on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart. That song and his debut album, Right Now Praise, earned Jonathan Nelson three Stellar Awards, an astounding total of eight Stellar nominations and a coveted Dove Award nomination as Best New Artist of the Year.
One of six children born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jonathan Nelson grew up in church. “Everybody in my family works in ministry,” he says. “My father, Bishop James Nelson, was pastor of Greater Bethlehem Temple Church for over thirty years.” Nelson’s family was also musical. “My grandmother played piano,” he continues. “I had two uncles who were musicians. We just grew up playing and singing in church.”
Jonathan Nelson’s musical abilities were further cultivated while he was a student at the Baltimore School for the Arts and Morgan State University where he studied under the esteemed choir director Dr. Nathan Carter. Jonathan Nelson was soon traveling the globe and conducting choirs his self and working in the music ministry at his father’s church. About fifteen of his friends and he would also get together and sing at church. When Karen Clark-Sheard was coming to perform at his church, she needed some backing singers and his friends stepped in. “It wasn’t a formal group,” he recalls. “It was just something we did and after we did that service with Karen, we really enjoyed working together and that’s when we became Purpose.”
At the same time, Jonathan Nelson had found a lucrative and comfortable income as an executive with a computer software company. Then, something happened to fuel Nelson’s writing abilities. “Around 2001 when all of the dotcoms went down I was unemployed and that’s when my passion for writing came alive,” he says. “I began to write all these songs because I was living off of unemployment. That process took me through a whole thing because of my experience. The song `Healed’ definitely came out of that.”
Jonathan Nelson had recorded the song “Healed” on his own self-financed CD in 2002. Nelson had met Grammy-nominated choir leader, Donald Lawrence, at a Washington, D.C. workshop in 2000. “When Donald heard `Healed’ he said, `I’m gonna record that song.’ He felt that message was what God was saying to the church at the time.” Lawrence’s words proved prophetic and his rousing rendition of “Healed” became a Top Ten gospel smash in 2005. The icing on the cake was that the song won Jonathan Nelson the Stellar Award as Songwriter of the Year in 2006.
Perhaps, the greatest award is that Jonathan Nelson’s songs were now in demand. “I met Troy Sneed at a Gospel Music Workshop of America convention. He said that he had heard a song Purpose recorded called `Right Place’ and that he wanted to record it.” Sneed produced the song on Pastor Rudolph McKissick and it became a Top 5 Billboard gospel hit.
It was through Sneed that Jonathan Nelson would enjoy his biggest song yet. “Troy called one day and said that he was coming to Baltimore to record a group of youth,” Nelson recalls. "I wrote `The Struggle is Over’ in about ten minutes. The impact of the song was so powerful that evening, which resulted in Troy choosing the song to be the lead single for the CD.
Released in the winter of 2006, the congregational ballad became the surprise hit of the summer when it spent 12 weeks at #1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. “I never thought it was single worthy,” says Jonathan Nelson. “It didn’t sound commercial enough to me but that song has resonated with many, many people and touched them.”
“Most songs are inspired by the many sermons I hear,” Jonathan Nelson explains. “It comes from divine inspiration. The speaker might say one word and that one word begins the spark of creativity. The song `Capacity’ came during a service. While the pastor was preaching, I started writing that song.”
An anthem for Jonathan Nelson’s personal life is the title song, “Right Now Praise.” He says, “I wrote that during a difficult time in my life back in 2003. I was on the verge of losing my home and my car. I was working as a substitute teacher. I was in a very low place. My car is my mediation place. I was crying down the road and started singing a melody to the Lord and that’s when `Right Now Praise’ came to me. I had to rush into school and get to my tape recorder and put it down before I forgot it."
Jonathan Nelson's 2010 release, Better Days,is a 10-song CD of divinely-inspired affirmations was produced by Grammy Award winning producer Aaron Lindsey (Israel and New Breed, Martha Munizzi, and Marvin Sapp). Recorded live at Jonathan Nelson’s home church, The Faith Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the album features Jonathan Nelson’s top-notch backing ensemble Purpose and delivers a powerful, much-needed message for today.
“The world needs to hear these proclamations,” says Jonathan Nelson. “‘My Name is Victory’ was a great start but this new album is centered on the Word to help change the world.”
From the Caribbean lilt of “Cry Holy” and the old school church influence on “Another Way” to the majestic congregational praise on “Smile,” the whole CD shines with messages of hope and encouragement through Jesus Christ. “These are faith declarations,” Jonathan Nelson adds. “Faith is the engine you use to speak things over your life. These are songs of faith, hope, and empowerment.”
Jonathan Nelson is married to Christina Marie Nelson. They have two children, J. Andrew Nelson II and Princess Julianna Marie Nelson.
Listen to Christian Music Artist Jonathan Nelson
|Live in Baltimore 'Everything you Are'||2003||Independent|
|Right Now Praise||2008||Integrity Music|
|Better Days||2010||Integrity Music|