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Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Royal Voices Of Life: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Pastor T.L. Barrett comes to this Tiny Desk (home) concert from his spiritual home, the Chicago church he has pastored for over 40 years. His choir, the Royal Voices of Life, and the band are positioned in front of a dazzlingly lit stained glass window. A tambourine is at the ready. The sight is familiar to anyone familiar with churches that anchor their neighborhood.

Starting in 1971, Pastor Barrett released a series of albums that integrated soul and funk elements, all backed by a 45-member ensemble. Some of those former youths still perform with him today. At one point, his congregation included Donny Hathaway and members of Earth, Wind & Fire. Barrett's music has had a resurgence of late — his records have been sampled by Kanye West and DJ Khaled, songs have been featured in movies and commercials, and the label Numero Group will soon release a career-spanning box set.

Pastor Barrett opens this Tiny Desk (home) concert with "I Shall Wear a Crown," reminding the choir, "Let the people know you like it!" His most well-known song, "Like a Ship," retains the groove of the 1971 original; the song encourages that, despite the pain, you can shake it. In the rolling, soul-drenched take on "Nobody Knows," Barrett cautions: "This is a mean world to try to live in / But you've got to stay ahead until you die." A church member sitting in the front pew, decked out in a wide brim hat, raises her hands in praise. This is not a concert; this is worship.


  • "I Shall Wear A Crown"
  • "Like A Ship"
  • "Nobody Knows"

  • Pastor T.L. Barrett: vocals & piano
  • Wayne Barrett: lead guitar
  • Carlos Patterson: organ
  • Timothy Fullerton: bass guitar
  • Quinn Anderson: drums
  • Minister Ykheera, Minister Jahaira, Vera Sharp: choir (sopranos)
  • Deborah Thomas, Barbara Blake, Doresse Scott, Rosalind Thomas, Steve Lucas, T.L. Barrett, III: choir (tenors)
  • Christine Robinson, Ceceria Robinson, Jeanette Reynolds, Michele Marshal, Zelma Evans: choir (altos)

  • Video and Editing: Adam Luksetich
  • Cameras: Alex Pennacchia, Chris Vanderwall, Ed Bornstein
  • Producers: Stephen Arndt, Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley, Ed Bornstein
  • Audio: Kenneth Klemaier
  • Music Director: Dwayne Barrett

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Video Producer: Maia Stern
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Gabrielle Pierre
  • Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Mitra I. Arthur