Meet the Chicago South Side Pastor Sampled by Kanye West

Pastor T. L. Barrett, a 76-year-old Pentecostal preacher on Chicago’s South Side, wrote and recorded soul-infused gospel music in the 1970s with his youth choir.

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Forty years later, his music is reaching new generations through productions by Kanye WestDJ Khaled and major ad campaigns.

“It was good music, but it didn’t become prominent until fast-forward 40 years later,” Barrett said. “You’re doing an interview about music that I wrote generations ago and some of the people that are playing with me now were playing with me on those albums.”

One of those people is keyboardist Gary Riley, who played on Barrett’s recordings “Nobody Knows” (1971) and “Father Stretch My Hands” (1976) as part of the pastor’s Youth for Christ Choir. Both songs have received attention through contemporary music, advertising and films.

“I don’t know how many lives we’ve touched,” Riley said. “I know we’ve touched a lot. I guess I can say that I’ve been inspired to keep going because of the people that hear our music.”

Barrett is a prominent community activist, but his life hasn’t been without controversy – in 1989, he was charged in Illinois Cook County Circuit Court with illegally fundraising money from congregants.

“I was actually trying to help people,” Barrett said. “I had all the records; I had formed investment groups.”

Barrett agreed to repay more than $1 million to congregants by 1998.

On Sunday, Barrett’s Life Center Church of God in Christ in the Washington Park neighborhood opened its doors for its first indoor service since the COVID-19 outbreak.

City guidelines cap church attendance at 50 people – 40 congregants attended.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia


More on this story

Watch Kanye West’s choir and prayer performance group Sunday Service perform “Father Stretch My Hands” in Paris:


Listen to the 1971 album "Like A Ship (Without A Sail)” by Pastor T. L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir:


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