Dante Bowe and Jonathan McReynolds tied as BMI’s Gospel Songwriter of the Year at the 2023 BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards, which were held at Flourish in Atlanta on Thursday, March 30. Mike O’Neill, BMI’s president and CEO, and Catherine Brewton, vice president, creative, Atlanta, hosted the event.


Bowe and McReynolds each wrote two of the most performed gospel songs of the previous year. Bowe was honored for “Joyful” and “Promises” and McReynolds for “Brighter” and “Grace.”

BMI Gospel Song of the Year went to “Believe for It,” written by CeCe Winans and Mitch Wong (APRA). The song spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart and garnered multiple accolades including two GMA Dove Awards and a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.

BMI’s Gospel Publisher of the Year went to Be Essential Songs for publishing award-winning songs “Brighter,” “Jireh,” “Promises” and “Something Has to Break.”

Gospel music superstars Tamela & David Mann and Dr. Bobby Jones received Trailblazer of Gospel Music honors.

The musical tributes to The Manns kicked off with Zacardi Cortez and Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper performing “Now Behold the Lamb,” followed by Lisa Knowles-Smith performing “Take Me to the King.” After accepting the honor, Tamela Mann surprised the audience with a performance of her hit “Change Me,” which spent 23 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Gospel Songs.

The tribute performances honoring Jones’ legacy kicked off with The Company singing “What a Friend,” followed by a rendition of “Bring it to Jesus” featuring Beverly Crawford.

During the ceremony, the late, legendary Otis Redding was honored with four BMI Million-Air Awards, a distinction that recognizes songwriters whose works have surpassed one million broadcast performances on radio. The songs were “Sweet Soul Music” (4 million performances), “Hard to Handle” (7 million performances), “Respect” (7 million performances) and BMI’s Song of the Year in 1968, the classic “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” (12 million performances).  Family members, including Redding’s widow Zelma and their daughter Karla Redding-Andrews, accepted the honors on behalf of her father and the Otis Redding Foundation.

The luncheon began with McReynolds, Chandler Moore and Kirk Franklin performing a medley of three of BMI’s award-winning songs, “Grace,” “Jireh” and “Kingdom.”

Additional performances included a tribute to the late singer-producer-choir director Kevin Lemons, who was known for his work with Donald Lawrence and the Company, and his own group, Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling. Members of Higher Calling hit the stage for a performance of “Perfect Peace” accompanied by Donald Lawrence and The Company.

Other award-winning songs performed throughout the evening included “Just Like God” by Evvie McKinney, “Great” by Kelontae Gavin and “Wonderful is Your Name” by Melvin Crispell.

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