Memorial for Billie Barrett Greenbey honors Chicago's gospel history, legacy of The Barrett Sisters

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Billie Barrett Greenbey of the famous Chicago gospel trio, The Barrett Sisters, died on February 28, 2020, at the age of 91. Billie sang the sibling group's alto part, bridging the melodic gap to help create unique, pristine harmonies.

The memorial services were held over two days at two churches on Chicago's far South Side, Lilydale Progressive MB Church in West Roseland and Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights.

The sisters grew up in the South Side neighborhood of Chatham, down the street from Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey, who originally coined the term "gospel music," and gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.

Rodessa Barrett Porter, the youngest sister who sang soprano, is the only member of the trio still living. Delois Barrett Campbell, the group's leader, died at age 85 on August 2, 2011.

Delois's youngest daughter, Mary A. Campbell, spoke about the loss of her aunt Billie.

"Our family is heartbroken," said Mary A. Campbell, Delois's youngest daughter.

"I really feel bad for aunt Rodessa because she's the baby, and she's really feeling like her circle is getting smaller and smaller. But we're more or less relieved that (Billie) didn't suffer long, and that she's gone to a better place."

Billie and Rodessa spoke with ABC 7 back in August 2019 about the Chicago roots of gospel music. They each said that music gave them a path to follow in life.

"It guided me," said Greenbey. "I knew which way to go. You see, if you don't, if you don't have the lord in your life, you don't know which was to go. But I was guided through music."

Porter and Greenbey laughed and sang throughout the interview, remembering some of their performing tours abroad and their favorite tunes.

"We felt these songs. I mean, it just wasn't singing. We believed in them, we felt them," said Porter. "The gospel music in our hearts will always live on."

They initially reached fame after the release of "Say Amen, Somebody," a critically acclaimed documentary directed by George Nierenberg. The film exposed the world to the sisters passionate performance style and silvery smooth voices.

Today, the names of both The Barrett Sisters as a trio and Delois Barrett Campbell as a soloist are engraved into the Stellar Awards, the oldest and longest-running prize for gospel music achievements.

Chicago radio personality Pam Morris said that the Barrett Sisters "sang gospel music like nobody else I know."

"For decades they have been in our life, and their music has no expiration date."
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