By Marlon Rice
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. For each of us, life is the total sum of happiness and heartbreak, success and struggle, highs and lows.
The 2018 Grammy nominated Gospel Singer Anita Wilson encompassed all of these; the continued success of her music career, her marriage to longtime friend and producing partner Rick Robinson, and the devastating loss of her father Reverend Frederick Wilson Sr. to his battle with prostate cancer, a loss that she admits still hurts like a fresh wound.
Last year began with Anita working on her third solo project, titled Sunday Song. She began her music career singing background for such acts as Marvin Sapp, Hezekiah Walker, and Donald Lawrence and Company, for whom she sang with for a decade. Her solo career started in 2012, with her first album Worship Soul. By the time she began working on Sunday Song, Anita was actually questioning her career path.
“The industry is challenging and it’s difficult. When you are first coming into this industry, there is a lot you have to juggle mentally, with your spirit and focus and all of that. I wasn’t quite ready for those ups and downs or the things that make you feel less than, for example the standards of the industry; charts, sales, streams, nominations, winning or not winning awards, all of those things as well as the people you choose to get into business with and things that are said to you about your image. So many things that kinda beat me down a bit from the previous two albums that maybe a lot of people didn’t know from the outside looking in, but they had.”
Those issues she faced leading up to the third album almost kept her away from the industry entirely.
“So right before the third album, I had kinda sworn it all off and was like, I’m good. I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t like the way this feels. In time though, I did get to a stronger place where I gathered my strength and began to get inspiration to do music with my husband. So we wrote the album and we released it and it felt really good to get that music out”.
The album was released July 2017. A month earlier, on Father’s Day in her father’s living room, Anita wed Rick Robinson. Anita’s father had the honor of presiding over the nuptials. It was a small, quiet ceremony followed by a small gathering of close family and friends. Way before having a romantic relationship, Anita and Rick were producing partners working together on Anita’s solo career. “My husband and I have worked together for all of my solo journey. We’ve been on the road together for years. We were best friends even before we started dating.” And while this day should’ve been one of the happiest of Anita’s life, her joy was muffled with the despair of her father’s illness. “My dad dealt with prostate cancer for several years. He was doing well with it, got it under control, and then it showed back up. Soon after it returned, he began to lose motor skills and then it got worse and worse. In July 2017, he decided to not do chemotherapy anymore. So they told us it would be about 6 months before he died, and then it really began to sit in our faces. I remember saying wait a minute, by January I may not have my father here with me?”
Anita was very close with her father. Rev. Wilson would always be present for Anita’s performances and live recordings, never missing a chance to support his daughter. As his sickness progressed, Anita began to see the signs that signaled her worst fears. “I knew it was a pivotal point when he was dealing with a lot of pain and he kind of warned me that he may not be able to be at my live recording for the Sunday Song album. He called me right before the session and told me he wasn’t able to come. I was getting my makeup done and I was just crying and crying because I knew that it meant more than just he wouldn’t be at the session.”
Reverend Frederick Wilson Sr passed away in November 2017. His death was a crushing blow to Anita. “It is incredibly difficult. It’s still very fresh. In 2015, I lost my mom. That was an indescribable pain. A short time after that I lost a close friend who was an engineer on my first album, and we were great friends. I wasn’t really over losing my mom when that happened and then Daddy left in November. It’s really a daily process. I see pictures in my phone and around my house and when I look at his face before I know it I’m saying I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t believe he left me. It’s a really hard thing to process.”
In the course of five months, Anita went from marrying her best friend and releasing her most heartfelt album, to losing her father. The album was receiving critical acclaim all while Anita was simply trying to adjust to a life without someone she loved dearly. “It’s really challenging moving through this time. I had a lot happen in the latter part of 2017. So when people see me, they are like Congratulations. I’m sorry. We found ourselves in a beautiful season and in the most heartbreaking time ever. It’s a lot to balance. My husband and I spent a lot of time with my dad and my step-mom and we really had good times together. So we are just trying to wrap our minds around the new normal of dad not being here. Man, I’m going into a really interesting season right now. I just have to hold on to God, because death can really do a number on your mind. People have recommended counseling which I’m considering. I spent so much time with my dad and we were very close. You find yourself wanting more time, thinking I should’ve went over there more, or went to his church more, or went to work out with him more. I find myself in one minute being cool and in the next minute crying out. My husband would ask what happened? Nothing happened. I just thought about him.”
Anita is quite cognizant of the potential strain of such a loss, and the stress associated with it, can put on a person. She has found that her ability to center herself comes in the form of quiet time. “ I take some quiet time. It’s hard sometimes to get quiet time to yourself. I try to be intentional and I sometimes ask for that quiet time. I’ll tell my friends, y’all just don’t call me for an hour. I just need some time to be quiet. Sometimes it isn’t me doing anything but just getting an hour of quiet just to center myself, if it’s reading the scripture, or self help quotes. I always try to give myself that time to talk to God and also to have a talk with myself. I always try to make time for me. I think that’s the key. I never let myself stray too far, maybe a couple of days but I’ll never let myself go weeks without coming back to me. I feel it. I feel it when I’m not aligned. I try to be in tune with myself, and hearing the voice of inspiration from God. He’s not gonna scream at you, he’s going to whisper and so you have to be in a space where you can really hear it. I just try to be intentional and consistent as much as possible.”
Anita Wilson has come through a season full of seasons. In one short year she has accomplished heights in her career, milestones in her personal life, and the loss of her dear father. And though she isn’t the same woman she was before 2017, this version is stronger and more sensitive to love and relationships. She is appreciating the gifts while working through the struggles, and she says that her perspective on life is all due to her father. “My sense of humor, my desire for people to feel comfortable, the way I welcome and embrace all people, and my strength in tough times. All of that I get from my dad.” The lessons that she’s learned have fortified her, not just in her career but in her appreciation for people, “Make each moment count. Shower the people that you love with love.”