‘Super Bowl Soulful Celebration’ tackles gospel music before the big game

Clark Atlanta alumna created TV special that seeks to touch souls 25 years ago
Mary Mary members Tina Campbell (from left) and Erica Campbell will perform at this year's "Super Bowl Soulful Celebration" on Feb. 10 on CBS. Courtesy of FrontPage Firm

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Mary Mary members Tina Campbell (from left) and Erica Campbell will perform at this year's "Super Bowl Soulful Celebration" on Feb. 10 on CBS. Courtesy of FrontPage Firm

In 1992, Melanie Few went to the Super Bowl with some friends in Minneapolis and partied the entire time. She felt guilty after attending various social events and wondered if there were any faith-based programs during the weekend.

Few couldn’t find anything, so she started writing letters to the NFL about a potential partnership. It took seven years of rejection letters and a co-sign from veteran singer Gladys Knight to commit to performing at the first event before Few received a yes in 1998.

“These were my before-Christ days because I was partying from sunup to sundown,” Few said. “Something wouldn’t let me leave it alone, but the NFL sanctioned me after that and got me started.”

This year, Few has a lot to celebrate. The Atlantan is executive producing the 25th anniversary of “Super Bowl Soulful Celebration,” a one-hour extravaganza that brings together an evening of inspirational music, football and comedy. The Clark Atlanta alumna remains the first and only Black woman to orchestrate an NFL-sanctioned event during Super Bowl weekend.

Cedric the Entertainer, star and executive producer of CBS' hit comedy THE NEIGHBORHOOD, marking his first time as Master of Ceremonies for the event. CBS Presents the 73RD EMMY AWARDS on Sunday, Sept. 19 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/5:00-8:00 PM, live PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Credit: CBS

Hosted by “The Neighborhood” stars Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold, the special will premiere at 8 pm. Feb. 10 on CBS, the first time it has aired on one of the traditional major networks. It was pre-recorded in front of a live audience on Feb. 7 at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

“Our job is to come out, bring the energy, and make sure that people are having a good time,” Cedric the Entertainer said. “We have wonderful, dynamic performers, and we’re just setting a bar. Saturday night will be lit, it’s going to be a beautiful night, and we’re bringing it.”

Singer-songwriter Kirk Franklin, sibling duo Mary Mary, enduring pop-soul band Earth, Wind and Fire, singer-songwriter T-Pain, blue-eyed soul singer Robin Thicke and country singers Mickey Guyton and Rachel Platten are performing at “Super Bowl Soulful Celebration.” Few decided to rebrand from the show’s original name, “Super Bowl Gospel Celebration,” two years ago to reflect the range of talent that praises and worships along with the gospel musicians on stage.

"Super Bowl Soulful Celebration" founder and executive producer Melanie Few, a Clark Atlanta alumna, remains the first and only Black woman to hold an NFL-sanctioned event.
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Credit: Hand

“Gospel music touches the soul,” said Few, founder of Results Media and Marketing. “It’s an opportunity to open up to an even larger audience with the faith and love we have for gospel music and all types of music. It gives it a different vibe.”

“Super Bowl Soulful Celebration” was on its way to becoming an afterthought after Few’s father, Minister Moses C. Few of New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church, passed away in January 2022. Losing her biggest supporter left the entrepreneur uncertain about the future of “Super Bowl Soulful Celebration,” but a conversation with her dad on his deathbed motivated her to keep producing the show.

“It’s action-packed and going to be wonderful,” Few said. “Sometimes, we get discouraged, but one thing that’s kept us pressing forward is that promise I made to him. It’s a blessing to see it come to fruition.”

The NFL Players Choir, which Few also created, is marking its 16th anniversary this year. The vocal ensemble featuring active and retired pro football players came together after vocalist Patti Labelle looked out into the audience and challenged the well-dressed athletes to sing in front of her.

The idea came to Few as the players started to sing. The choir features more than 40 former and current players.

Former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Bryan Scott is among the athletes participating in the NFL Players Choir, marking its 16th anniversary this year. The ensemble is among the performers for the “Super Bowl Soulful Celebration” airing Feb. 10.
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Credit: Handout

“One at a time, guys started coming up to the stage,” recalled former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Bryan Scott. “They took the mic and started to sing a little something. It’s a united front of guys who are true to themselves and not afraid to show their love for Christ.

“Just because you’re a professional athlete or in the spotlight, you don’t have to step away from your faith. We’re not perfect by any means, but we are trying to do the right thing.”

Music and entertainment “move culture forward,” Mary Mary member Erica Campbell believes, “When faith is a part of that, the message speaks loud and clear. It plants a seed that can not be ignored and will be watered by light, so seeing Christians do their thing onstage celebrating His goodness will rest in the hearts of young people.”

Tichina Arnold as Tina Butler from the CBS series THE NEIGHBORHOOD, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. -- Photo: Chris Patey/CBS © 2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Credit: CBS

The participants agree that Few’s ongoing efforts to create an encouraging production for a major network amid the excitement surrounding the game send a positive message to families, youth and football fans.

“This is a ministry however way you look at it,” Arnold said. “We are praying that this show touches hearts, and people will walk away feeling something. We are blessed and want to make sure that we make this silver anniversary amazing and hope there’s 25 more years.”


TELEVISION PREVIEW

“Super Bowl Soulful Celebration”

8 p.m. Saturday on CBS

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