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Rev. W.R. "Smokie" Norful, Jr. is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, I Need You Now and his 2004 release, Nothing Without You, which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004.
Norful, a minister who is also the son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas but grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, deeply involved in his father's church. He was interested in music from a very young age, reportedly picking out one-finger piano melodies from the age of four. His parents supported him with music lessons, and, unusual for his background, allowed him to experiment with and listen to the current R&B and soul music of the day as well as gospel music. Norful attended Pine Bluff High School, where he occasionally performed in school assemblies and programs. Norful graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as a History major and spent four years teaching high school. In 1998 he felt a calling to the ministry of the gospel, and pursued a Master of Divinity degree at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. While working toward ordination in the A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) church, he took a position as assistant pastor at a church in Chicago. He currently pastors Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Romeoville, IL, which he founded on September 20, 2005.
He participated in an album release by the Thompson Community Choir, a well-known gospel group, and contributed a song as well as solo vocals. He was then offered the opportunity to make a solo album for EMI Gospel, I Need You Now. The album was a slow starter but eventually went gold, spending two years in the upper reaches of the Billboard Gospel Charts.
Smokie was nominated for and won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. He is also signed to EMI-CMG Publishing and his own Norful Music Publishing as a songwriter. He performed on June 6, 2005, for President George W. Bush in a concert honoring Black Music Month. Norful's music is best described as a fusion of gospel, 70's soul, and contemporary R&B; the influences of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and other male soul/R&B vocalists of the 70's and 80's are clear.
Currently, Smokie serves as pastor of the Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill. On September 20, 2005, Pastor Smokie Norful officially launched Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill. Since its launch, Pastor Norful and the Victory family have experienced extraordinary and unprecedented growth in the community. In addition, on September 28, 2008, Pastor Norful launched a second campus on the south side of Chicago. Since its launch, they have witnessed a similar dynamic growth and a phenomenal move of God.
Confirmed Sept 2020