(RNS) — Gospel singer and pastor Deitrick Haddon has lost family and church members to COVID-19, as have many other Americans.
The star of the “Preachers of L.A.” and “Fix My Choir” reality shows has turned to his art form to express that shared sense of grief.
“Sick World” — a single featuring both gospel and trap, a form of hip hop music, premiered on the 2021 Inaugural Gospel Celebration and is available on various platforms, such as Spotify and Amazon Music.
Haddon, who has a Pentecostal background, leads Los Angeles’ Hill City Church, a nondenominational, predominantly Black congregation that is marking its fifth anniversary this month (March). The church hasn’t met in person for a year, due to COVID-19, but he plans to host an outdoor service on Azusa Street — known for being the historic site of a revival in the early 20th century — on Easter Sunday.
Haddon talked to Religion News Service about why he co-created “Sick World,” his personal and national losses from the pandemic and his plans to keep up pandemic practices long after it’s over.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to create the new single “Sick World”?
I could see the world was grieving. I was grieving. I lost my Aunt Celeste (Folmar) last year in 2020. I lost one of my eldest brothers, Shawn (Derrick) Haddon, rest in peace. Even lost a member of my church. I just wanted to write a song that will bring some peace and comfort to people and help people realize there is life beyond this pandemic. We’ve all lost a significant amount of people in a short amount of time. I said, if I had the opportunity to speak to everybody, whether you were Black or white, rich, poor, a believer, or unbeliever, Democrat, Republican, what would I say to everybody? And that was the song that I wrote.
Why did you choose to use music that combines gospel and trap music, a form of hip hop, and work with record producer Zaytoven?
Zaytoven is like a brother of mine. He’s been supportive of my music for years. He’s had success in the trap world. He’s considered to be one of the originators of that sound. He’s produced hit records with (rappers) Gucci Mane, Future and a lot of artists. He has a love for gospel music, and we just brought it together. Gospel music can’t really be put in a box. You can place the message in any form. It just gelled perfectly. The lyrics flowed. Once I heard the music, the song wrote itself.
The lyrics include the words “can’t stand to lose nobody else.” Why did you choose to use those words?
First of all, it was a big blow to lose Kobe Bryant and his daughter at one time. And all the lovely souls that were in that helicopter crash. Then, in the midst of that pandemic, we lost great people like Chadwick Boseman. His career seems like it was just really taking off, skyrocketing, and he’s the king of (the mythical nation of) Wakanda, for God’s sake, in our minds. He’s too strong. We’ve seen how people had succumbed to COVID, and how powerful COVID-19 was. The only thing I can hear in my heart: Man, we can’t stand to lose anybody else. I mean, how much more can we take?
You wanted to capture a broader remembrance of lives lost at this time.
Yeah. Yeah. Just anybody whose lives were lost last year. It’s hard to separate it from the pandemic. It’s just a year of loss, great loss, whether through the COVID pandemic or not, just too many people. One of my favorite No. 1 gospel artists in the world — one of the best — was Rance Allen. I never thought in a million years that we would lose him. And I learned how to sing listening to him.
Have you had to officiate at funerals of church members who have died because of COVID?
We’ve only had one member that belongs to my church. We called her “Cookie.” I had to preach the service under a tent outdoors, outside of the actual funeral home building.
You also sing of the debates about wearing masks and say thousands have died because we cannot agree. Are there other ways you’re trying to move people beyond the debates other than your song?
Making people agree with you is a hard thing to do. But I put my opinion and my perspective in a song. This will all go down in history, that thousands have died ’cause we could not agree. I do believe we extended the pandemic. I do believe we made it worse than what it should have been because of our inability to unite and come together as one as a nation and agree on the simple things like wearing a mask. You asked the question: Am I doing anything outside of my song? No, I’m not doing anything outside of my song because I can’t force anybody to do anything. I put it in the song ’cause the song can go where I can’t go.
What was it like to present your musical message at the time of the inauguration, since it was both a new administration and an administration that’s been focusing on COVID-19 from the beginning?
I thought it was perfect for me because I’ve been an advocate for people wearing masks and keeping their hands clean. So I’m right in sync with Joe Biden’s administration’s calls to get this thing cleared up and get a unified effort as a nation to come together. I was also excited to be a part of such a historic event, where we had the first female vice president of the United States of America.
What are you looking forward to most when more people are vaccinated and the country may experience what everybody’s calling a “new normal”?
I love to take my three kids and my wife on trips to Disney World and everywhere. So hopefully we’ll be able to get back and feel comfortable with traveling and enjoying life and wonderful things that we do, like going to the movies, just the regular things we do that we’ve taken for granted, I believe. But I also hope we will understand the importance of keeping our hands clean and not just touching everything, and I hope we can keep some things going, because that’s how germs transfer. Hopefully, we can continue to comply a little bit with keeping our hands clean and wearing a mask. I think I’ll always keep that in place from now on.
Really? That’s a long time.
Michael Jackson knew something we didn’t know.