Excerpt: Fantasia Barrino's "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale"

Soon after, we kids really started pullin' away from the family. The boys had already left the band, and I was starting to be out with my friends. My mother, upset by the bad deal that my father made, was fallin' deeper and deeper into depression. My father was not supporting her – or us – at all. As hard as times were in that house, I still have good memories of that time because music lived in 511 Montlieu Avenue with us. It was the place where everyone in the neighborhood would gather to sing. Family members and neighbors would come over and sing. People who couldn't sing would come over to our house to sing. Our house was the popular house and although we struggled – sometimes eatin' grits every night for a week – we had good times. We all grew up listening to different types of music. Old music was the music with the joy in it. As children, my parents had us listening to Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, and Christian groups like Paul Porter and the Christianaires. We were learning to recognize scatting and riffs and squalling. We could all point out a good riff. We knew how to harmonize and sing bass, alto or tenor. All of my father's siblings were singers, and music was the legacy that he gave us.

My family sang because it was replacing all the things that we wanted and needed and didn't have. Music was our bread and water. Our next-door neighbor was an older woman, and she used to come over and say, "Y'all are making so much noise, but I am not going to call the police, because your singin' is blessin' my soul."

To this day, my mother says how amazed she is at my talent and how God's spirit fills me. The only way she describes how music first came into my life is: "When 'Tasia started singing, she was always singin' and cryin', singin' and cryin'."

That has not changed a bit.

Our first church started in my grandmother's basement. My mother told me that Grandma Addie was beaten to a pulp by her drunken husband. She had three daughters who also had children too young, and she was worried about her own soul and the soul of her family. She decided that she had to do something. Grandma Addie prayed and asked the Lord to set her family straight. As Grandma tells it, the Lord told her to open the door of her house to let the Holy Spirit in. God spoke to my grandmother in a vision of a church in the basement of her house.

My grandmother lived in a small, red-brick house with sagging wood floors. The basement had a separate entrance from the back of the house, and the congregation would use that door to enter the church. My family would enter through the door in the hallway that led down to the basement. We had about eleven members initially, and my family made it eighteen in total.

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