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Gospel Singer Draper Dies at 34

July 21, 1998

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Gospel singer O’Landa Draper, a five-time Grammy nominee whose demonstrative style as the director of a choir was imitated by others, died Tuesday. He was 34.

Draper died of kidney failure at Metro Nashville General Hospital. He was stricken suddenly, said his publicist, Erma Byrd in Los Angeles.

The singer had been feeling tired for the past 10 days or so but attributed it to overwork, said his manager Ron Stewart. He checked into Metro Nashville General Hospital on Sunday.

Draper had no history of kidney problems, Stewart said.

He lived in Memphis and was visiting Nashville for the annual Bobby Jones Gospel Explosion.

Choir directors across the country were influenced by Draper’s showmanship as head of O’Landa Draper & the Associates.

``His choir was highly choreographed and demonstrative,″ said Teresa Harris, publisher of Gospel Today magazine. ``But the music never suffered because of it. They sang with such clarity, with excellent pitch.′

The group’s latest CD, ``Reflections,″ was a hit last spring, reaching No. 10 on Billboard magazine’s gospel album chart. The CD is a recording of a live show in Memphis last summer. It was the choir’s second release on the Nashville-based Warner/Alliance label.

Dave Thomas of the vocal group Take 6 called Draper ``an innovator in gospel music.″

``His ministry and talent will be greatly missed,″ Thomas said.

Draper moved to Memphis when he was 13. He graduated from Overton High School, where he headed his first choir. He went on to direct the gospel choir at Memphis State University and formed the Associates as a 12-member choir when he was 22. The choir had about 60 members when he died.

Draper was a five-time Grammy nominee in the best gospel album category and the winner of a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association.

``O’Landa was a fun-loving believer in Jesus Christ,″ said Kim Harper, music director of WLOK radio in Memphis and a friend. ``The things he wrote, you can hear the happiness. You can hear the joy.″

Survivors include his fiancee, Patrina Smith, mother Marie Draper and sister Teresa A. Draper.

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