Tragedy can spin a life in unknown directions. Gospel artist and former NBA player Ben Tankard found his life going into a negative and unexpected realm, but instead of drowning in his own sorrows, he gave his life back to God.
Reeling from a career-ending injury, Ben decided to focus on music, creating what he calls ‘Gospel-Jazz,’ a fusion of jazz and gospel music that catapulted him into the gospel limelight and put him into position to receive many blessings, including his wife, Jewel LaGreen.
“I go to a Ben Tankard concert,” reminisced Jewel, on how she and Ben met, “Ben is up there playing, doing his thing, and looking all good. I’m like, ‘Lord, that’s how I like them, tall, dark and preaching the word.’
“He came up to me during intermission and said, ‘You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You’re supposed to be my wife,’ and so the rest is history.”
Focusing on his music and his ministry, Ben has had many successes such as discovering Gospel great Yolanda Adams, as well as winning several awards including eight Dove Award nominations, three Grammy nominations, and 12 Stellar Awards, including 2010's ‘Best Instrumental Album’ for his ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ CD.
“I got injured in [NBA] camp, so I went to church because I got depressed about losing my contract,” said Tankard, “got saved in church, and that same night, the minister prayed for my hands. He told me to sit down at the piano, and I began to play, for the first time, like a professional jazz musician.
“So I came up with this thing that I call ‘Gospel-Jazz.’ I decided to keep the gift in church, and play Gospel songs in a jazzy style. At first nobody cared, but over the years people began to go crazy about it.”
Marrying Jewel LaGreen on January 27, 2000, Tankard enjoys their blended family of five children and went about creating a video and music ministry that included clips of their private family lives for a video prayer series.
The Tarkington’s oldest daughter, Brooklyn, collected all those clips and marketed them to various networks and through the Lord’s blessing; they landed their own reality show. ‘Thicker Than Water: The Tankards,’ airing on the Bravo Network this fall, features the entire Tankard extended family.
“The entire cast is me and Jewel and our five children, her two sisters, their husbands, and children and their parents. There are a lot of storylines. We have some tension [in the show], but it always has a happy ending,” added Ben. ‘Thicker than Water’ is set to air eight to ten episodes and premieres in early November on the Bravo Network.
Making a reality show is invasive and can highlight stressful and somewhat difficult aspects of the lives of those involved. The Tankards are no exception to this rule.
“There was a ton of personal development, for me,” said Jewel, “because I was used to dealing with family issues, but there were some family issues that were brought to light that I had never heard of before. So it really put a demand on me to walk in what I teach, which is forgiveness, and walking in love, walking in patience, and understanding.
“I was either going to get better or bitter. And being bitter was not an option. I think the whole family got stronger as a result.”
“What was cool for me,” recalled Ben, “we got to go behind closed doors and see how I produce my albums. A lot of people hear the end result, but they don’t know the work that goes into them. To show how I do that was fun.”
For more information on Ben Tankard, go to www.bentankard.com.