At the age of 13, singer Arnetta Yancey moved with her family from their home in Brooklyn, New York, to the small community of Wise, North Carolina. While Yancey was no stranger to the area—her parents had both grown up in the region, and she and her siblings often spent summers at their grandparents’ farm—she explains that actually living in rural Warren County was, initially, “a culture shock.”
“My father was a young pastor, and at the time there were seven of us kids. I think what prompted [my parents] to move back here is that this is home for them; both of my parents’ families were all here, and this is where they were born and raised…There was a lot going on [in Brooklyn] between ’69 and ’70, so I think Dad decided that going back to the South was a better place to raise the children.”
In her new home, Yancey’s social life revolved around the church and her father’s ministry. “We were in the choir in church and we ended up having a little family group,” Yancey explains. “Our dad would go to different churches to preach and his children would sing.” The Yancey Family performed on gospel programs throughout the region and sang on disc jockey Freddie “Preacherman” Hargroves’s show on Warrenton’s WARR 1520 AM.
Following high school, Yancey attended King’s Business College in Raleigh and settled in the Triangle region before moving back to Warren County in 2005. While Yancey is a longtime listener and performer of all genres of gospel music—she lists North Carolina’s own Shirley Caesar among her biggest inspirations—she explains that she didn’t begin singing traditional hymns until 2000.
“I realized that as much as things have changed in the world as a whole, people still look for those old songs that pulled their ancestors through. That’s what those hymns do. Those songs came from their hurt and from their struggles, and from the joy of making it: ‘How I Got Over,’ ‘My Soul Looks Back and Wonders’…I still sing other songs, but I love to sing the hymns because I know they go straight to the heart.
Arnetta Yancey performs both traditional and contemporary gospel music at weddings, funerals, birthday parties, church programs, banquets, anniversaries, and conferences.
Will consider all engagements.