Born and raised in Detroit, Mr. Winans is the son of gospel recording artist Vickie Winans and her first husband, Bishop Ronald Brown. Also, through his mother’s second marriage to gospel singer, Marvin Winans, Mario’s aunt and uncle are none other than magnetic gospel singing duo, BeBe and CeCe Winans.
Getting his start at a young age learning piano, keyboards, and drums, it wasn’t long until Mario learned how to work in a recording studio while still in grade school. After he graduated, he began producing gospel music professionally, eventually working with gospel music artists Fred Hammond, The Clark Sisters and the 175 members of the Winans gospel music family.
A bit further down the road, he landed a production deal with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records and it was from there that he linked up with and penned several tracks for R Kelly and self-titled ’95 album, including the classics, “I Can’t Sleep Baby” and “You Remind Me Of Something.” After the success with Kelly, Winans released his debut album Story of My Heart in ‘97, which failed to chart. But luckily for him, Diddy and Bad Boy soon came calling and would put the gospel singer and R&B producer on the music map.
Pretty much right from the start, Winans found instant success working alongside Diddy, first by playing drums on “Come With Me” by Diddy and Jimmy Page, which was based around the classic Led Zeppelin song “Kashmir” from their 1975 album Physical Graffiti, as well as being featured in that Godzilla movie. It was after that Mario gained a gigantic list of production credits for Bad Boy artists and beyond including Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, Destiny’s Child, Whitney, J.Lo, Ice Cube, Faith Evans, Loon, Black Rob, and 112. Really, his production list goes on and on and on.
It was also during his producing reign that the singer finally broke through onto mainstream radio with the number two Billboard single, “I Don’t Wanna Know,” which was off of Enya’s “Boadicea” that’s all up in the Fugees’ 1996 hit single “Ready Or Not.” However, the success of the single came with a side of music shade after Enya and her representatives became angry since Winans did not seek her approval for use of her ultimate Pure Moods groove. Winans stated was unaware that the Fugees sample he had used had itself been a sample. So, if you’ll recall, a compromise was reached to credit the single as “Mario Winans featuring P. Diddy and Enya.” Ahh, Baby makin’ memories…what music bliss.
While “I Don’t Wanna Know” became Mario’s only hit single, he also popped up on a number collaborations through the ’00s (“I Need a Girl(Part Two) all day), and eventually took home a Grammy for for Best Gospel Performance for his production work for on his aunt CeCe’s single, “Pray” Also, just to refresh your music memory, “I Don’t Wanna Know” follow-up single,”Never Really Was,” used a sample of the orchestrated beginning of Madonna’s 1986 hit, “Papa Don’t Preach” as its background music. However, the song failed to chart for some reason. Maybe it was the remix version that featured “Sunshine” rapper Lil Flip. That must have been it.
Although his mainstream music career may have cooled, Winans is still heavy in the producing game, executing producing Diddy’s 2014 set, as well as new grooves for Jamie Foxx, Keyshia Cole and Fabolous. Remember him?
Now there’s a Music Memory Monday for you.