July 24th, 2010
Our articles about famous and infamous celebrities continue to be reader favorites. This is the sixth in a series of brief profiles of past and present people who, besides being famous for their personal fame and news worthiness, have also been connected to some degree with Jehovah’s Witnesses during their lifetimes.
It is clear that being both famous and a Jehovah’s Witness is not easy. Some Witnesses manage to handle their association quietly and discreetly. They let their professional accomplishments speak for themselves – and otherwise stay out of the limelight. Others, however, find their fame and achievements often shadowed by their association with the religion. By far, most find that being a Witness is incompatible with being a celebrity – and then face the decision to either quit the religion or choose to leave their professional career behind.
This latest group of five is a mixed bunch. Some are in, some are out, some have relationships that are tenuous and limited, but they still count as having connections to Jehovah’s Witnesses at some point in their lives. You might find a few surprises on this list. Be sure to check out and enjoy our new video gallery at the end of the article. Feel free to comment.
- Jean Terrell (singer)
- Sherri Shepherd (TV personality)
- Hank Marvin (musician)
- “Xzibit” (singer)
- Rodney King (newsmaker)
- (Velma) Jean Terrell (1944-), is best known for being a lead singer for the Supremes when she replaced Diana Ross in 1970. She’s a sister of former heavyweight boxing champion, Ernie Terrell, best known for his classic 15-round championship fight with Muhammad Ali in 1967. Jean left Mississippi for Chicago at an early age. Her family encouraged her to sing, and for a time, she joined her brother as part of Ernie Terrell & the Heavyweights. When she was 24, Berry Gordy noticed her when she was performing in a club with her brother. Gordy was looking for a replacement for Diana Ross who was leaving the Supremes to start a solo career. Ms. Terrell initially joined Motown as a solo artist, but took Ross’s lead singing duties, supported by original Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. After a rough and uneven career at Motown, she left to join A&M Records and released a solo recording in 1978 and an album, “I Had To Fall In Love.” However, as a Jehovah’s Witness, she went into semi-retirement when she objected to the way the company wanted her to promote the recording. Ms. Terrell eventually put together a one woman show made up of several Supremes songs, songs from her solo album, and covers of songs by Bette Midler, Lionel Ritchie and others. Terrell has released a biographical DVD of her life and reportedly continues to perform on occasion. [Status: Active]
- Sherri Shepherd (1967-), is an American comedienne, actress, and television personality. Since 2006, she has been one of five co-hosts on the ABC daytime talk show, “The View.” As an actress, she is perhaps best known for her role on the sitcom “Less Than Perfect” and her own sitcom “Sherri” on cable TV’s Lifetime network. Shepherd has branched out to film, with roles in “Guess Who,” “Beauty Shop,” “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” and “Precious.” She still performs stand-up comedy at Los Angeles area clubs like the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory. She has also been a frequent and popular guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” for which she holds a record for being on the show the greatest number of times. She also has a recurring role on “30 Rock” as the character “Angie Jordan.” She divorced her husband in 2006 after she discovered he was having an affair. Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, she became an evangelical Christian after she discovered her husband’s infidelities. She earned deserved criticism for her ridiculous statements about history and religion on the “View” at various times. On the show she openly admits to having been a Jehovah’s Witness, but usually follows up with some over-the-top statement that shows her complete lack of understanding. Statements she’s made include “the world is flat,” “Christianity predated the Greeks and Romans,” and “the Greeks had Christians because they threw them to the lions.” [Status: Inactive]
- Hank Marvin (1941 -), born Brian Robson Rankin, is an English musician, best known for playing lead guitar for the Shadows. The three-man group, which specialized in instrumental music, was originally formed in the late 1950s as the performance band for English vocalist Cliff Richard. Marvin’s unique style using a distinctive guitar sound, clean with a distinctive echo and vibrato, influenced many later guitarists. Peter Townshend and John Fogerty are among several major rock musicians who credit his influence toward development of their own personal styles. Frank Zappa counts Marvin as being one of the major influences for the first Mothers of Invention album. The Shadows were never particularly well-known in the United States, despite several appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, but were widely known in the UK and Europe. Marvin joined Bruce Welch and John Farrar in the early 1970s for two albums, “Marvin, Welch & Farrar” and “Second Opinion.” The project was eventually terminated due to Marvin’s personal commitments, including his conversion to become a Jehovah’s Witness in 1973. After he moved to Australia, Marvin turned out for the Shadows’ annual group tour and a new studio album, while also recording albums such as “The Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate,” on which he led nine famous session guitarists. In 1982, he hit the charts with “Don’t Talk” – intended initially for Cliff Richard. After working with the Shadows during the late 1980s, Marvin returned to recording during the following decade. Marvin has been a major influence for many rock guitarists during the past 40 years, but he is a legend primarily for his work with the Shadows in the 1960s. In 2004, Hank Marvin rejoined the Shadows for an enormous farewell tour. Hank appeared with his son at the Strat Pack concert at Wembley Arena in September, 2004. That same year he was offered an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to music, but declined citing “personal reasons” (the OBE is a governmental award – and it was also being given in honor of the Queen’s birthday). Since 1986 Marvin lived in the hills above Perth, Western Australia, but has relocated to an apartment in East Perth. He remains a committed Jehovah’s Witness and has served as an elder in his local congregation. [Status: Active]
- Alvin Nathaniel Joiner IV – “Xzibit” (1974–),
American rapper, song writer, and actor – probably best known for hosting MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” An active song writer and performer, he released a new album every two years from his 1996 debut “At the Speed of Life” until his more recent “Full Circle” in October 2006. Xzibit began his music career as a member of the Likwit Crew, a loose collective of West Coast rappers which included King Tee, Defari, and Tha Alkaholiks. Dr. Dre invited him to perform on his American “Up in Smoke Tour” in 2000, which featured Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Ice Cube, among many others. Loud Records released his album “Restless” that year, with Dr. Dre as executive producer, who also produced the single “X” . That song became his biggest hit since “What U See Is What U Get.” He has appeared in several movies including “Full Clip” in 2004. In 2005 he was in “Derailed” and the animated movie “Hoodwinked.” Later that same year, he appeared in “XXX: State of the Union,” and in 2007 he co-starred along with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the movie “Gridiron Gang.” He also played an FBI agent in 2008’s “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.” He was raised by Jehovah’s Witness parents, but that became a problem when he developed an interest in music. “My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they didn’t particularly care for rap music…I would get my little headphones and sneak and listen to it at night. Every time they would catch me, they would get it and break my tapes. And I’d be mad. Eventually, I got sick of it. So I said, ‘You know what? I can rap my own stuff and they can never take that from me.'” [Status: Inactive]
- Rodney King (1965 -) best known as the former felon/ex-convict who was the victim in a police brutality case involving Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers on March 3, 1991. A bystander videotaped the incident from a distance. The footage showed LAPD officers repeatedly striking King with their batons while other officers stand around watching and failing to take any action to stop the brutal beating. Part of this footage was broadcast by local news agencies and then around the world, causing wide public outrage. Racial tension increased between the black community and the LAPD over police brutality and other social inequalities in Los Angeles. Four LAPD officers were later tried in a state court for the beating. All were found not guilty. The announcement of the acquittals sparked the horrific 1992 Los Angeles riots, leading to widespread destruction and several deaths. A later federal trial for civil rights violations ended with two of the officers found guilty and sent to prison. The other two officers were acquitted. Rodney King was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses by his mother and father. His mother, Odessa King, was described as a “devout Jehovah’s Witness” who may have considered herself as one of the “anointed class” (part of the 144,000). After Rodney King’s arrest and beating in 1991, King’s first attorney told the media that Rodney King was “a devout/devoted Jehovah’s Witness, who did not drink or smoke.” One King biographer states that Odessa King converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses due to her husband’s drinking. However, it has also been reported that Ronald King, Rodney’s father, may have been associated with the JWs at some point and one King biographer described him as a “devout Jehovah’s Witness” until his death. Some active JWs have stated that they have seen Rodney King attending “meetings” at the Kingdom Hall, and even attending Watchtower conventions. [Status: Unknown / Probable Inactive]