Wesley Naylor, gospel music creator and a composer of “Mama, I Want to Sing,” one of Off Broadway’s longest-running musicals, died Aug. 25 at his Brooklyn home. Cause was under investigation. He was 44.
Naylor worked with Vy Higginsen and Kenneth Wydro on “Mama,” the story of a minister’s daughter who leaves the church to become a singing star. Naylor also composed two sequels to the show. He also played and arranged gospel music for such performers as Aretha Franklin and Cee Cee Winans.
Mississippi native was trained in gospel music at the local church where his grandfather was minister. He began playing piano at age 4 and was performing at 12. He received a scholarship to the North Carolina School for the Performing Arts and studied piano at the U. of Southern Mississippi and Oberlin Conservatory. In New York, he was music director of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn nearly 25 years.