Born Dorthy Peoples in Dayton, Ohio, Peoples began singing at an early age. After completing high school, she toured with gospel pioneer Dorothy Norwood, a member of The Caravans. After that, she briefly joined a jazz ensemble, performing in various venues across the country.
Unhappy singing secular music, she relocated to Atlanta to return her gospel roots. She recorded her debut album, Live At Salem Baptist Church, in 1993. On July 28, 2008, Peoples performed a free concert at the East Birmingham Church of God in Christ.
The firstborn of ten children, and the only singer in the family, Peoples was born in Dayton, Ohio. Her father worked two jobs, one at General Motors, to support the large family. According to Richard Gincel of the Atlanta Constitution, Peoples well remembers walking a mile to school in snow up to our heads because her family could not afford bus fare.
During her summer vacations, Peoples would stay with her grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama and would attend church with her all day on Sundays. The singers fascinated Peoples. She pictured herself as another Mahalia Jackson and went on to sing in her church choir and her high school concert choir. After high school, she toured briefly with gospel singer Dorothy Norwood and then with Shirley Caesar. Peoples’ mother did not want her daughter to go on tour.
Despite her mother’s objections about touring, Groove Holmes gave Peoples the opportunity to join his ensemble and for five years she performed in jazz clubs. When she married, Peoples stopped performing, but she could not stay away from singing. Not only did she want to serve God with song, Peoples had the voice to inspire. In fact, with a vocal range of soprano to alto to tenor, she has been compared to Patti LaBelle. The Philadelphia Tribune called Peoples a “vocal powerhouse. But singing was not the most important thing in her life. She told writer Jimmy Stewart, “I love singing, but it’s my personal relationship with Jesus that inspires me to do it.”
Already considered a leader among the future’s female gospel greats, Peoples maintains, Gospel has to change a bit for the new generation because young people need gospel, need to hear a word from the Lord, now more than ever. By the time I leave the stage, I want to have an impact on somebody’s life. In 1997, Peoples won the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award. That award emphasized that Peoples has made an impact on the world and will continue to do so as she sings in the twenty-first century.