The Winans were composed of brothers Marvin, Carvin, Ronald, and Michael, all of whom were born in Detroit and raised in a strict, loving Christian environment. Their parents later recorded together as Mom & Pop Winans, and their other family spinoff acts included Daniel, Vickie, brother and sister BeBe & CeCe, and Angie & Debbie; plus, their own sons went on to form the third-generation group Winans Phase 2. All of that came later, though. The four brothers, like the rest of their siblings, grew up singing in gospel choirs, and decided to form a professional quartet in their twenties. A mutual friend introduced them to Andraé Crouch, a major force in the contemporization of gospel music, and Crouch signed the Winans to his Light label.
The Winans released their debut album, Introducing the Winans, in 1981, which was produced by Crouch and featured the now-classic cuts "The Question Is" and "Restoration." The 1983 follow-up, Long Time Comin', started to break the group to a wider audience, reaching the Top Ten on the gospel album charts; it also produced another staple of their repertoire in the ballad "Long Time Comin' (Holdin' On)." The title track of their third album, Tomorrow (which also made the gospel Top Ten), won the group its first Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group in 1985. In the wake of that success, the Winans moved over to famed producer Quincy Jones' Qwest label.