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60 for Peabo is No. 1 for The Med

  • Written by Warren Roseborough

As he basked in the glow of his 60th birthday celebration, the honoree – the Grammy Award winning Peabo Bryson – found himself trying to hold back tears. By Warren Roseborough
Special to the Tri-State Defender

As he basked in the glow of his 60th birthday celebration, the honoree – the Grammy Award winning Peabo Bryson – found himself trying to hold back tears.

Fourteen soul legends performed during a Peabo Bryson 60th Birthday Celebration that doubled as a fundraising gala for The Med. From left: Billy Paul, William Bell, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler, Archie Bell and Eddie Floyd. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

Birthday honoree Peabo Bryson won a Grammy Award for “A whole New World” featured in “The Beauty and the Beast.” Bryson recorded the song with Regina Bell, and sang it with an artist from Europe during the celebration/ fundraiser at the Peabody.

During an auction hosted by music producer David Gest, King Johnson and his wife, Debra Johnson, purchased ($3,000) a rare and authentic poster signed by Michael Jackson.

Billy Paul covers his classic, “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

The celebration (April 15) in the Peabody Hotel Grand Ballroom had a two-fold purpose, including serving as a gala fundraiser for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (the MED).

It was, said Bryson, an honor and a blessing to be present for the fundraising cause, and to be among his peers, friends and fellow entertainers. Reflecting his emotions, Bryson took a bow as the audience gave him a standing ovation, and music producer David Gess gave him a hug.

Then Bryson took the stage and sang his awesome love ballads.

Throughout the evening, I moved among the 14 soul legends who turned out to celebrate the two-time Grammy Award winner.

Here’s a reflection of some of those exchanges:

William Bell, known for his big hit, “Tryin’ to Love Two,” said he’s still recording, still performing. “I have a record label of my own with four other acts, busy, busy.”

Candi Stanton, “Young Hearts Run Free” and wife of former Major League baseball player Otis Nixon of the Atlanta Braves, summed up a key reason why she chose to attend: “Helping the MED to support the poor people that need assistance that can’t afford medical care.”

“Young Hearts Run Free” is her favorite song to perform in the secular word, said Stanton, who has returned to her Gospel roots and has an album out.

I asked Jerry “the Ice Man” Butler, former lead singer of the Impressions along with Curtis Mayfield, his secret to having such a continually good sound for so many years.

“I really don’t know the answer to that, but I am surprised I have been performing for so long, and I am very grateful,” he said.

Our conversation turned to his fondest memories of performing with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.

“The night we heard ‘For Your Precious Love’ for the very first time on the radio. It had to be one of the all-great feelings in any person’s life, particularly mine.

“We were all poor kids from Chicago sitting around this old beat up radio and a lady comes on the radio says, ‘We have a new group, The Impressions, and we are going to play their song, ‘For Your Precious Love.’ So we all jumped up and down. We had no idea that this song would carry us this far.”

I spotted Maxine Brown (“Oh No, Not My Baby”), and thought, ‘She’s still a knockout.’

“Keep moving, just keep moving,” she says is how to stay healthy and fit.

“Back in the day, as entertainers, we would meet up and perform together like old home week. It’s a pleasure to do this event for a good cause and meet and mingle with all the entertainers, my friends for life,” she said.

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