While a student in college, a professor told me something that opened my eyes to music making. I knew the importance of vocalists hearing the tone of the notes while singing. This was necessary to stay in tune and keep the song melody from drifting off-key. At the time I had invested several years into playing the trumpet. I knew very well the mechanics of creating notes by pressing certain valve combinations. However, the professor explained that all trumpet players used their musical ears in creating notes in tune. The valve combinations were just a part of creating the notes. Of course, I knew that already but never thought about it much before then. The hearing of tones is very important to any singer. Some vocalists hear notes better than others, just as some singers use the mechanics of creating notes better than others. This reason does not automatically make a singer better than others with less command of vocal tools. In some instances, if everything falls into place, it might make certain vocalists extraordinary. This might be the case with this weeks’ featured artist: Kelly Price.
If you ask a musician about particular vocalists, you might hear something different from the thinking of the billions of fans. Elton John heard Kelly in 1998 and personally requested her participation in the all-star soundtrack recording of the music for Elton John and Tim Rice’s Broadway smash AIDA. Following the recording sessions Elton John was quoted declaring, “Kelly Price is the most important black singer to come since Aretha, she is going to be a huge star!!” Kelly Price is very popular, however there are many singers who have sold more music. Therefore, is Elton John wrong in his assessment? No! It’s just that Elton has a different perspective. As a musician, he can hear that Kelly Price possesses the musical ear and vocal tools to create difficult note combinations without great effort. She has abilities like opera singers.
Kelly Price exhibited musical talent very early in her life. Although music was deeply rooted in the family it was still a surprise to her mother when she began to show signs of a musically tuned ear at just 9 months old. She was retaining melodies she heard during the day and humming them at night in the crib! Public performances for young Kelly began in church at the age of two with the children’s choir with solos beginning by age 3. By age 6 Kelly was far advanced, becoming the youngest member of the junior choir for teenaged kids. By age 7 Kelly had written her 1st song and by 9 years old she was singing lead vocals in the local church’s adult choir as well as the regional, state and national convention choirs. In elementary school Kelly became the go to girl when a voice was needed, astounding her teachers who couldn’t believe the big voice that came from this young child. Yes, Kelly Price did not sneak up on the world of music. Everyone could see, and hear, her coming from miles away.
The little girl from Queens, NY grew up singing in church, but other opportunities would arise. By the age of 12 Kelly stumbled into laying background vocals when she was at a recording session with her mother and the producer over heard her perfectly singing the notes to his song as he instructed the singers in between takes. The producer was shocked and after receiving permission from her mother, put Kelly on the song as a background vocalist. This led to other recording projects and by 17 years old she was the “it” girl for music producers who were in need of a vocalist to record their music when shopping it to labels. Price sharpened her recording skills during these unpaid gigs and finally landed her first major engagement. In January of 1992 Price performed live behind George Michael at Madison Square Garden in NYC.
Fast forward to now, twenty-four years later and Kelly Price is continuing to enjoy a stellar music career. Seven studio albums, six Grammy nominations, music used in motion pictures and television, and even the occasional role in TV shows Kelly has done just about everything. Personally, I think her biggest talent lies in her abilities as a songwriter. At 22 years old Kelly began to actively pursue a serious career in songwriting, placing thoughts of being her own artist on the back-burner after repeatedly being told that she could never make it as a mainstream R&B or pop artist performing her own music because both her voice and her body were too big. The belief was that Kelly simply would not fit in with the lighter, more radio friendly sounding voices and smaller more television friendly frames that record executives and the public preferred. Of course they were wrong.
By taking the path of a writer first, Kelly walked into a world of amazing learning experiences and in no time became one of the most sought after songwriters in the music industry, especially in the R&B and hip Hop community. Opportunities to record, produce, share stages with and pen songs for a plethora of artists spanning multiple genres of music began to pour in.
Through her amazing writing, arranging and production skills, Kelly has brought her unmatched sound, ability and unique talent to the already distinct sounds of the music industry’s finest across multiple genres of music. The list of artists with whom she has collaborated is literally a mile long. Moreover, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Last year Price filed for divorce from her husband of twenty-three years Jeffrey Rolle. “After the untimely death of my sister, it weighed on me heavily that this was something we needed to do. I ultimately made the decision to live the best life I can. I ended things because I didn’t want to compromise what true happiness was anymore. There are no hard feelings and I will love Jeff until the day I die!”
I hope Kelly Price continues to find happiness in life and music.