Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Keith Barrow - Sept 1954 - Oct 1983
Mood - Reflective
Cannonball Adderly - Live at Operation Breadbasket:
I knew Keith Barrow from when he was a teen until he left Chicago to do his music thing. He was so into music and so talented. He like so many others started singing in the church and started a Gospel group of his own. I met Keith when my sister and I joined the Operation Breadbasket choir. Operation Breadbasket was the economic arm of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was headed by Rev. Jesse Jackson. Keith's mother was the famous minister Willie Taplin Barrow, who was an executive director of Breadbasket and of the organization it grew into, the Rainbow/Push Coalition.
Keith was easy going and sweet, and as determined and dedicated and focused as his mother, but his heart was his music. Choir rehearsals held at the Parkway Ballroom were always intense and I looked forward to joking around and talking music with Keith. I remember Rev. Jackson came into our rehearsal, trying to sing and making us laugh, and asked Keith to please get him a screwdriver. To say Keith looked perplexed is an understatement. He went away and came back with a butter knife as a substitute. "Boy, I want a vodka and orange juice". Poor Keith was totally embarrassed and as he told me later shocked that a drink from the Parkway bar never crossed his mind as he scrambled everywhere looking for a tool. The choir and Jesse laughed and teased him forever about that.
Keith's talent soon took him to New York city and Los Angeles. He was signed by. Columbia and released his first album Keith Barrow in 1977.
His next LP Physical Attraction was a nice blend of soulful ballads and dance tracks and actually had a couple of well played disco hits including a hit 12 inch single. OMG! Remember those anyone?
His biggest hit also from that LP was "You Know You Wanna Be Loved" which hit #26 on the R&B chart in 1978. Next, the album Just As I Am was released in 1980 by Capital records. Columbia, Capital, these are major labels folks, this guy was good and on the way. But, Just As I Am was Keith Barrow's last album.
I remember the first of the weekly reports that Keith was ill and the requests for prayers. Rev. Barrow relates that her son called her from Paris before a show saying he was too ill to sing. He was hospitalized that night. Keith came home to Chicago very ill and was admitted to Michael Reese hospital. He had AIDS.
Keith's mother is a fiery orator and fierce civil rights activist nicknamed "The Little Warrior" so it was hard to see her sadness and distress as his health declined. Keith died October 22, 1983 of complications due to AIDS. He was the first friend I lost.
I'll always remember arguing with him about some group or song and shutting him up.
"Hey Keith, get me a screwdriver would ya?"
He would have made an impact for sure with his music.