Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Keith Barrow - Sept 1954 - Oct 1983


Mood - Reflective
Listening to:
Cannonball Adderly -
Live at Operation Breadbasket:
Country Preacher
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?"
Rolls eyes.
He would have made an impact for sure with his music.

6 comments:

S. Flemming said...

I was happy to find this today. I just wrote my own tribute to Keith Barrow at my Web site this week. I'm glad to see somebody else highlighting his talent. I truly hope that his records will be reissued on CD here in the States someday. This was a nice write-up.

Anonymous said...

Im not sure why but I can remember seeing Keith perform only but once many years ago live at this club in NYC and I can remember beatiful he looked and talented he was.
He sang two songs from a tracs one was you know you wanna be loved and the other was why love half the world when you can love the whole world. I will miss him.

hljmarr said...

Yes it's been awhile yes. Almost
30yrs since saw Keith, an talent!
Do you here me, I saw him in Boston. He hand the crowd in his
hand!! Unfortunately, Keith departed to soon...hopefully. Sony/
BGM shall reissue an Greatest hits.
I'll say this your personal life
is your own. This the so could freedom, which we share. In America
but? When Black programmers found
out...about many. Performers whom
were label. They stop playing there records, Keith always. Had
an diversified audience notice my
expression. Without, classifying
sexual orientation: futhermore
this what. Some people felt unsure
if Keith was around now. Would it
matter Hell no! Especially, abroad
your sex life is private so be. Back to Mister talented Barrow
excellent. Artist and reverting
back about assumption. Keith
told his fans indirectly...on
the cover. Physical Attraction
this my desire without verbal words. Still we lost a, great
man whom would have. Made his name
in lights sorry you left us!

Frank Jump said...

Keith and I dated in the late 70s. I was 18 and hanging at Studio 54 and Keith had a hit at the time. He was very sweet and we saw each other for a while. I've been living with HIV since 1984. It was hard losing so many people in such a brief period of time. I remember Keith fondly. My heart goes to his family.

Anonymous said...

LaVette Phillips: What else is there to say about Keith Barrow, except 3times, totally talented. I sing myself and I love hearing a singer for the first time and I say 'Wow, he/she has it'... then I go out and buy their music. Keith's voice is just exceptional. I am forever indebted to you Keith because you gave me such beautiful music. The story of you and a 'screw driver' is just a testament to your innocense. I'm STILL so saddened you passed. away.

Anonymous said...

Funny society changes within time. When see progress gradually.
LGBTQ rights in any society. Respect those whom endure prejudice. Keith my favorite during 70's yet. Article is factual Keith was popular. Major
T.V shows international following.
Saw Keith on French show. Handsome talented sung ballad was.
You want to be loved. My favorite
from Physical Attraction Overnight Success which. Many singers covered never convey. Keith singing besides sexuality.
Was being judge to Jacksons. Whom
label mates sorry we lost. Keith
31yrs ago living in France. Citizens have full equality. Only
Keith others gotten there chance. To entertain not because sexual.
Orientation problem with moralistic America! Let music enrich your minds. And hearts thanks for your blog. Au Revoir