John P. Kee
A History Lesson
They call him Prince of Gospel not simply because that “P” in John P. Kee stands for “Prince”. It does it’s really his middle name.
compiled by GospelFlava.com Staff —
But it also convey’s the man’s prominence and respect in the Gospel music world. The moniker also makes sense, in that it was the King of Gospel Rev. James Cleveland, who figuratively laid the royal baton on the rising songwriter Kee back in 1985.
As the fifteenth of sixteen children in a large church-going family, Kee had always shown a musical ability. After special musical training, in his early teens, he moved from his native Durham, NC and became significantly involved in the jazz scene with his older brothers (Wayne and Alphonza). This included a brief stint as an instrumentalist with the renowned funk outfit, Cameo.
But within a few years, Kee soon spiralled down into a severe lifestyle of drugs and violence. Operating out of the Double Oaks community in Charlotte, NC, things became worse until he made a life-changing committment to Jesus Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte.
Then in his early twenties, Kee started to become heavily involved in church activities, and by the mid-eighties had started up his own community Gospel choir in Charlotte.
In 1985, Kee got a break, and was invited by Reverend James Cleveland and Rodena Preston to teach a couple of his own songs for the GMWA annual recording session that year in Detroit. That soon led to his
vocal debut with the Edwin Hawkins Music and Arts Seminar with the hit song “Jesus Lives In Me” on the Give Us Peace project, followed by "He's Coming Back" on the subsequent Edwin Hawkins project, That Name, recorded live at Howard University.
Things started to flow from there. Kee soon signed to Tyscot Records for his debut project, Yes Lord, released in 1987 and recorded at the Brethren in Unity Youth Convention. The albums began to snowball. By the early nineties, not only were projects from his New Life Community Choir such as Wait On Him, Wash Me and We Walk By Faith taking the country by storm, but Kee’s own series of Victory in Praise Music and Arts Seminar projects were garnering rave reviews.
Kee soon signed with the fledging Verity Records label, with the first project for them being We Walk By Faith.
Spawning from the New Life environment have been many other artists, and these are well documented. They include Montrel Darrett, Chris Simpson, Chris Byrd, Isaac Caree and Lowell Pye (of the Men of Standard), Erick Matthews, Drea Randle and others.
1995 saw Kee break new ground and started to pastor his own church. Based in Charlotte, NC, New Life Fellowship began to unveil not only musical ministry, by community ministry to the neighborhood. The same year also saw the release of the gold-earned Show Up! project. Strength was released in 1997 and continued the success. By early 2000, Kee and New Life had opened up a new facility in the notorious Double Oaks ‘hood’, thereby completing the cycle.
The music and the ministry continues still on the New Life front. Whether it’s the flagship choir, Kee’s solo efforts or production collaboration with other artists, the Kee-backed Inner City Mass Choir or the new church choir, New Divine Destiny headed up by his brother Alphonza, you can be sure that the disks echo the ministry.
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