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When Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds was growing up in Indianapolis, a teenager with five brothers and a widowed mother, writing songs seemed a natural way to express his emotions. Listening to all kinds of music on the radio -- from gospel to James Taylor’s acoustic folk - helped, too, he tells TV One on One host Cathy Hughes in an interview premiering Sunday, November 4 from 5-6pm Pacific and repeating at 9pm.. As a young boy, he says, “I’d go to the car, turn on the radio, and it would be gospel. If I didn’t want to stay on the station, I would switch, and go to the AM stations, and so I heard a lot of new music.” Words and music provided Edmonds the impetus that started him on a career path leading to international acclaim and a house full of top awards. Edmonds’ music career was launched when he began to sing with some Cincinnati-based groups such as Manchild (“Especially for You”) and The Deele, where he met L.A. Reid, his future partner in LaFace Records. He also met and played music with funk star Bootsy Collins - the man who gave him the nickname “Babyface.” “I walked in the studio one day, and he just yelled out, ‘Baby Face.’ And everybody started laughing, and it was a big joke, and I didn’t like it at the time. And it was probably a couple months later that everybody kept calling me that, and it ended up sticking.”
For Edmonds, early contact with a wide array of musical talent and genres can be heard in his new CD, “Playlist,” which covers songs by other composers -- like James Taylor and the group, Bread -- as well as his own original and personal work including “Not Going Nowhere.” “The songs [by other composers] that I picked for this record are the songs that inspired me -- that I grew up listening to. I like the fact that I heard so many different things. It allowed me to be able to stretch and work with other artists, -- from a Toni Braxton to an Eric Clapton, from a Boyz II Men to the Fall Out Boys. Even working with a country artist [Faith Hill]. That’s important to me -- to be able to go down as many fields as possible in terms of music.”
Edmonds’ unique gift for embracing varied musical styles has led to 10 Grammy awards, 119 Top-Ten R&B and Pop hits, 41 #1 R&B hits, 51 Top 10 Pop Hits, including 16 #1’s, and single and album sales in excel of 100 million units. He also wrote and produced the critically acclaimed 10-million-selling “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. Just a few of the scores of singers who have recorded his songs or who have been produced by him include Aretha Franklin (“Honey”), Whitney Houston (“Exhale-Shoop Shoop”), Madonna (“Take a Bow”), Mariah Carey (“Melt Away”), Michael Jackson (“On the Line”), Celine Dion, (“The Power of the Dream”), Boyz II Men (“End of the Road”) and many more. In the 1990s. Edmonds and then-wife Tracey set up a production company to produce feature films including “Soul Food” and “Josie and the Pussycats.” They also served as the executive producers of the television series “College Hill.”
Still, as the divorced father reveals, as a composer, the most personal and loving songs he has ever written, and the ones that seem to touch his fans as well, are those he has written for his sons, Brandon and Dylan, like “Not Goin’ Nowhere,” written after he and wife Tracey had separated. “I wasn’t out to write this particular song. One day, I sat down with the guitar, and I just started playing chords, and then it just kind of happened, and the words just kind of flowed out. And it was just kind of remembering pieces of conversations and moments with the kids and with Tracey and the things that we went through and having to sit and talk to the kids and letting them know what’s going on.”
Edmonds tells Hughes that he hoped the song would let his boys know that he would be there and love them forever, despite anything that was going on. “It was totally to tell them that ‘look, it’s okay. Everything’s okay. We and your mom, we’re great friends. We’re still cool. I’m telling you guys I love you, and we’re getting through everything, getting through it all together.”
After all his successes, what are his greatest rewards? As he tells Hughes, “My motivation is to go somewhere and see someone sing a song that I’ve written. And if you remember a song that I’ve written, and it touched you and it made a difference in your life, then that’s the thing. When people come up and say, “I’m a ‘Whip Appeal’ baby.” Okay. I’ll take that one. Or, when they say that at the birth of their child that song was playing - those are the things that money can’t buy. Those are the special things.”
TV One viewers can learn more about this multi-talented man, his inspiring career and even some insights into his unique friendship with former President Bill Clinton (Edmonds helped President Clinton pack up his office the night before the Clintons vacated the White House), when he talks with Cathy Hughes on “TV One on One,” airing Sunday, November 4 at 5 PM Pacific.