The Houston Forward Times was on hand this past Friday, as The Community of Faith hosted an intimate evening with Motown recording artist and Grammy Award Winner Kem at The Community of Faith located in Northwest Houston.
In recognition of the Thanksgiving season, the Meet & Greet occasion, titled “A Conversation with Kem -- How Can I Say Thanks,” gave attendees a chance to be a part of an intimate one-on-one discussion between Kem and Bishop James Dixon, who pastors The Community of Faith. The R&B mega star is mostly known for his unique genre of romantic music. However, the conversation hosted by Bishop Dixon gave Kem’s fans an opportunity to get to know the man behind the music.
Kem sat down with Bishop Dixon and discussed his life’s journey and spoke about everything from dealing with homelessness, addiction, isolation from his family and how his love of music in and of itself didn’t keep him from self-destructive behavior. He spoke of how he spent a lot of time drunk and intoxicated and incarcerated and hospitalized because of his addiction. He also spoke of how his desire to be successful in the music industry helped him get through some of the darkest periods of his life.
For those who follow Kem as an artist, you would know that as a teenager in Detroit, he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction after he left home, found himself homeless and bounced around from place to place before ending up at a shelter in downtown Detroit. After being kicked out of the shelter, he began sleeping on the cold Detroit streets and just like the prodigal son in the Bible, Kem reached out and turned to God after falling as low as he possibly could. Kem revealed that he did not overcome his issues until he turned to God and to his music. After joining a Detroit church in the early 1990s, Kem began playing music with some of his friends and was able to parlay that experience into the successful launch of his career as an R&B/jazz vocalist.
Delving further, Kem talked about how important the piano has been in his life, stating that he began trying to play the piano at age 2 and 3. Playing the piano has been his lifelong passion. And even when his banging on the keys frustrated his parents, he kept on playing. He indicated that playing the piano has been the one thing he has always relied on as his way of expressing himself. Of course today, his parents and all of his family members are thankful that he never quit playing.
When asked about how he deals with present and ongoing struggles and trials, Kem’s response was, “I have learned a lot more from my failures than I have my successes. Trouble is the better teacher.”
One of the most profound points of the evening was when Bishop Dixon asked how difficult it is for him to take such a bold stand for the Lord and spend time in his concerts talking so clearly about knowing and loving God. And he was frank in responding.
“It is difficult and sometimes I have really thought about it. But I promised the ONE who put me on the stage to always give Him glory,” said Kem. “That’s just who I am. If you took the career, the house and the things I possess from me, I would still be who I am, because I am not any of those things. I am who and what God alone has made me to be. He is my only Source!”
Kem always takes time on stage and on his album to share God with people and in order to give back, Kem puts on a free concert to help Detroit’s homeless every year. His love for God and his desire to minister to people, are the reasons he wanted to do this album for the holiday season.
The conversation about his new CD, What Christmas Means, revealed some inspiring stories. Particularly, Glorified the King and the song entitled, Jesus. It’s a collaboration with Kem, Patti LaBelle and Ronald Isley. Among the ten songs on the album, there are five originals, including the opening “Glorify the King,” where he is being backed by a Detroit gospel choir. He also has duet with Ledisi called “Be Mine for Christmas,” along with many other renditions of well-known songs.
Bishop Dixon said that the first time he saw Kem in concert, which was several years ago, he knew immediately that there was a depth in his spirit and a profound sense of self that made him more than a performer.
“He [Kem] is a powerful person on and off the stage,” said Dixon. “The idea to interview him in an intimate and yet public setting was generated by my belief that his fans would benefit from knowing him at a deeper, more personal and spiritual level. His power is really in his transparency and this was an amazing experience for Houston and The Community of Faith.”
Serious Sounds Record Store, which is located in Southeast Houston, was on hand to sell the new Deluxe Edition Holiday CD and they coordinated the Meet & Greet Autograph portion of the event.
Kem performed Live in Concert the next day, on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, at The Arena Theatre.