Born John Prince Kee, June 4, 1962, in Charlotte, NC; divorced from first wife; children: Christopher, Shannon. Education: Studied voice and classical music at North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, NC, and Yuba College Conservatory School of Music, Marysville, CA. Addresses: Record company--Verity Records, 137 W. 25th Street, New York, NY 10001.

Prolific gospel singer John P. Kee, who has built an avid fan base within the realm of gospel music, infiltrated the secular rhythm and blues industry in 1994 with his eleventh album, Show Up!, by combining church choir harmonies with hip-hop sounds. Kee has often been compared to gospel music legend the Reverend James Cleveland, and the sheer power of Kee's voice is reminiscent of Shirley Ceaser and Edwin Hawkins. Kee described his music to BRE magazine's Ruth Robinson as "simple Sunday morning hip- hop, it's got the thing that makes the kids move."

Born on June 4, 1962, in Charlotte, North Carolina, John Prince Kee was the last of six boys born into a family of 16 children. Kee's father was a religious man who insisted that his children embrace religion early in life, and all 16 kids were gifted singers who were members of gospel choirs. At the age of 13, Kee formed his first gospel choir, and by the time he went off to study voice and classical music at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, he was six-feet-one-inch and had already amassed five years of solid performing and conducting experience. His early musical influences were Thomas Dorsey and Frank Williams.

While Kee was in college he performed with such groups as Cameo and Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds. His formative college years were turbulent after he was lured into using and selling cocaine regularly; Kee even operated his drug racket out of a church at one time. It was only after he witnessed the slaying of a close friend in a drug deal that he turned wholeheartedly to religion and gospel music for solace and inspiration. Ironically, it was Kee's experience trafficking and using drugs that helped him relate to and feel comfortable with fans from all walks of life and of all ages.

In 1981 Kee formed the New Life Community Choir in Charlotte, which consists of 30 young inner city recruits. His ministry is aimed at attracting the young and providing a safe place for them to flourish spiritually. The singer told BRE's Robinson, "I thought we should go down to the police station and get mug shots of all the people in the choir who have been arrested and put them on the back of an album." Like Kee, most of the choir members struggled with drug abuse at one time and eventually turned their lives around through religion and their devotion to gospel music.

In 1985, at the age of 23, Kee became the first artist to record lead vocals on two selections for James Cleveland's Gospel Music Workshop of America's (GMWA) annual mass choir recording. Kee's songs were "Jesus Can Do It All" and "He's My All and All." He confided to Teresa Hairston of Score magazine, "James opened the door for me through the GMWA." Kee's songwriting and singing career began to bloom soon after the recording; he subsequently wrote and performed on "Jesus Lives In Me" for the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar album Give Us Peace. Kee was then able to finance a demo tape and was signed to the Tyscot Records label. In 1987 he released his debut album, Yes Lord, which was a low-budget effort marked by production glitches.

In 1989 Kee released Wait on Him with the New Life Community Choir. The LP was awarded three Stellar Awards, for album of the year, best traditional choir, and song of the year for "It Will Be Alright." The recording served to propel Kee to the forefront of the gospel realm.

The following year Kee and his choir released There Is Hope. A portion of the album's proceeds was donated for AIDS research and to a foundation that assists battered children. The album earned Kee a nomination for a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award in the best gospel artist category. Later in 1990 Kee recorded his first solo album, Just Me This Time, which garnered the singer a Stellar Award for best male solo performance and a contemporary producer of the year award from the GMWA. Just Me This Time was also nominated for a Dove Award in the category of traditional black gospel recorded song.

In 1991 Kee and the New Life Community Choir released Wash Me, which received two Stellar awards and five GMWA Excellence awards. That same year Kee wrote I Can Call Him for the East Coast Regional Mass and recorded Never Shall Forget with the Victory in Praise Mass Choir. The latter album reflects the culmination of nightly services and workshops at an annual conference for gospel delegates and was awarded four GMWA Excellence awards. Later in 1991 Kee produced Surrender, an LP comprised of performances by New Life's female choir members.

A video for Wash Me was released in 1992 and earned a Stellar Award for best music video and a GMWA Excellence Award for best video concert. That same year We Walk by Faith was released; it won two Billboard music awards and four GMWA excellence awards. Lily in the Valley, released in 1993, is a second recording by the Victory in Praise Mass Choir. This won a Dove Award for traditional black gospel album of the year and a Stellar Award for best traditional album.

Colorblind, an album that tackles such contemporary issues as prejudice, was released in 1994 and was Kee's second solo effort and first release on the Verity Records label. It was the recipient of two GMWA Excellence awards, an Inside Gospel Award, and a Stellar Award. The album was also nominated for a Dove Award.

Show Up!, Kee's crossover LP, appeared in 1995 and features Kee backed by the New Life Community Choir. It debuted at Number Seven on the Billboard Heatseeker's Chart, the highest debut for a gospel album in the chart's history. Robinson commented in a BRE review, "The album might be filled with ole' time religion, but it's not full of solemn, sober pleas to the Lord. This is a foot- stomping, hand-clapping sho' nuff shout to the Heavens."

When Kee isn't producing, writing, and performing for his New Life Productions, he oversees an inner-city youth program in Charlotte. Divorced from his first wife, he keeps in close contact with his two children: a son, Christopher, and daughter, Shannon. In addition to music and ministry, Kee has pursued such philanthropic interests as building an inner-city playground, donating $3000 to an urban reading program, providing anti-drug counseling, and creating the Victory in Praise Music & Arts Convention.

Kee declared to Score magazine's Hairston, "[The New Life Choir wants] to be unique. The only way we can do that is for people to be able to identify with who we are and what we stand for. That's the key to where we are and where God is taking us."

by B. Kimberly Taylor

John P. Kee's Career

While a teenager, performed with groups Cameo and Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds; formed New Life Community Choir, 1981; provided lead vocals on two songs for James Cleveland's Gospel Music Workshop of America's (GMWA) annual mass choir recording; wrote and recorded "Jesus Lives in Me" for Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar album Give Us Peace; signed with Tyscot Records and released debut album, Yes Lord, 1987; tours U.S. with New Life Community Choir, 1990--.

John P. Kee's Awards

Stellar awards, 1989, for album of the year for Wait on Him, best traditional choir, and song of the year for "It Will Be Alright"; Image Award nomination for best gospel artist, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1989; Stellar Award for best male solo performance for Just Me This Time, contemporary producer of the year citation from GMWA, and Dove Award for traditional black gospel recorded song, all 1990; two Stellar awards and five GMWA Excellence awards for Wash Me, all 1991; four GMWA awards for Never Shall Forget, 1991; two Billboard music awards and four GMWA awards for We Walk by Faith, all 1992; Dove Award for traditional black gospel album of the year and Stellar Award for best traditional album, both 1993; two GMWA awards, Inside Gospel Award, and Stellar Award, all for Colorblind, all 1994; Dove Award for contemporary black gospel recorded song of the year for "It Could Have Been Me," 1994.

Famous Works

Further Reading

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 7 years ago

listening to your songs to me is like hearing God speak to me.you have being an inspiration and motivator to me musically.ilove u,i love New Life community choir.

over 7 years ago

hello john p. kee. im 18 years old and i have been listening to you my whole life.. i just wanted to encourage u to keep doing what ur called to do and everything else will fall into place. remember if you dont stand for something you'll fall for anything.

over 7 years ago

John P Kee? All I can say is that you are an Awesome Man. I recently flew to Texas to see you in concert. You were amazing. So wonderful. Note: I payed a good amount of money to fly to Texas to see you as a friend of mine called and informed that you were going to be at the home church attended by my friend. I had the best time. Know that you really ministered to me through your music. I really wanted to take a picture with you so that I could come back and show the choir in which I play piano for, that I had met the "KING OF GOSPEL". But? You shot me down JPK. I was up taking all kinds of pictures from you and you broke out with " Please put your camera's up. I don't want to be on YOU TUBE TONIGHT." So as not to offend you, I stopped taking your pictures. John, I love you. I am married and I can't keep the fact ath I love you from GOD so not only does GOD KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU,,,MY HUSBAND DOES ALSO AND NOW YOU KNOW. I do intend on coming to your church one day in the NEAR FUTURE AND GETTING THAT PICTURE WITH YOU. Keep on singing. Tia,,,,,P.S. MY BOYS CAN REALLY SING AND YOU SHOULD HEAR MY OLDEST SON WHEN HE WAS 5 SINGING YOUR SONG,,,JESUS WILL WELCOME ME HOME,,,,,WOW,,,,,NOT ONLY DO I LOVE YOU,,,LOVE FOR JOHN P KEE IS A FAMILY TRADITION,,,,,,,SMILE!!!

almost 8 years ago

Hi Prince you are the best keep it up, you style of singing and the texture of your voice inspired me to work hard, i real pray to get there some day. Keep it up brother. From Me Blessing. Gospel Sing, Vocalist.

almost 8 years ago

Hi Prince you are the best keep it up, you style of singing and the texture of your voice inspired me to work hard, i real pray to get there some day. Keep it up brother. From Me Blessing. Gospel Sing, Vocalist.

about 8 years ago

like mary, jojn kee is blessed and highly favored.I admire him, he is a smart savey man. Like barack the world isnt read for thr power God has given him and John.