Edmonds, Kenneth (“Babyface”)

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Edmonds, Kenneth (“Babyface”)

Edmonds, Kenneth (“Babyface”), phenomenally successful writer, producer, and singer, and one of the most successful music makers of the 1990s; b. Indianapolis, April 10, 1959. The youngest of six boys, Ken Edmonds picked up a guitar at the age of ten and within a year was playing with two of his brothers at high school dances. By the age of 18, he was recording with the band Manchild and was featured on their hit “Especially for You.” He also worked with P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins, who offhandedly called the young guitarist “Babyface,” and the name stuck. In the early 1980s, he started working with the lite-funk band The Deele. He observed that during his featured tune in concert, the nights that he was introduced as Kenny Edmonds, the response was so-so, but the nights he was introduced as Babyface, people screamed. It became his professional moniker from then on.

The drummer in The Deele was Mark “L. A.” Reid Rooney (son of Herb Rooney and Brenda Reid of The Exciters). He and Edmonds started collaborating in the studio on projects with other artists (as well as on Babyface’s less-than-successful solo debut) in 1987. They produced The Whispers’ biggest hit, “Rock Steady/’ Sheena Easton’s ’Tor the Lover in Me/’ as well as hits for After 7, a group that featured Reid’s cousin and two of Edmonds’s brothers. They also wrote the tune ’Two Occasions” for The Deele’s Eyes of a Stranger album. It became the band’s only pop hit, reaching #10. Shortly after that, the band broke up.

Reid and Edmonds continued working together, however. They helped engineer the phenomenal early success of Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, and Pebbles (Reid’s wife). With a successful career as a producer well underway, Edmonds went back into the studio for himself. The result, Tender Love, became a double-platinum hit. The title track topped the R&B charts (#14 pop), as did “It’s No Crime” (#7 pop). “My Kinda Girl” only hit #3 R&B and #30 pop, but the successful producer and songwriter had taken the step to becoming a successful performer in his own right.

The next world to conquer was running a record company. Reid and Edmonds founded LaFace records in 1989. The company became the home to such successful artists as Toni Braxton and TLC.

But Edmonds’s primary passion continued to be writing and producing. In 1992, he had a #29 hit with Toni Braxton on the duet “Give You My Heart” from the Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang. He set records with work he did with Boys II Men. The Edmonds-written and produced “End of the Road” became one of the biggest singles ever, surpassing Elvis Presley’s record of 13 weeks at #1 for “Heartbreak Hotel.” The next single, “I’ll Make Love to You,” surpassed that. The former earned Edmonds, Reid, and their partner Darryl Simmons the Producer of the Year Grammy; the latter earned Edmonds the Grammy for Best R&B Song.

Edmonds returned to the studio for his own new album, releasing it in 1993. The Cool in You surpassed Tender Love, selling triple platinum (though it only hit #16 on the album charts). He further established his smooth, romantic style of R&B with the #4 gold record “When Can I See You,” as well as “Never Keeping Secrets” (#15) and “And Our Feelings” (#21).

In 1995, Edmonds took on the ultimate diva project, producing and writing the bulk of the songs for the soundtrack to the film Waiting to Exhale, which included Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, and Patti LaBelle. The soundtrack topped the album pop charts for five weeks, and the R&B album charts for ten. Nearly every song on the album became a hit, including Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up in My Room” and “Not Coin’ Cry” by Mary J. Blige. Whitney Houston’s title track “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” topped the pop and R&B charts and went platinum. It also won him a Best R&B Song Grammy, one of a dozen for which he was nominated in 1995. As coproducer of Eric Clapton’s “Change My World” he earned Record of the Year honors. With 15 separate Grammy nominated recordings to his credit, he also took home Producer of the Year honors.

In 1996, Edmonds stopped working with Reid in the studio, under circumstances neither has yet discussed for publication. Although their creative partnership ended, they continued to run LaFace together.

After all the production work for other artists, he created his next solo album, The Day. It entered the charts at #6, sold double-platinum and generated two #6 hits. “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” a duet with sax player Kenny G that featured Mariah Carey. His remake of Shalamar’s “This Is for the Lover in You” included all the original members of the group and a rap break by L.L. Cool J. He followed that album fairly quickly with his episode of MTV Unplugged, with guest appearances by Clapton and Stevie Wonder. That album went gold, but topped out at #106.

In 1997, Edmonds expanded his horizons to film, co-producing the film Soul Food and doing the soundtrack. He continues to be one of the most in-demand producers and songwriters in the music industry.


Lovers (1989); Tender Lover (1989); A Closer Look (1991); For the Cool in You (1993); Day (1996); Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds & Manchild (1997); MTV Unplugged NYC 1997 (live; 1997); Christmas with Babyface (1998). K. E. WITH THE DEELE : Street Beat (1984); Material Thangz (1985); Eyes of a Stranger (1988).

—Hank Bordowitz

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Edmonds, Kenneth (“Babyface”)

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