Robert Brookins Tribute Show feat. exclusive interviews with Philip Bailey, George Duke, Mo Pleasure and Stephanie Mills.
It’s been nearly 1 ½ years since R & B lost Robert Brookins, and while his name isn’t as big as those of his peer group that includes acts such as Babyface, Keith Sweat, Teddy Riley and the late Gerald Levert, his influence is just as longstanding.
For the uninitiated, Brookins was a Sacramento, California-based prodigy who began singing at age 4, playing drums at age 5, mastered the keyboards by age 9, won the Motown Records Soul Search Competition at age 12, and was an accomplished producer/musician who even performed at the White House by his late teens… Read more
My first real exposure to Brookins came courtesy of George Duke, who featured him on his 1986 self titled album, which swiftly led to an MCA Records debut album from Brookins titled “In the Night.”
Brookins showed the kind of music acuity where he was equally adept at delivering beautiful balladry or funk grooves. His duet with Stephanie Mills “In the Night (Making Love)” also showed that he could hold his own in the same space with soul music legends.
His sophomore album “Let It Be Me,” had a couple minor hits (“Don’t Tease Me”), and a remake of the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway duet “Where is the Love,” where Stephanie Mills again served as Brookins’ duet partner.
The album showcased his versatility, the first half chock full of ballads that allowed him to flex his vocal muscles, the second half a block of full-on funk grooves that allowed him to flex his studio mojo.
Both albums were not marketed properly by MCA and didn’t bring Brookins the attention he deserved at the time. However, his reputation as a studio musician and hired gun was nothing short of prolific as he went on to work as writer/producer for acts such as Bobby Brown (“Seventeen”), Deniece Williams (“Blind Dating”), Jeffrey Osborne (“All Because Of You”), The Whispers (“Innocent”), the late George Howard (“A Nice Place To Be”) Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson (“The Two of Us”) and a whole host of others.
Had it not been for acts like Teddy Riley, Keith Sweat and Gerald Levert, Brookins may have been more of a household name, but what he did leave behind was a legacy of musical virtuosity and unbridled talent. If you ever saw him live, one thing that stuck out about him what his multi-tasking. Brookins could play keyboards and bass while singing AND leading the band – and make it all look natural from beginning to end.
He was particularly essential on Jackie Jackson’s 1989 “Be the One” album as well as with Earth, Wind & Fire for whom he served as the band’s musical director/keyboard player throughout from 2001 – 2004, conjuring many illuminating moments on the group’s 2003 release “The Promise.”
If you really want to capture the spirit of Brookins, check him out on the late Wayman Tisdale’s album “In the Zone.” Brookins does the vocals on the tune “Starship,” a remake of the Norman Connor classic. It’s a memorable moment in time not just because you have two now-dead savants (Brookins & Tisdale) performing a timeless track, but rather they take you to another place with their deeply soulful rendition of the track.
And that is the objective behind soul music – to make music that moves you and transports you to another place. And few could do it like Robert Brookins. That’s why he truly was a one-of-a-kind talent whose star burns bright in death as it did in life.
By Chris Campbell for Soulinterviews.com 2010.
00 – Intro – Robert Brookins – Code Blue (Let It Be Me, 1988)
01 – Robert Brookins – Come To Me (In The Night, 1986)
02 – Robert Brookins – Hold On (Let It Be Me, 1988)
03 – Stephanie Mills – Jesse (If I Were Your Woman, 1988)
04 – Robert Brookins – If You Only Knew (In The Night, 1986)
05 – Robert Brookins and Stephanie Mills – In The Night (Making Love) (In The Night, 1986)
Background music during the interview:
Robert Brookins – You Got Me Runnin”, Robert Brookins – Crazy ”Bout Your Lovin”, Robert Brookins – Don”t Tease Me, Afterbach – Wanna Fill You Up, Philip Bailey – Waiting For The Rain, George Duke – I Can Make It Better, 101 North – So Easy, George Duke – I Just Want To Be In Your Life, Robert Brookins – In The Beginning, Robert Brookins – Our Lives, Earth Wind & Fire – Suppose You Like Me, The Whispers – Innocent, Robert Brookins & Stephanie Mills – Where Is The Love, Bobby Brown – Seventeen, Jeffrey Osborne – All Because Of You