Apollo Star David Peaston Dies at 54

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    David Peaston (1957-2012)

    In the late '80s, David Peaston was the sensation of the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night. In 1988, the teacher from St. Louis, Missouri wowed tough audiences with a song that would become one of his trademark covers, “God Bless the Child.” After several weeks of wins, the son of Clara Ward Singers’ Martha Bass and the brother of Fontella Bass of gospel and soul fame, Peaston became an overnight sensation with the 1989 release of his Billboard Top 10 R&B Album, Introducing…David Peaston. The Geffen Records release included a cover of Eddie Kendricks’ “Can I” as well as his original radio jam “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” and a Billboard Top 45 dance hit, “We’re All In This Together.” For his critically-acclaimed debut efforts, in 1990 Peaston won the Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist.

    Peaston returned again in 1991, this time under MCA Records, with the unsung Mixed Emotions project, which included smooth, midtempo cuts like “Do You Still Love Me” (a song later made famous by Will Downing) and the standout rendition of The Four Tops torch song “I Believe In You and Me” five years before Whitney Houston’s charter. At his prime, Peaston toured the world with such stars as Gladys Knight and Gerald Alston, winning over crowds with his reported five-octave range. Unfortunately, the lack of a breakout, crossover single prematurely ended Peaston’s soul music career.

    His stratospheric tenor soon found a home in the urban theater and on gospel stages across the U.S., including the national touring company of His Woman, His Wife: The Musical. In 1993, Peaston recorded a gospel album with his famous mother and sister on Promises: A Family Portrait of Faith.  His last project, Song Book: Songs of Soul & Inspiration, was released in 2006. Challenged by diabetes and a double-amputee, Peaston still ran his own production company, Pea-Stain Productions and was a gospel circuit mainstay in his hometown of St. Louis. David Peaston’s homegoing is survived by his wife of 24 years, Marilyn, and his two sons. May he rest in peace.

    By L. Michael Gipson