R. Kelly finds another benefactor; issues continue to mount


In what seems to be the never-ending saga of singer R. Kelly, there is yet another set of developments. Last week, Kelly was jailed on failure to pay child support. On Saturday, an anonymous person paid the $161,000 that was keeping Kelly from his freedom. While such is at least a temporary win for the performer, alleged new evidence and negative comments from a former lawyer could make Kelly’s upcoming legal battles increasingly difficult to win.

Some members of the public are probably asking themselves why does it matter? For those who have a vested interest in the development and history of r&b music, Kelly’s work and behavior are relevant. Kelly’s legal and ethical issues raise issues of how fans are to separate the man from the musician? Some people can; some people cannot. Others refuse to. The issue is murky. While “muting” Kelly in accordance with a popular movement might give some people a sense of satisfaction now, there was nothing of the sort 20 years ago. No one was muting Kelly then. And, because no did, Kelly is credited with invigorating r&b, giving it the beats and style often associated with hip-hop. Because of the role music plays in generations, some fans feel that it is too much to ask them to give up the music they have come to love because of allegations.

Avoiding the appearance of supporting R. Kelly

During the same weekend when another benefactor paid his legal bills, the mayor of New York City, Bill Di Blasio (D-NY) received some criticism for what looks to be the enjoyment of an R. Kelly song. Di Blasio was visiting a church in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The congregation sang along with Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” Part of the appreciation for the song included flapping the arms like wings during the chorus. Di Blasio joined in. Detractors, according to the New York Post online and  New York -area television news stations, claim that the mayor’s “flapping” will look like support for Kelly, while Di Blasio insists he “didn’t know” the song was by Kelly, and he wanted to do as the congregation was doing, since he was a guest.

At this point, it is not just Kelly that can be harmed by Kelly’s actions. Anyone listening to, or interacting with his music in any form is subject to suspicion.

In addition, according to NBC News, a Pennsylvania man has come forward with an old VHS tape that he claims depicts Kelly engaged in sexual acts with underage girls. Kelly and his representatives claim the man in the video is not Kelly.

The man who found the tape is represented by famed attorney, Goria Allred.

The tape’s validity is questionable, as is the timing of the tape’s discovery. Of course, the discovery could be happenstance, or it could be a complete fabrication. The necessary details have not been made public.

Potentially making things worse for Kelly is an item from Page Six. In it, Kelly’s former attorney, Ed Genson, claimed that the singer was “guilty as hell” in 2008. The now-terminally ill Genson further claims that he ordered the performer to see a doctor to take “libido-killing shots.” The shots, Genson claims, kept Kelly out of trouble for years.

Genson’s claims touch on an aspect of the Kelly saga that has received little attention, even in the expert-heavy docu-series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” which is how can someone who might be suffering from an array of sex-related maladies be treated? In an age of accountability, it is logical to want the guilty to pay for his or her crimes. However, if there is a treatable cause, shouldn’t that be addressed, too?

Kelly’s saga shows how complex fans relationship to notorious public figures can be. Interested parties will likely invest months seeing how the saga finally ends.



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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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