R.I.P. | Colonel Abrams (May 25, 1949 – November 25, 2016)

When Colonel Abrams died a few days ago at the age of 67, it’s likely that even a lot of people who’d been big fans of his music in his mid-late 1980s heyday hadn’t really thought about him for years. Or, at least they hadn’t until news broke roughly a year ago that he was homeless and in very poor health, leading legendary House music producer Marshall Jefferson (among others) to start a crowdfunding campaign to help him out. It was a sobering bit of news for fans who remembered him as a singer whose deep, full-bodied voice and good looks had made him a sex symbol in the wake of classic proto-House and House tunes like “Music is the Answer,” an uplifting call for brotherhood across all social and political divisions, “Trapped,” with its vaguely pre-R. Kelly overtones, and “I’m Not Gonna Let,” a funky, soulful floor scorcher that took post-disco dance music back to its undiluted R&B roots and clearly connected it to House music and culture. He was the Teddy Pendergrass of club music, and though he never achieved any sort of sustained crossover success, he’s an emblem of when the music was unabashedly black (which is precisely what made it universal,) and the collective black body and imagination hadn’t yet been so thoroughly corralled by hip-hop. Often in the telling of dance and club music narratives it’s the diva who dominates. Colonel Abrams is a prime example of the powerful sway of black male cool drifting through club-land speakers.

Click here to see a fantastic performance of “I’m Not Gonna Let” on “Soul Train” and peep the enthusiasm of the crowd for Abrams and the tune.

Top image courtesy MCA Records/the artist estate.