Back in March of 2013, while I was still performing as part of pianist, William Green’s outfit at Atlanta’s legendary Cafe 290, I was told that Mr. Keith Wilder from one of my very favorite musical aggregations ever, HEATWAVE, was in the house! I was absolutely blown away, and I had to meet him. Not only did we meet, but he was gracious enough to come on stage and croon a little of their classic ballad, “Always and Forever," much to the delight of those in attendance. It was one of the high points of my career as an entertainer!
Over the years, we’ve kept in touch through his lovely daughter, Tami. So, I was beyond excited when she reached out last week to say that they were coming to celebrate a family birthday with us on Friday, October 27, 2017. She let me know that her Dad was looking forward to seeing me with the new band. I was aware that over the last few years he’s dealt with some health challenges, so it was an absolute honor to know that he would make the trip down to Cafe 290 to see Kipper Jones’ RnB Circus™!
Mr. Wilder, his beautiful wife Linda and daughter Tami, his late brother Johnny’s daughter Carla, and the rest of their family came out in big numbers to celebrate Carla’s birthday at our show this past Friday night. After the family and the rest of the crowd boogied to #TheCircus’ ‘Ring One’ set of tunes, I told the guys I’d like to start out ‘Ring Two’ with a bit of the HEATWAVE classic, “Always and Forever." As the band began, I told the audience a bit about the story of HEATWAVE and what an influence they were to me and so many others, and then I said, “...and ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Keith Wilder from HEATWAVE is with us tonight!" As I directed their attention to where Mr. Wilder was, he very humbly smiled and waved. I sang a verse and a chorus, but had to end it early as it became quite an emotional moment for me. We finished the set, and as we exited the stage for our break, Mr. Wilder stopped me and said, “Kipper, you and the guys are great! You’re singing better than ever!”
What an incredible honor!
We took pictures, and although Mr. and Mrs. Wilder left a little early, the rest of the family stayed and partied with us until the end of the night.
So it absolutely came as a shock when I got the message late last night that he had passed away yesterday, (October 29th). We may have been the last musical act that this giant of music had seen before he transitioned. A bittersweet honor, to be sure.
I am grateful to have met and established a relationship with such an iconic figure in my life. It is with love and respect that we offer our sincere condolences and God’s peace to Mrs. Linda Phillips Wilder, Tami Wilder, and the rest of the Wilder family.
“No one ever dies, as long as someone living says their name." - African Proverb
Long live, Mr. Keith Edward Wilder.