Recently, my dear friend and brother and musical icon, Cornelius Mims, was interviewed on an internet radio program called The Michael Gay Show. The host knew that Cornelius and I have over 40 years of history together in the music industry, so he contacted me and asked if I’d like to call in and participate in the interview. While on the call, Cornelius began to talk about our early days just out of high school, and navigating the journey of entering the music business versus going to college. Both of us come from middle class backgrounds where our parents, while supportive of our creative efforts, expected us to get college degrees while we were “playing around” with the “music thing”.
I had always been an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Next to my grandfather, he was the greatest human being I had ever heard of. So much so, that I wanted to be as much like him as I possibly could. My admiration for Dr. King made me want to attend Morehouse College like he did, and then go even further. I originally wanted to be an attorney, so I figured Harvard Law School would be my choice. That was the academic path that I had imagined for myself. But the pursuit of music was calling, and it was immediate. Cornelius and I enrolled at Los Angeles Harbor College as part time students, but operated as full time musicians. We got really serious about securing a record deal, and about a year into traipsing through academia, we did just that. We got our first record deal with RCA Records in 1982, and released our first album, TEASE, in 1983.
Our first album didn’t net any huge success, but it was enough to set us both on a lifelong path. Cornelius has gone on to become one of the world’s most acclaimed bassists and producers, and I’ve had a rather successful run as a songwriter, singer, and entertainer. After nearly 20 Million records sold, numerous #1 Hits, and 37 years in the industry, I’ve been asked on many occasions to speak on panels at music conferences, and to talk to students at universities as prestigious as Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Sharing my journey, telling the stories of my experiences, and giving advice to those coming after me, has taught me that the journey wasn’t really about me. It’s about the future of the creative community, and what I can lend to that future.
Having left academia nearly 40 years ago, I never acquired the credentials necessary to lead in an academic setting. So it’s with that mission in mind that I am announcing that I have been accepted into Berklee College of Music’s Online Bachelor of Professional Studies degree program. I am truly excited about this next part of my journey.
Aging successfully in this business sometimes requires periodically reassessing your position in life, reimagining what’s possible, and reinventing yourself. This has been my philosophy, and I’ve had to revisit it several times along the way. With the new year, I am standing at the doorstep of 57 years old, and I am embracing the next reinvention.