Kenny Taylor would have loved what took place at the Celebration of Life service for him on Wednesday evening, July 12, 2017 at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, MD. You see, along with his very loving family, there were so many people who came because they wanted to honor his memory; people whose lives he poured into or helped along the way. And there were stories, oh so many stories, about Kenny Taylor, who passed away May 27. There were tears; there was laughter and most of all, there was love.
Yes, it was love for a man that was always so unassuming and humble, yet so impactful. Some may have seen him walk into an event, a venue and think nothing of it; thinking he was just an ordinary guy. But, Kenny Taylor was no ordinary guy. Dubbed, “Mr. Gospel” by some, Taylor was a mover and shaker within the gospel music industry. He made big moves, not for himself, but for the artists that he loved and this gospel music that he dedicated his life to.
So, on Wednesday, they came from near and far to pay homage to someone who meant so much to so many. There were music executives, chart-topping artists, a plethora of gospel artists, gospel industry leaders and members of the media. But, there were also choirs and pastors who through word and song that was a reminder that Kenny Taylor had a spiritual foundation and his love and actions were rooted in his strong faith in God.
Co-worship leaders for the evening were Pastor Jerome Bell, Maryland Family Christian Center and Pastor Albert Morgan, Union Baptist Church, Bridgeton, N.J. Rev. Dr. Winston C. Ridley of The Greater Faith Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., one of the churches where Kenny played, opened the service with prayer.
Pop culture expert, TV host and journalist Jawn Murray recalled his times in the Images of Unity and how Kenny kept the group together. He shared a humorous tale of how the choir missed an audition and Taylor got on them, which resulted in them never being late again.
Bryant Scott, President/COO Tyscot Records was there. He recalled how Taylor was very instrumental in helping out Tyscot Records, sometimes without pay. Although unable to attend, Dr. Bobby Jones sent a video message. Other remarks came from GMWA Counsel Ron Magnus, GMWA’s Shirley M. Berkeley, Elder Chris Squire, Vice President GMWA, Bishop Ryan Warner, President CEO Versatile Entertainment, Inc. and Pastor David Wright.
Pastor Wright recalled how Kenny drove up to see his late father, Rev. Timothy Wright, after his father’s accident. He told of how Taylor sat by his father’s bedside and held his hand, singing words from Wright’s smash hit, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” In a highly charged moment, Pastor Wright led the sanctuary in a few lyrics of that song.
And yes, there was lots of music! Images of Unity, the group Taylor founded to help keep young people encouraged and away from unnecessary distractions performed. The group, as Jawn Murray recalled, gave way to many successful careers in various industries, including law and medicine.
But that wasn’t all! Gospel artists and choirs took their turns on the stage to pay tribute in song and included, Eric Waddell & the Abundant Life Singers, Maurette Brown Clark, Bubby Fann & Praise Beyond, Macedonia Baptist Church and Dottie Peoples. Maurette Brown Clark shared how Taylor once joked about her shoe collection. Dottie Peoples said Taylor told her that people would love the country song she was about to record and he was right. That song was “On Time God,” which Dottie Peoples sang with robust enthusiasm.
Dr. Leonard Hamlin of Macedonia Baptist Church, Arlington, VA delivered the Word for the evening and his message was entitled, “He Had a Reason to Bow.” According to his obituary, although Kenny Taylor played for a lot of churches, “Macedonia has been and will always be his first love.” It was that dedication that Dr. Hamlin spoke about; but his greatest love was for his parents. Dr. Hamlin emphasized that Kenny’s love for God was the reason he bowed and that it permeated how he interacted and helped others.
At the conclusion of the service, Kenny’s father, Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr. expressed his gratitude to everyone for coming. He encouraged everyone to continue to support Kenny’s legacy. A memorial fund has been set up to create the Kenny Taylor Scholarship.
The grand finale included the choirs and artists singing “Thank You Lord.” They were led in the song by Dottie Peoples, Maurette Brown Clark and Lucinda Moore.
Yes, Kenny would have loved it! As the industry said their final farewell, we all walked out of the sanctuary knowing that we were enriched and so much better off, because we were part of the life of Kenneth Maurice Taylor. We’ll see you over yonder, Kenny!
Scholarship donations can be made to:
The Kenneth M. Taylor Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 86
Lithonia, GA 30058
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