By Yolanda Putman
Hall of Famer Willie Kitchens said he had so many failed relationships that people told him he would never become minister of a church, but Kitchens said he didn’t stop trying.
In 2013 he became pastor of Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church. He’s also a worship leader at Christ United Methodist Church. And after being divorced three times, he has been married to his current wife, Barbara, for more than two decades.
“I’m not ashamed of what I’ve gone through,” said Kitchens. “And I hope that it helps someone else when they walk through.”
The 65-year-old husband and father plans to release a 12-song gospel jazz CD this fall titled “ You Kept Me.” that will tell how God never gave up on him, despite his struggles.
“It encourages me to know that God did not give up on me even though I failed so many times. He gave me a wife now for over 20 years, even when people said that I would not make it.”
Instead of singing songs that appeal to people’s emotions, this album tells Kitchen’s story.
“Some people write books, some people write poems. I write songs and I want my family to be able to put this song on and know my life,” he said.
The song says, “You kept me when I didn’t have a dime. You kept me through my laughter and my tears. You’ve kept me when I’ve fallen over and over again.”
Kitchens became lead singer of the Impressions in 1999 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the early 2000s. He was named to the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2006, and was inducted into the Library of Congress as a History Maker in 2011. He’s sung all over the world including London and Africa and he’s been on tour with Grammy Award Winner Eric Clapton.His goal isn’t to seek fame or fortune. He wants to tell a story that will impact someone else who may be walking in his same shoes.
Kitchens said he’s made “some terrible mistakes” yet God never gave up on him.
“I could have been in the street, homeless or dead,” he said. “But that song talks about how God kept me.”