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Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds talks about charity, family and Vegas

Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds has enough music trophies to fill many cases, and a list of achievements that fills many pages. The writer and producer has won 12 Grammy Awards, partnered in 26 Billboard No. 1 R&B hits, and earned hundreds of millions of streams and music sales internationally.

Edmonds produced “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” which his first No. 1, and Whitney Houston’s first foray into R&B, for instance. For another, he wrote and produced Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You,” massive top-selling hits. And he collaborated with Madonna on “Bedtime Stories,” which included the chart-topping “Take a Bow,” co-writing, co-producing and contributing vocals.

But Edmonds’ latest honor speaks to his personal passion, as he’s to be recognized at Saturday’s 25th Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala at Resorts World Las Vegas. Edmonds is being honored alongside Motown legend Smokey Robinson and Genting Berhad Chairman and CEO K.T. Lim. Edmonds’ mother, Barbara, died in 2012 at age 80 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s.

The Power of Love event is celebrating its 25th anniversary in support of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s fight against such neurocognitive diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, multiple system atrophy and multiple sclerosis. All attendees will be required to confirm proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by downloading the Clear app, and required to follow mask mandates.

Along with Edmonds and Robinson, Saturday’s star-laden lineup features Bruno Mars, Kenny Loggins, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., actor Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), singer-songwriter and multiple-Grammy Award winner Tori Kelly, and two-time Billboard Male Artist of the Year and former singer for the Gap Band, Charlie Wilson.

Edmonds recently Zoomed in for a chat. The highlights:

Johnny Kats: Can you tell me how you met the clinic’s founder, Larry Ruvo, and how you created a bond with them at the clinic?

Kenny Edmonds: I feel like I’ve known him for so long. I don’t completely remember how we even met. It was through friends, I think we had dinner together, and then they started to invite me to some of the galas in the earlier days. Michael Buble performed at one. It was a number of galas I’d gone to. My mom was already living in the city, and while I was there, she started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I called Larry, and he said to come down to the center and let’s get her diagnosed, and that’s what we did. It was something that, I think, she had been hiding and she was really good at hiding it from the family, and got pretty spicy about.

She was a proud woman?

Yes. So she kind of knew what was happening a little bit in there. When the doctor was asking her about it, she was fighting back, because she would fight back with anybody. We met with the head doctor (Dr. Jeffrey Cummings) very kind, very smart, not combative, asked simple questions so we could get her diagnosed and treated with medications to slow it down. But, at that point, there was not much else you could do but help her get through it.

If I have the timeline right, you had already shown support of the center even before she was diagnosed, right?

Yes.

You’ve spent some time here, in Las Vegas, as a performer at the Mirage and as a visitor. What is your assessment of the city?

Las Vegas is an incredible city. There’s no place like it, you know, in the world. I’ve been to Las Vegas over many years. I can remember being in Las Vegas in 1979, I was in a band , and we played at the Nellis Air Force Base. As soon as we finished the gig we went downtown to do some gambling. I didn’t win anything. The next day, I caught a Greyhound to Los Angeles for the first time. So trust me, I know how much Las Vegas has changed (laughs). I still remember seeing these steak dinners for $1.50. It was amazing, in many respects, to see what Las Vegas has become.

I’m still trying to get my head around you playing Nellis Air Force Base in 1979.

(Laughs) We were on an Air Force base tour. It was my first visit to Vegas.

Is there any possibility of you returning to Las Vegas in a headlining role?

Actually, we were just talking about doing something. I’m close with Bruno and have performed with him (including a March 2020 pop-up performance at Park Theater). We’ve talked about doing something together sometime next year.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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