Sunday, June 9, 2019

‘Soulless’ sets out R. Kelly’s abuse of girls


     No kindness goes unpunished.

     The Sunday editor asked if I would read the new book on R. Kelly and, accommodating fellow that I am, I said I would. I wrote this after finishing my column Thursday, so if it strikes you as a little wooden, I agree. Not much gas in the tank when I set to the task, nor much time to polish the result.
    The above is known as self-awareness, and self-critique, with perhaps a bit of humility mixed in. A thing can be flawed even though I myself did it. 
    This blend of qualities I would heartily recommend to the author of "Soulless" who complained, several times and without charm, about the review below, because I suggest the book is not perfect. Spoiler alert: it isn't. 
    R. Kelly is a hometown hero in Chicago, an R&B superstar who grabbed the brass ring of fame and riches. His smooth, sexy songs are loved by millions, the soundtrack of countless weddings and barbecues.
     Or, at least, he was.
     R. Kelly can’t read. He’s a “crude man” who sometimes smells, from not bathing, and trolls suburban malls picking up teenage girls, whom he sexually molests, sometimes on video.
     Or, at least, he did.
     Both descriptions of Kelly are true, though the first image is finally fading in the glare of the second. The serpentine process, 20 years in the making, is laid out in “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly” (Abrams, $26), a captivating if sometimes disjointed journalism procedural by Jim DeRogatis, former music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.
     The book starts with an anonymous fax sent to DeRogatis just before Thanksgiving 2000. “I’m sending this to you because I don’t know where else to go,” it begins. “Robert’s problem — and it’s a thing that goes back many years — is young girls.”
     DeRogatis tosses the fax on a pile. But he returns to pull the thread, and the tale slowly unravels, taking on weight and momentum.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Does the book mention Kelly’s former accountant/manager, Derryl something? That man is also vile, but in a different manner. He used to brag about traveling with Kelly.

    1. I can't say. The book has an enormous cast of Kelly clingers-on. It's impossible to keep track of them, and there's no particularly reason to do so.

  2. As much as DeRogatis deserves praise for sticking with this story, I have no trouble believing that he complained about something without charm. This is a man, after all, who was fired from Rolling Stone because he apparently didn't know that if you want to keep a job, it's not a good idea to publicly insult the man who signs your paycheck.

  3. How did Meeks and Jackson carry water for Kelly? I can understand Jackson, he'll defend almost any obscenity buy Meeks has some solid morals.

  4. It didn't strike me as an unfair review. I listened to his interview by Terry Gross on NPR, and he did seem to suggest that his Sun-Times colleagues were intimidated by backlash from the likes of Jesse Jackson, although he said he got a hug from Mary Mitchell.



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