R&B singer R. Kelly is giving back to the high school music teacher who introduced him to music by helping her keep her home in Chicago.
The “King of R&B” held a benefit concert and started a GoFundMe Campaign to raise funds needed to help his teacher save her apartment, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Lena McLin, the retired teacher of the talented singer, is currently living in an apartment building that is going through a condo conversion, but the pension from her retirement does not cover the ongoing renovation.
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Once Kelly learned of his teacher’s struggle, he immediately set up a GoFundMe campaign to help her raise enough money to cover the conversion costs.
According to Kelly, it is his way to give back to the person who helped him become the singer that he is today. When he first met the music teacher, she told him that he would become someone great in the music industry.
“On the first day I met her, Ms. McLin told me, ‘You’re going to be one of the greatest singers, songwriters, and performers of all time,,'” Kelly told the Sun Times.
McLin taught him different music genres like classical music, opera, gospel, and jazz.
“She said, ‘You are music. You’re not in any one category. Anything you attempt, you’ll be able to tap into the spirit of it, and that’s the gift you have.’ She made me,” Kelly said of his music teacher.
At first, he did not believe his teacher’s words would come true.
“She looked at me and said, ‘You. Come here,'” Kelly said recalling the time McLin recognized his talent. “I’m thinking what did I do? She said, ‘Do you know who you are?’ I said, ‘Yes. My name is Robert.’ She said, ‘No. You’re going to be one of the greatest. You’re going to work with people like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson.’ I told her, ‘Lady, I’m a basketball player.’ She said, ‘Not no more.'”
Kelly originally planned to pursue a career in basketball, but McLin encouraged him to explore his musical talents. She made him join a talent show, where he sang Stevie wonder’s hit song “Ribbon in the Sky.” Kelly remembered feeling nervous during the talent show, but seeing the audience’s reaction made him feel good.
“From that day, life as I knew it was never the same. I felt like Peter Parker bit by the spider, and I’ve been spraying webs ever since, thanks to Ms. McLin,” the King of R&B said.
Kelly said he owed his success to his mentor, according to ABC News. Because of her encouraging words, he strived to meet his mentor’s expectations of him. He remembered helping the 87-year-old retired high school teacher clean her apartment as a way of repaying her for sharing him her knowledge in music.
McLin taught at Kenwood Academy for 36 years, and Kelly was not her only student that went on to become successful in the music industry. She had been a huge influence on many successful singers and musicians like Chaka Khan, Da Brat, and Jennifer Hudson. She trained jazz singers like Maggie Brown and Tammy McCannn. McLin also served as music coach to talented gospel singer Calvin Brunson and operatic baritones Robert Sims and Mark Rucker.
Kelly said the retired teacher has a huge impact on his life, as she taught him how one’s struggles determine the height of one’s success when he was starting as a street performer.
“Nobody could do what she did for me. Nobody was even interested in doing what she did for me. Nobody. Even to this day. Nobody has my interest like she does,” Kelly said.
[Images via Facebook; Mike Pont, Getty Images]