Babyface on his coronavirus recovery, upcoming Instagram special

Legendary R&B artist Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is releasing new music for the first time in five years. He talked to “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King about his recent battle with the coronavirus, his touching new song “When I Get to Heaven” and what viewers can expect from his upcoming Instagram special.

The special, which will broadcasting on Instagram on Sunday, May 10, will see Edmonds play music and share the stories behind the music of the 1995 film, “Waiting to Exhale,” for which he co-produced the soundtrack. 

Read their conversation below:

Gayle King: Good morning to you, Kenny. It’s so good to see you. I read about this song, that it came to you in a dream. I’m thinking you need to dream more often, my friend. What did you see? 

Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds: It was the craziest thing. It was like last Saturday. And I just had a dream that we were at our house in Vegas and I was playing the guitar and playing some chords for her and started humming a melody and asked her, mom, ‘What do you think of this,’ she said, ‘That’s pretty good, boy.’ And mind you, I’ve never asked her opinion on any of my music over the years. I would never do that. And so it was funny that it happened in a dream. 

King: And I love the picture that you chose, too, to go with the video of your mother. I can imagine a lot of people are looking at this video, Kenny, and it brings back a lot of memories, especially for those who no longer have our mothers. That’s why I think people are so touched. If you have your mother, this is also a good reminder of what you have in your life. 

Edmonds: No question. You know, when I was just listening to it there, it’s a funny song because it does hit me every time. It was a little hard to record it actually. But it was nice. It was a good feeling, made me feel closer, you know. 

King: Yeah. It’s taken you five years to release a new song, and I know you’ve been writing. Why did you think now was the time? Because you write all the time. 

Edmonds: Well, yeah, I do write a lot. But also, it takes a long time to decide on something. Actually I decided on one thing to do, and then it just didn’t feel right ultimately. Then, you know, she gave me — I feel like mom gave me this gift, you know, to come with something that was heartfelt and there’s only one other song that I wrote like that. And that was the song “The Day.” And so I don’t usually dream the songs. 

King: Your son was born. I remember the day when your son was born. So Mother’s Day you’re going to release the song. You’re hosting an Instagram live event. What are you planning? 

Edmonds: Well, when I did the verses battle with [Teddy Riley], I kept on seeing comments about people wanting to hear music from “Waiting to Exhale.” And of course, I couldn’t play it at that time. So I thought it would be great to, you know, play the music of “Waiting to Exhale,” tell the stories, talk about the artists and how it all came together. And if I get enough nerve, I might even play the song live, you know, if I can make it through it. 

King: Please do that, Kenny, please do that. “Waiting to Exhale,” it’s a big anniversary — I think it’s 25 years or something. That was one of my favorite movies, and the music from that still holds up today. But you mentioned Teddy Riley because you guys had a big — well I don’t like to call it a battle. It was a competition between the two of you. And it was so fun to watch on Instagram. Over four million people watched it. It crashed Instagram a couple of times. What was that like for you? Because it must have taken you back to a very special place. 

Edmonds: It was amazing to be able to play the music and to see so many people show up for it. I mean, I don’t know that we expected that. And that was the best feeling. So many people came out. The world stopped, and they stopped to listen to our music.

King: I say all the time that music is healing. Listen, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, a lot of people stopped by that day just to see what the two of you were doing. And I have heard you say this — I love this, Kenny — that there are two things that make you feel good. A chicken sandwich, especially, I highly recommend the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, two things that make you feel good, a chicken sandwich and a good song. What’s the difference between the two for you? Why do they make you feel good? I love that sentence. 

Edmonds: Well, you know, chicken sandwiches, the right one can always make you feel good, make you feel like you’re home. A song can take you anywhere, to any place and any time. And sometimes we all need an escape. And this is a good time to have an escape. 

King: Yeah, we all need an escape. I also know that you and your lovely wife [Nicole Pantenburg] got COVID-19. You both survived, you’re both healthy. It’s a different experience for everybody. I read yours started with a sore throat, a tickle in your throat. You went to the doctor, but then it took a turn for the worse. What happened to you? 

Edmonds: Yeah. It was just a sore throat at first. And I thought that’s all it was going to be. But then that evening, it turned into a fever and turned into sweats and body aches and the whole bit. And it lasted for about five, six days, the fever just non-stop. And even after five, six days, the fever would come back a little bit. You thought you were out of it, but it just kind of kept hanging around. And the biggest thing is that you worry about whether it’s going to go to the next level because you don’t know. You have no idea. So fortunately we were blessed, and Nicki, it was completely different for her. 

King: We are blessed. We are blessed that you are both here. And I think it’s an important reminder that most people that get it actually survive it. You know, people get very frightened by it, but most people actually survive it. You are living proof of that. 

Edmonds: Yeah. 

King: Kenny, I can’t wait for Sunday. I will be there, and I can’t wait to hear you sing the song. Something tells me you’re going to do it. You’re going to do it. Cheering you on, Kenny. Always good to see you. Babyface still fits you at 62. Still got that baby face. Thank you very much. 

Edmonds: Thank you. 

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