Robert Sylvester Kelly
January 8, 1967
|Other names||Robert Kelly|
(m. 1994; ann. 1995)
(m. 1996; div. 2009)
|Atlantic City Seagulls (USBL)|
|Listed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Listed weight||200 lb (91 kg)|
|Career highlights and awards|
Robert Sylvester Kelly (born January 8, 1967) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and former professional basketball player. A native of
Although Kelly is primarily a singer-songwriter, he has written, produced, and
Kelly is one of the best-selling music artists in the United States, with over 30 million albums sold both domestically. He has released 12 solo studio albums, and sold over 75 million albums and singles worldwide, making him the most successful
Since the 1990s, Kelly has been the subject of numerous allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct, often with underage girls, all charges he "categorically denies". In 2002 he was indicted on 13 counts of
In January 2019, a widely viewed
Robert Sylvester Kelly was born on January 8, 1967, at
Kelly grew up in a house full of women, whom he said would act differently when his mother and grandparents were not home. At eight years of age Kelly was often sexually abused by a woman who was at least ten years older than himself. "I was too afraid and too ashamed," Kelly wrote in his 2012 autobiography Soulacoaster about why he never told anyone. The abuse ended when he was 14. At age 11, he was shot in the shoulder while riding his bike home; the boys stole his bike while he lay bleeding on the sidewalk; the bullet is reportedly still lodged in his shoulder.
Kelly was eight years old when he had his first girlfriend, Lulu. They would hold hands and eat make-believe meals inside their playhouse built from cardboard, where they "vowed to be boyfriend and girlfriend forever." Kelly wrote in his autobiography that their last play date turned tragic when, after fighting with some older children over a play area by a creek, Lulu was pushed into the water. A fast-moving current swept her away while she screamed Kelly's name. Shortly thereafter, she was found lifeless downstream. Kelly calls Lulu his very first musical inspiration.
An undiagnosed learning disability left Kelly unable to read or write. He dropped out of high school and as a teenager, Kelly began street performing under the Chicago Transportation Authority "L" tracks and eventually formed a group with friends Marc McWilliams, Vincent Walker and Shawn Brooks. In 1989, Kelly, McWilliams, Walker, and Brooks formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men). In 1990, MGM recorded and released one single "Why You Wanna Play Me"; after its release the group disbanded. In 1991, Kelly signed with
Kelly was extremely close to his mother Joanne who took Robert with her to church and a local club where she performed. She passed away from cancer in 1993. He would later name his eldest daughter after her.