Valentine’s Day 2016 was a life-changing experience for Gordon Chambers, the award-winning singer-songwriter-producer, who is famous for his songs of love and inspiration.
That day, Chambers’ elegant Brooklyn brownstone home filled with rare Black fine art, entertainment awards, a high fashion wardrobe and family mementos was devastated in a towering four-story fire.
Chambers is renowned for penning #1 hit songs like Anita Baker’s milestone Grammy- winning hit “I Apologize”; Brownstone’s Grammy-nominated “If You Love Me,” Angie Stone’s breakout hit “No More Rain (In This Cloud),” the Grammy-nominated theme of the hit movie “Set It Off” “Missing You” (performed by Brandy, Tamia, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan), Yolanda Adams’ “Someone Watching Over Me” and The Isley Brothers’ smash “Just Came Here To Chill.”
He has written for over 75 recording artists, including superstars Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Brandy, Trey Songz, Usher, Jamie Foxx, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Marc Anthony. He is the winner of 10 ASCAP songwriting awards and four Dove nominations.
For 17 years, he had carefully crafted his stylish and sophisticated home that was featured in magazine spreads like Time Out New York and interviews on BET.
“After the fire on Valentine’s Day, I went into a deep depression. For months, I was crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t figure out why this happened to me,” Chambers recalled. “However, organizations like Brooklyn Community Services reached out and said ‘come be with us, share your story.’ And when I did, I did so from a deeper, more authentic and connected place. I found myself with more compassion and grace than ever before.”
Brooklyn Community Services (BCS), which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, is one of New York City’s oldest nonprofit, social service organizations. Serving 13,000 people annually, BCS seeks to increase public awareness that 23 percent of Brooklynites are living in poverty.
Through over 25 programs throughout Brooklyn, BCS focuses on early childhood education; youth development services and educationally rich after-school programs; counseling for at-risk families; treatment, recovery and job training to support the life goals of adults living with mental illness; person-centered rehabilitation and community living support for adults with developmental disabilities and disaster recovery case management and relief services—such as working with the Coney Island community to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
At BCS, Chambers connected with middle school children, high school students and a woman’s homeless shelter by speaking and singing “I Made It,” a message of inspiration and motivation from his fourth album Surrender, which features Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway, Steff Reed and Eric Roberson. “I Made It” is also a powerful, poignant music video by Chambers, which was filmed in the burned out interior of his brownstone just three days after the fire.
“Young people glamorize careers in entertainment,” he said. “I want them to know that I am their neighbor, and a hard-working human being just like they are–only older. And they can be me, Bey, or someone even bigger if they work hard and do great things in the world, but stay grounded in their communities.”
The son of a Teaneck, New Jersey Cadillac dealer turned Bronx-based Allstate Insurance franchise owner and ABC News Credit Union loan officer, Chambers was a gifted student. By age 16, he was a freshman majoring in English at Brown University and by his early 20’s, Chambers held the coveted job of entertainment editor at Essence Magazine. Then two Jersey girls changed his life.
During an interview with Essence, Queen Latifah recognized his talent and not only suggested he write a song with her called “Winki’s Theme,” a tribute to her late brother, but she invited him to perform it with her on the “American Music Awards” and “The Arsenio Hall Show.” After leaving Essence, he wrote and produced songs for Whitney Houston, who was impressed by his voice and urged him to start singing professionally.
In turn, Chambers urges people “to shine.” He was the keynote graduation speaker at the BCS Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Services, a transfer high school for students ages 16-21 who have either fallen behind in school or have previously dropped out “I told them to keep shining,” he explained. These young people have lived watching the Trayvon Martins, Eric Garners and Philando Castiles being gunned down and have witnessed a toxic election cycle. Yet, they have studied, focused and on graduation day held their heads high, ready to make a difference in this sometimes bitter world with their hope, youth and greatness.”
By Mother’s Day 2017, one year after a fire had gutted his home, Chambers volunteered to host a Mother’s Day brunch with the women living in the BCS Transitional Living Community (TLC), a temporary homeless shelter. The women of TLC are recovering from severe traumas and are being prepared for permanent housing.
“That day was incredibly moving. I had never been to a homeless shelter before. It was overwhelming–the sights, the smells, the pain. Truth be told, I felt an elitism inside of myself the moment I walked in the hallways. I prayed it out immediately. I knew it would not serve me for what I came to do,” he recalled. “When I walked in, the ladies greeted me with incredible warmth and sweetness. I realized then at that moment the two things we had strongly in common: music and, strangely enough, being homeless! I shared that my house is still over a year late in construction and that I, too, had lost many material things, but that I still had my spirit and my faith.”
To check out pics of Gordon Chambers’ beautiful brownstone before the devastating fire, CLICK HERE.
PHOTO: Gordon Chambers Facebook