Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly: Jazz and R’n’B singer who had Northern Soul hits and opened for Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye

She said she never lamented the lack of international success in her career

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The Independent Online

Ortheia Barnes was a Detroit R&B and jazz singer who opened for Motown greats like Stevie Wonder and later entered the ministry. She recorded in the 1960s for Detroit’s Mickay Records and Coral Records, a Decca subsidiary. While never signing for Motown, she opened for a number of its stars, including Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight.

She made her recording debut on Mickay in 1962 with “Your Picture on the Wall” and her other records include two popular Northern soul tracks released on Coral in 1967, “Watch Out Boy” and “I’ve Never Loved Nobody (Like I Love You)” . In 1980 she formed Cut Glass with Mildred Vaney and released two singles, “Alive With Love” and “Rising Cost of Love”. She recorded a funk tune, “Green Eye Monster”, in 1984, and in 1987 sang at the funeral of the aunt of Diana Ross, an old schoolfriend.

Barnes had a radio talk show, Ortheia’s Special Touch, and a cable TV show. She  married a church elder, Robert Kennerly, and became a Reverend, part of SpiritLove Ministries, performing at religious and civic functions.

She told the Detroit Free Press in 1990 that she never lamented the lack of national or international success in her music career. “I love doing my music, but mostly I love making people feel good. The music has been good to me. I’ve had furs, cars and diamonds and all that without the million-seller. But it’s more to it than that for me. There’s a higher consciousness that lets me know I’m a part of this universe who has a gift to share, and when I’m sharing that gift, I’m happy.”

She died in the US Virgin Islands, where she had gone to perform in a concert. She died of heart failure.

Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly, singer: born 1945; died US Virgin Islands 15 May 2015.

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