DA-PROFESSOR’S LOUNGE HONORS CHRIS BENDER. A TALENTED AND PROMISING SINGER WHO LIFE US WAY TOO SOON (2023)

R&B/New Jack Swing/Quiet Storm Singer/Songwriter/Producer Chris Bender was one of music’s most promising singers the world was blessed to have for his brief time he was on earth. In addition to being a talented singer, Bender was also a talented songwriter, producer and arranger, that put him in a league of his own. He wrote and sang about deceptive people, racial profiling, intercultural prejudice, love, romance and reconciliation. Sadly a few months of his 19th birthday and before the release of his 4th hit single, Bender was shot and killed which still has many of his fans still devastated and wondering how his life and career would have turned out had he lived. While other singers and rappers like MC Trouble and The Notorious B.I.G., who’s deaths after the release of their debut albums made them more famous, Bender’s talents and small contributions had gone unnoticed, but interest in the singer began to increase via sampling and the birth of You Tube and social media. Rapper Trick Daddy and Singer/Songwriter J-Shin sampled Bender’s single “Who Will I Choose” for their single “Hold On” which became a huge radio hit and not only did the success of the single inspired other rappers to follow suit, it also inspired music lovers to peak interest in the slain singer’s music and life story. This articles honors Bender’s 30th anniversary and brief yet impactful contributions to music

Christopher Lamont Bender was born on August 2, 1972 to Andrew and Betty Ann Bender in Brockton, Massachusetts as the youngest of six children. Chris’ family was very active in church and his house was always filled with music, but he didn’t start singing until he reached his 9th or 10th birthday and his parents were extremely surprised and impressed with his vocal talent. He then began to hone his craft by listening to his parent’s record collection and he would later list Michael Jackson, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and New Edition as his musical idols. He also spent time developing his vocals in a studio in his neighborhood. On the blog Rare and Obscure, studio owner Bobby Jones shared his memories about working with the talented singer. “I worked with Chris Bender when he was only 12 years old Jones wrote.” “I started work with him at my recording studio in Brockton. He had a voice back then which sounded like the young Michael Jackson. I still have all his recording I did with him.” Bender’s sister Kimberly who named her son Chris after her talented brother also spoke about his late uncle’s drive. “He had a serious passion, and he was determined to be great at what he did” Chris’ nephew a talented Gospel singer said in Brockton wicked local press. While he did have passion to make in the music industry, Bender was also attracted to the street life and it was reported that he spent time hanging with gangs, pimps and drug dealers. Several of his family and friends didn’t approve of some of the people he hung out. ” I always told him to stay away from the bad boys, they will not like you are your music, the girls are going to go crazy over you remember that” studio owner Jones wrote in his comments on Rare and Obscure. “Sometimes he just got caught up in his surroundings” Bender’s sister Melissa added in Brockton Wicked Local Press. Despite his surroundings Chris was still determined to make in music. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high school after his junior year to pursue music full time. A demo that he recorded helped him secure a record deal with Epic Records who assigned him different sets of songwriters and producers to work on his self-titled album which featured a mixture of New Jack Swing dance tracks and R&B mid tempo songs and romantic ballads. The album’s lead single “Baby Girl” became a minor R&B hit and help give Bender a buzz, but sadly the lack of the single’s success prompted Epic put a stop on distributing the album and shelving his debut music video and release him from the label. This naturally devastated the young star. “The video was never released” Bender’s manager Terryl L. Calloway told The Boston Globe. Bender briefly returned to the streets and had caught several drug charges, but he also began to turn his life around.

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“The limos, the cars, those things were traumatic for Chris,” he said. “He didn’t know how to meet people. He felt alienated in that business. I was the only bridge, between the ghetto which I grew up in and understand very well, and the entertainment world.”

His manager Calloway and mentor Earl Williams still saw he had the talent to succeed. With their support, Bender was able to secure a $500,000 record deal with East West Records who allowed their newly signed act to have creative control of his album and he took advantage it. In addition to co-writing and producing 6 of the album’s tracks, Chris also worked with Producers and songwriters Martin Van Blockson, Randy Shropshire, Bill Bias and his brother Frankie Bender who helped make Bender’s follow up album “Draped” an underrated masterpiece. Released in August of 1991, “Draped” was more raw, polished and balanced then his previous release and it also gave listeners a view of Bender’s world. The album also showcased his vocal skills, ad-libbing, phrasing and ranges while mixing R&B, Soul, Classical and Do Wop with New Jack Swing. In fact certain songs put in the league of fellow New Jack Swing Singer Christopher Williams. “Draped” released 2 hits including “I Knew” and “That’s Not The Way” which hit the R&B charts with the video for the former getting lots of air on BET and while the singles didn’t chart high on the charts, it still had promoters eager to book him to perform at shows throughout the United States. Especially the south and the mid west. Chris’ fortunes was about to change thanks to radio DJ’s in Ohio adding his self-penned and self-produced single “Who Will I Choose” to their playlists. The mid-tempo ballad became one of Ohio’s most requested song, prompting DJs in other states to follow suit. Many fans and critics have dubbed the single as one of their favorite songs by Chris due to the lyrics about being in love with 2 women and having problems deciding which one to chose. Several of Chris’ relatives have revealed that the song at the age of 15 and was glad that he finally had the opportunity to record it. Nothing the feedback he was receiving for Who Will I Choose, several Quiet Storm radio DJ’s began to add his ballads “Pouring Like Rain” and “Kiss And Make Up” to their set lists, making both songs becoming late night radio hits. Fans also stated how well Bender sounds with singer Nikki Richards on the romantic duet. So does Blockson the song’s composer and producer who revealed that the song was originally going to be featured on a different project. “This was originally going to go on one if my projects, but I opted to let Chris do it” Blockson posted on You Tube.” He did a great job! He could’ve been great. The success of the radio hits forced East West to make plans to release “Who Will I Choose” as the 3rd single and to have him return to the studio while promoters began to recruit him to perform on future concert tours. Sadly “Who Will I Choose” would become his signature song, but it would only remain a radio hit and he wouldn’t get the opportunity to perform or record his follow up album. His life was cut short due to gang violence.

On November 3, 1991, Chris and his cousin Jesse Sparks had spent the evening visiting Chris’ mother and after eating a bowl of ice cream they went out to his Mercedes Benz and while they were hanging out, 3 gunmen approached his vehicle and shot multiple times injuring the singer while his cousin was unharmed. Paremedics arrived on the scene and rushed Chris to the hospital and despite attempts to save him he died at the age of 19. Many were shocked and sadden by his untimely death.

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“He was on his way,” Calloway told the Star Tribune. “He had a lot of promise and the company was 100 percent behind him. They were going to break him out as a major star. It was tragic to have it all snuffed out.”

Over 500 family members and friends had attended Chris’ funeral that was held at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church where many spoke about his life while the preacher had urged the youth and young adults to avoid the use of drugs and to stop gang violence. Shortly after his homegoing, police had arrested Eroy Kindell and Stephen “Sticky” Fernandes for the crime. Kindell was convicted for 2nd degree murder and served nearly 20 years in prison while Fernandes is serving a life sentence after being charged with 1st degree murder. Kindell has expressed remorse and regrets for his actions. It was discovered that Bender and Sparks had attended a party two weeks prior, where Bender and Fernandes has gotten into a heated verbal altercation, which made the latter mad enough to seek revenge on the singer.

Former East-West executive Sylvia Rhone gave a statement about the violence tha took his other lives of Black people. “Bender’s ″brutal, senseless death brings us face-to-face with the violent life which is a day- to-day reality for his generation of young black people”

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Bender was survived by his parents, 3 sisters Carla Suzzette, Melissa and Kimberly Bender, 2 brothers Andrew and Frankie, a daughter, several nephews, his manager Terryl L Calloway, mentor Earl Williams, several family members, friends and fans who loved and still appreciates his music.

A few years after his passing several artists who have died including Rappers 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. had gain major success with the release of their post death albums, but sadly, Bender’s music nor video didn’t get as much radio nor video time due to him only have released one video. However his legacy would slowly begin to be appreciated and discovered by a new legion of fans thanks to sampling and the internet. In 1998, Rapper/Songwriter Trick Daddy and Singer/Songwriter J-Shin sampled Bender’s classic “Who Will I Choose” for their single “Hold On” which despite not being released as a single became a huge radio hit in Florida and throughout the south and Midwest. Like Bender’s original classic, “Hold On” became one of the south and Midwest’s most requested songs with many fans in the ghetto stating that the single helped them overcome many obstacles while living in the hood. Many fans have noticed J-Shin’s vocals being similar to Bender’s along with his ad-libbing. The success of “Hold On” prompted other rappers to follow suit to sample “Who Will I Choose” including Brockton based Rapper D’vintenci who gave his hometown brother credit as a featured artist as well as gave him a shout out towards the end of the song. Rapper Twan Mack also remade Bender’s classic while giving his credit and recently rapper Jermaine Daniel covered and sampled the song.

Rappers aren’t the only ones who’ve been helping keep Bender’s signature song and legacy alive. Several singers have uploaded videos of them performing their renditions of the classic including Cleveland based R&B Singer/Songwriter D. Briscoe who got praise for Bender’s nephew for doing a wonderful job. “WoW man you sound good .! Bender’s nephew wrote on Briscoe’s You Tube page. “Thanks for helping to keep not only my uncles legacy alive but honoring real R&B music ! Much love dude ! God Bless !” Florida born Singer/Songwriter Gary Adams also recorded his rendition of the tune featuring rapper Trick Daddy which still get spins in clubs and on internet radio.

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Many fans have been wanting requesting for TV One’s unsung to film a documentary about Bender’s life as well as reaching out to executives at both Epic and Atlantic to re-release his albums with unreleased songs that they may have in their vaults. Fans also want Epic to release his debut video.

While fans have been working overtime to keep Chris’ legacy alive, his family has been honoring his label in their own way. Chris’ nephew is following his famous uncle’s foot steps by pursuing a career in music as a Gospel Singer/Songwriter and a minister. Born 3 years after his uncle’s passing, Chris’ mother, aunt and grandmother provided him with love and to prevent him from following the same fate as his uncle, they worked hard to make sure that he lived a spiritual life and not get caught up with the streets. “You can’t do what all the other kids are doing,” Melissa Bender, Bender’s aunt, would tell him. “You have to be a person that they can look up to.” Chris’ nephew admitted in Brockton Wicked Local that he did feel different from his peers, but he loved being in church. He also revealed that he doesn’t feel any pressure to carry his late uncle’s legacy, but he and his family is grateful that they were able to learn about the business side of the entertainment industry through his uncle’s death and it helped prepare him to be business minded. Bender’s nephew released his single “The Blood” this past spring and it did well reaching the Top 25 on the Gospel Charts. The song was inspired by his uncle’s love for God and how he would say the blood of Jesus whenever he made mistakes in his life. ““We were taught to say, ‘The blood of Jesus,’” Melissa added.

Over 30 years, Chris Bender made his debut on the music scene capturing the hearts of many music lovers around the world, but his career was cut short, leaving many to wonder how successful he would have been had he lived. Would he have reached gold or platinum success? Would he have crossed over into acting? Would he have wrote and produced for other artists? Who would he have recorded and performed with onstage? Those are questions that fans will still continue to ask whenever they listen to his music. Though his tenure in music was short, Chris Bender left a mark on the music industry with his unique talent and it shows that determination and dedication can help anybody pursue their goals along with being focused and committed to your goals. The release of his 2 albums shows that Chris was his way to becoming an international star and while many are still sad that he’s no longer on earth to share his talent with the world, many can take comfort knowing that he’s in heaven performing sold out shows with the angels while he’s looking down at his family singing and looking at old photographs of him. He’s also up in heaven cheering his nephew following in his foot steps and singing for God. He’s also watching his fans enjoying and discovering his music. Christopher Lamont Bender was one of a kind and despite his struggles, he made a huge impact during his short time in the music industry and it’s important that his family and fans continue to keep his legacy and memory alive.

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This blog is dedicated to the Legacy and Memory of Singer/Songwriter/Arranger/Producer Christopher Lamont Bender.DA-PROFESSOR’S LOUNGE HONORS CHRIS BENDER. A TALENTED AND PROMISING SINGER WHO LIFE US WAY TOO SOON (1)

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