The Early Years Born Ke’Tara (pronounced key-TAIR-ruh) Wyatt, Indianapolis-native Keke grew up the second born along with three brothers (all musically inclined) in a mixed-race family. Father Keever Wyatt II is a minister, organist and vocalist, and mother Lorna Wyatt is a powerful vocalist and church choir director. Keke’s grandmother discovered her ability to harmonize at age two. She began singing in church with her family shortly after and had her first solo performance at age five. She recorded her first gospel song, “What If,” when she was ten years-old.
Music was Keke’s first love—not only singing but as a mighty good drummer and percussionist also adept at keyboards, guitar and bass. However, she was also the only girl on her high school wrestling team (having all brothers and live-in male cousins creates such necessities). In between bouts on the mat, Keke performed with various girl groups. Keke became a protégé of noted producer Steve Huff. Under his tutelage, she recorded demos for record labels and developed her songwriting skills.
When Keke turned 16 years-old, Huff introduced her to R&B singer Avant who asked Keke to join him on a cover of René & `Angela’s 1983 Quiet Storm masterpiece, “My First Love.” The sumptuous duet became a hit all over again for another generation in 2000 and was Keke’s first out of the box smash, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. At 18, Keke released her maiden voyage to the world with the album Soul Sista on MCA Records, scoring a platinum album and a second hit duet with Avant titled “Nothing in This World” (produced by Randy Jackson, pre-American Idol) which went to No. on Billboard’s “R&B Singles” chart. Worldwide sales helped Keke create fan bases in Europe, Japan and Korea.
Keke walked away from MCA, leaving two completed CDs in the can. Though she continued performing, Keke didn’t release her second CD, Who Knew, until 2010 followed by Unbelievable in 2011 (both on Shanachie Records). The latter included “Saturday Love,” a duet with American Idol-winner Ruben Studdard that was a remake of the Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal hit. Prior to Rated Love, Keke scored a third smash with Avant in 2013 titled “You & I.” An instant classic, it hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Urban Adult chart around Valentine’s Day 2013 and remained for seven consecutive weeks.
“Keke Covers” on YouTube
“Keke Covers” on YouTube She also started a “Keke Covers” series on her YouTube channel where she posts videos in the studio wailing anything from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” to Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and—most popular—Jeremih’s “Oui,” which taps into her more youthful friends base. Especially touching is her recent video “Diamonds and Pearls” by Prince—an artist to whom she feels most kindred. “I loved when Prince sang from his bass to his falsetto all in one song. And we’re both gifted with playing multiple instruments. I think my ‘friends’ would really enjoy seeing me play instruments more.”
Domestic Violence Spokesperson
A highly publicized domestic violence incident with her first husband/manager in 2001, and the loss of a childhood friend to domestic violence moved Keke to become a dedicated advocate for other such victimized women. She is a spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as well as a celebrity supporter and activist with the Saving Our Daughters organization. Keke interacts with domestic abuse victims, and uses her music and entertainment platforms to bring the issue public awareness. Keke Wyatt has become a beacon of encouragement for women trying to overcome their circumstances.