The Day the Music Died

Gospel musician Kevin Pringle dedicated his life to lifting spirits. Three months ago he was found shot to death in his house.

By Kia Gregory
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 19 | Posted Aug. 20, 2003

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That Sunday the spirit was really, really high," says Chandra Williams, music director for West Philly's United Baptist Church, recalling how the choir sang for what seemed like forever. Williams in her low soprano and Kevin Pringle in his tenor, went back and forth, echoing words of thanks, and soon the entire congregation was caught up in the spirit of worship.

Pringle often wrote songs for the choir to perform, but this particular hymn, "You Didn't Have to Do It, But You Did," would grow to have special meaning. That Sunday was the last time Williams would see her friend alive.

"It was an ironic Sunday," says Williams. "The words are: 'Lord, you brought me out of the darkness into the marvelous light. You didn't have to do it but you did.' And it ends: 'I just want to thank you.' We just went back and forth, ad-libbing. It was almost like a farewell concert now that I look back on it. Like a farewell between he and I."

Typically after services, Williams or her sister Christa would take Pringle home. But on that Sunday, Christa dropped Pringle off at Drexel University, where he was scheduled to photograph a fashion show.

"I can still see him getting out of the car, see him as clear as day," she recalls. "He always wore a T-shirt and carried a messenger bag. I can hear him say, 'Okay, I'll talk to y'all tomorrow.' I never thought when I dropped him off that that was going to be the last time I saw him."

A week later, on June 2, Pringle and his roommate Arthur Stanley III were found shot to death in their West Philadelphia home. The police still have no leads on their murders, but that hasn't stopped the rumors from flying within the gospel community.


When it came to gospel music, Kevin Pringle, 42, was a virtuoso. He was a skillful songwriter, composer, singer and producer who led several local groups, including the Children of Israel, for which Stanley sang alto.

Desperate for leads in the nearly three-month-old double murder, the police have asked anyone with information to come forward. And because both men were gay, they have also turned to the gay community for help.

"Activism in our community was not a mainstay in Kevin's life," says Doug Shaps, executive director of OutFront, a local gay-advocacy organization that serves as a liaison between the police and the city's gay community. "He was involved with his church more than anything else."

But within the gospel community, where Pringle is said to have inspired many, only a few of the people PW contacted were willing to talk on the record, or at all, about his life and music.

"Because rumors have surfaced, and no one knows the circumstances behind his death, I think people don't want it said that they added stuff to something," says Chandra. "But I can't stand that with all the positive things that Kevin has done, that people, people that Kevin has made a positive impact on, are afraid to come out and talk."


Chandra Williams, now 31, was 11 and singing with the Philadelphia Youth Mass Choir when she first met Pringle. At the time, he had a small gospel group called Kevin Pringle and Company, and he had asked Williams to join after hearing her sing. Williams and her sister, Christa, began rehearsing and recording with the group at Pringle's rented studio at Broad and Poplar streets, and over time their working relationship evolved into a deep friendship.

"Kevin was like a brother to us," says Christa. "He called our mom and dad 'Mom' and 'Dad.' When he said, 'my sisters,' people knew he was talking about us."

Under Pringle's direction, the choir grew into the Children of Israel, a group of more than 30 people. Pringle would recruit people who shared his love for gospel music and bring them together.

"Kevin's thing was he didn't think people helped each other, so he had a heart for everybody," says Chandra. "He tried to incorporate everybody, so the group really didn't have a lot of soloists. We had people who wanted to sing and loved to sing."

Pringle, who grew up in Strawberry Mansion, had his singing debut in the children's choir of Cornerstone Baptist Church at age 5. He went on to sing with the Philadelphia Youth Mass Choir, the Louise Williams Community Choir and the West District/ Voice for Christ, led by gospel singer Catherine "Kitty" Parham, who would later sing at his funeral. He recorded his first solo effort, "It's Gonna Rain," at age 9.

Pringle later formed and directed several community gospel groups, his latest being Professor Kevin Pringle and the Children of Israel Ministries Chorale. Through these experiences, Pringle evolved into a self-taught musician and talented songwriter.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 19 of 19
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1. Paulette McClain-Pringle said... on Dec 5, 2008 at 09:17PM

“Well I am Kevin's sister and I do not believe that my brother was living a double life.He was outwardly open with me about hs sexuality, so why wouldn't he be with others who CLAIMS he used to called them his "sisters"?”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jun 4, 2009 at 08:07PM

“You can't say that if you were his sister for real. We never knew you and my cousins and I have known Kevin since we were 9 and 11 yrs old and were in our late thirties now (Chandra Chrissy and Derrick). Kevin did him and those that knew him well like we did knew he was doing him. So lets be factual Chandra and Chrissy were his sisters. Everyone on the plante that knew him for real knew them as his sisters. Kevin we love you and your loss will efffect all that loved you as long as we live Love You.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 7, 2009 at 11:44AM

“brothers and sister, we can go back and forth all day long but what is most important is wether he or all of us are right with god. i met kevin in 1977 or 1978 when he sang with the voices from heaven and then he joined our church chior the new inspirations at the garden on prayer cogic i believe he sang with us at least through 1983 . kevin was a complicated person and all who knew him back then knew his sexuality. i guess i would classify him as bi sexual when i first met him. ofcourse this was years ago and who of us are the same people we were 30 years ago. i liked kevin alot. he was quick witted and very very very talented. i hadnt seen him in several years before he died but i do know shortly before he left out chior he did professed christ and was dating a girl named sue. i pray that he is with the lord.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:39AM

“The thing that hurts me the most is how people of God turn the cheek on situations like this. Tell me when have you never committed a sin? Its impossible but when someone passes and everyone who says there holy turns and bashes them, what Christian are you? He may have had some other ways but what does that give u to put his life secrets out there? I knew Kevin my whole life and never not once has he mentioned his sister by the name of Paulette? Its hard to believe that he was outwardly open with you if your name never rang a bell in anyones ears. There was his church family, his choir, and his circle of friends which included his two sister Chandra and Christa. I strongly believe that the death of Kevin doesnt intend on people to try to find what secrets he was holding from some. But to show that God is real, and maybe the wrong doings that Kevin did do led God to show the people in the gospel undercover homosexuality world that he is no joke. I LOVE U Kevin & u will 4evr b missed”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 27, 2010 at 12:39AM

“The thing that hurts me the most is how people of God turn the cheek on situations like this. Tell me when have you never committed a sin? Its impossible but when someone passes and everyone who says there holy turns and bashes them, what Christian are you? He may have had some other ways but what does that give u to put his life secrets out there? I knew Kevin my whole life and never not once has he mentioned his sister by the name of Paulette? Its hard to believe that he was outwardly open with you if your name never rang a bell in anyones ears. There was his church family, his choir, and his circle of friends which included his two sister Chandra and Christa. I strongly believe that the death of Kevin doesnt intend on people to try to find what secrets he was holding from some. But to show that God is real, and maybe the wrong doings that Kevin did do led God to show the people in the gospel undercover homosexuality world that he is no joke. I LOVE U Kevin & u will 4evr b missed”

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6. Anonymous said... on Feb 27, 2010 at 01:23AM

“When it is all said and done. I miss Kevin. Outstanding Musician”

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7. Anonymous said... on Mar 3, 2010 at 11:24AM

“this is so disrespectful to somebody that ministered and poured out to God's people ministry for his entire lifetime. No matter what his sexuality was, he was a man of God that was used in his time. Don't disrespect this man because there are poeple who love him dearly. The word of God says there is no sin that is not common to man. Can we show a little respect please? thank you”

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8. Deacon Lawrence & Lisa Griffin said... on Apr 10, 2010 at 10:03PM

“HI Chandra. Sorry I missed you Friday night .I went to a play called Joseph in Lancaster Pa with my mom's church . My husband said he spoke to you and told you I was gone. He said you did a very good job. We might see you on Wednesday night, if pastor Armand let's us be excused from bible study.”

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9. Anonymous said... on May 19, 2010 at 09:03AM

“Theres no way this dude was a christian he may have been inclined to do good deeds but he also was inclined to lure straight men into his world by way of oral sex. This is an outrage for a person to say he was a christian. Whatever a man soweth so shall he reap. Homosexuality is an abomination clearly to God. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah you christians?? He may not have been all bad but he wasnt good either.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2010 at 09:50PM

“We need to stop hiding behind gifts and talents in church and really start living GODLY lives. It doesn't matter what kinf of person you are or what you did for or to people it is about your relationship with CHRIST. HOMOSEXUALALITY IS A SIN and sin will find you and kill you. It's in the book.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2010 at 09:51PM

“We need to stop hiding behind gifts and talents and start really living for GOD. Lets us also remember that good people will be in hell. It's not about what kind of person you are but your relationship with GOD and HOMOSEXUALALITY is a sin. SIN will find you and will kill you. It's in the book.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2010 at 09:52PM

“We need to stop hiding behind gifts and talents and start really living for GOD. Lets us also remember that good people will be in hell. It's not about what kind of person you are but your relationship with GOD and HOMOSEXUALALITY is a sin. SIN will find you and will kill you. It's in the book.”

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13. Vera Stanley said... on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:22AM

“The book also says we all fall short of the glory of God and that sin is sin.God also says come unto me and i will give you rest.We all have some demons that we alone can not figth.As far as a relationship my brother had a relationship with Christ at ayoung age,Artie loved the Lord and praised Him from ,time we were little children.Yes all will be accountable for our sins.My brother Artie spent his whole life helping people and just trying to be a friend just like the nigth he died he opened up his home to his freind Kevin.My brother worked really hard to finially get a house and somebody took his life in is dream.He leaves a son behind who one day be a father yet will not be able to share that with his father.My brother was so much morethan being projected here he was a great father my best friend a hard worker a taylor and a singer.The person that killed Artie and Kevin had to be someone that they knew and trusted the neighbor said they open the door now their gone.. stranger no”

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14. Minister Aaron Williams said... on Aug 27, 2011 at 06:49PM

“The music ministry suffered a great lost. Eventhough he is gone, he left a legacy behind through his music. After the death of Moses, God raised up Joshua to take his place, and same is true in this situation. God has raised up a Joshua, through his legacy, that Gospel music going, and it shall not die.”

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15. Raheem said... on Jan 2, 2013 at 10:25PM

“Were the killers ever cought ???”

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16. Eric King said... on Jan 20, 2013 at 06:49PM

“”

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17. Anonymous said... on Jan 20, 2013 at 06:51PM

“I was on the internet researching a group I'd recorded and performed with, Salt Of The Earth. Kevin composed a song I'd sang lead on, LIFT HIM UP, on our "Happy Hour" CD back in 1998. My heart is saddened that I will never get a chance to tell him what a blessing that song was/is to me. My prayers are with all who knew and loved him. R.I.P. Kevin. For you internet preachers on this thread, whom God obviously told was getting into Heaven and who wasn't, just make sure you're right, when your time comes. That's what YOU do!”

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18. carl said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 07:24PM

“i met kevin in the 7th grade back then people would say things about him but it never clicked for some reson we were kids all i knew about him was that he was a cool dude i was a loner and he was not one to judge people so why is everyone judging him he never came at me so i dont care but if i find the person that killed my friend before i leave this life its not going to be nice sorry thats were im at”

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19. Dana J. Scott said... on Nov 4, 2014 at 01:33PM

“Was thinking about you today my friend so I googled and found this.
MISSING YOU!!!”

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