Peaston was part of St. Louis gospel royalty. His mother was Martha Bass, singer in the foundational gospel group the Clara Ward Singers, and his sister was Fontella Bass, who needs no introduction.
With his agile, deceptively devastating high tenor voice, Peaston received his break after a move to New York and his celebrated appearances on the Showtime at the Apollo TV series. His signature performance number was "God Bless the Child," a song that he utterly transformed, drawing on jazz scatting and a creamy phrasing that would boil over into something else entirely, something only a very great sacred singer can harness and set free.
Peaston's biggest hit came in 1989 with "Two Wrongs (Don't Make It Right)," which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. That same year, he took the Hal Davis and Herman Griffith tune "Can I?" to No. 14 and continued his success with "We're All in This Together" in the early '90s. In 1990 Don Cornelius honored him with a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist. But though he was easily the equal of peers like Luther Vandross, and despite notable tours with the likes of Gladys Knight, Peaston never fully crossed over to the pop mainstream and never found the wide audience he deserved. His final solo album, recorded after enduring a double-leg amputation, was Song Book: Songs of Soul & Inspiration in 2006.
The title was fitting. No singer of his generation was more inspiring.
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