R. Kelly case poses challenge: Separating artist from anthem

Singer R. Kelly left, walks with his attorney Steve Greenberg right, after being released from Cook County Jail, March 9, 2019, in Chicago.

DETROIT – The dilemma of separating the sides of R. Kelly, who faces 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse, now confronts millions who listen to or perform his music.

It’s perhaps most acute when it comes to “I Believe I Can Fly.” The Grammy-winning ballad released in 1996 has made its way into movies and been performed in countless reality shows, church services, as well as school concerts and graduation ceremonies. Children are even singing it bilingually.

Motown Records alum Paul Riser Sr. wrote the orchestral parts for Kelly’s hit song and directed the backing musicians in Detroit in the mid-1990s. He says he’s troubled by the allegations and believes the victims, but the song’s inspirational message has a life beyond its creator.

Kelly has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

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