David Peaston, 54, an R&B and gospel singer who scorednational fame after winning on “Showtime at the Apollo” during thelate “80s, died Wednesday (Feb. 1, 2012) from complications ofdiabetes at his home in St. Louis.
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Mr. Peaston”s niece Neuka Mitchell, daughter of “Rescue Me”singer Fontella Bass, confirmed his death Thursday and said he wassurrounded by his family, including his wife and sons, when hedied.
Mr. Peaston lived with diabetes since the “90s, and his rightleg was amputated at the knee in March 2004; his left leg also waslater amputated.
When he was preparing to be honored at the 2004 event “ACelebration of Love in St. Louis,” he struggled with whether he hadlet his disease prevent him from ever performing on stageagain.
“I didn”t want to be back in the public,” he told thePost-Dispatch that year. “I wasn”t embarrassed or ashamed, but Ifelt I let myself down and, therefore, I let everyone else down. Itwas my fault for being sick, and I didn”t want anybody to see melike that.”
Mr. Peaston carried on. By 2004, he lost 200 pounds, and he sangwith the St. Louis group the Distinguished Gents for the past fiveyears. The group, which also features St. Louis gospel singerLeslie Johnson, performed its mix of classical, jazz and gospelsongs annually at the Ethical Society of St. Louis.
He also toured Europe until his older sister, Fontella Bass,fell ill. Bass has survived breast cancer and multiple strokes andalso has had a leg amputed.
Mr. Peaston, a former schoolteacher whose mother was Martha Bassof the Clara Ward singers, tried his hand on TV”s “Showtime at theApollo,” where he wowed audiences with his sky-high falsetto andhis rendition of “God Bless the Child.”
His multiple wins on the show led to his signing a majorrecording deal in the late “80s with Geffen Records.
Mr. Peaston was a Soul Train Award winner, toured with GladysKnight and saw the release of two major label albums, 1989″s”Introducing … David Peaston” and 1991″s “Mixed Emotions,” and hadhits including “Can I,” “Two Wrongs (Don”t Make a Right)” and”We”re All in This Together.”
“He was definitely the greatest unsung artist I know, a fabulousvocalist who was unmatched,” Mitchell said. “He had the kind oftalent you don”t see today.”
Singer Cheryl Pepsii Riley, who toured with Mr. Peaston in”Momma Don”t” and other shows, said in a statement to black musicwebsite eurweb.com that she loved “this man with the hearty laugh,great sense of humor, that incredible voice, and he was the mostamazing friend.”
Funeral services will be private. But there will be a musicaltribute to Peaston at 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at his church, Shalom City ofPeace (Lindbergh campus).
In addition to his sister, among the survivors are his wife,Marilyn; two sons, Daniel Peaston and Darrius Peaston of St. Louis;and a granddaughter, Darriya Peaston of St. Louis.