Ortheia Barnes, Detroit Music Icon, Dies At 70

May 18, 2015 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Ortheia Barnes, better known as Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly, has passed away. Barnes, a famous soul singer, died at the age of 70 in St. Thomas where she was set to perform.

Ortheia Barnes

Ortheia Barnes died at the age of 70. The famous R&B and jazz singer from Michigan passed away on Friday May 15 in St. Thomas, according to a friend and fellow musician, Ralphe Armstrong.

Armstrong claimed that Barnes-Kennerly was in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a concert and suffered a heart failure. The family friend stated that Barnes had a health history of seizures.

In 1960, Barnes Barnes-Kennerly signed with Detroit’s Mickay Records and Coral Records, but never landed a hit song. She was fortunate enough to work with legends such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight.

“I love doing my music, but mostly I love making people feel good,” Barnes-Kennerly explained. “The music has been good to me. I’ve had furs, cars and diamonds and all that without the million-seller. But it’s more to it than that for me. There’s a higher consciousness that lets me know I’m a part of this universe who has a gift to share, and when I’m sharing that gift, I’m happy.”

Armstrong had the following to say about his good friend: “If Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Ortheia was the empress.”

“Ortheia Barnes’ love for all people could be felt in her music, in her ministry work, and in her support of all of Detroit,” U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence stated. “Whether you knew her through her music, through her ministry, or through her friendship, you were blessed.”

Barnes was also an ordained minister and planted water wells in Africa. Her funeral is scheduled for May 26 at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, but the family is asking for help to bring her body back to Detroit.

“I have just posted a GoFundMe campaign for Ortheia Barnes-Kennerly who passed away unexpectedly on Friday, May 14, 2015. Please contribute so that her husband, Bob, can bring her back to the States and give her a proper Home Going,” read a Go Fund Me Page.

Numerous fans took to Twitter to pay their respect.

MARTHA REEVES ‏wrote:

RIP to Ortheia Barnes and B.B. King. I saw them perform TOGETHER many years ago.. Such talents.

Jackée Harry tweeted:

RIP Ortheia Barnes. A wonderful singer. A wonderful woman of God.

Do you like R&B and jazz music from Barnes’ era?

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