Soundtrack — A Black Music Month tribute to the songs that shaped my memories — “You Were There”
“You Were There” is a 1998 song written, produced and performed by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. It was featured on the soundtrack from the motion picture, Simon Birch as well as on the album, “Christmas with Babyface”. Fun(ny) Fact: I tried to tell Babyface the story that I’m about to tell you, but since I couldn’t stop crying, I’m pretty sure he didn’t catch a word.
My mom often joked that I stole her man. She was allegedly a huge Babyface fan until I took over the reins. I could talk about him nonstop if allowed and sometimes I was allowed to do so. Mommie and I would sit on her bed and giggle like two girls in love while I raved about whatever Babyface was doing at the time.
1996 was a huge year for Babyface. He was still riding high on the success of his third album, For the Cool in You, and was having equal success with his fourth, The Day. The wave continued through 1997. He was a new father, and one of the few black folks to land an Unplugged on MTV. He and his wife had produced Soul Food and the soundtrack was popping. I could literally see him on TV whenever I wanted — he was everywhere! But then he went quiet.
In 1998, he was between albums, so I was incredibly excited about his new single “You Were There,” from the Simon Birch soundtrack. I had not seen the movie, but I had heard about it.
“Oh, this song might be sad,” I told my mom as we sat on her bed watching the video on MTV.
Time passes, the world changes
But I’m still the same ole’ kid
And your jokes still bring me laughter
As if you still were here
And it hurts
When I smile
’Cause my heart still remembers
When you were around
I was locked in on the screen the entire time trying to catch the minute glimpses of Babyface that were juxtaposed with whatever story the video had going on otherwise. When I finally broke my trance, I noticed Mommie was visibly shaken.
“When I die, I want you to play that at my funeral,” she said.
“That’s going to ruin the song for me,” I retorted. “What if it ruins Babyface for me?”
My mom died on September 26, 2001.
Just one week before, I was sitting in my college dorm room listening to Babyface’s new album, Face 2 Face when Mommie called for her evening check in.
“What are you doing, AngelFace,” she asked. And, yes that variation of my nickname comes from exactly where you think it does. Mommie always called me Angel, but she added the Face part when I fell in love with Babyface.
“I’m listening to Babyface’s new album. I don’t really like it. I bought you one, though. I’m going to send it soon so we can talk about it,” I said.
The CD had arrived in New Jersey the day after I arrived from New Orleans to begin funeral plans. The morning before her services, Babyface was on Regis and Kelly discussing the new project. I sat on the edge of an otherwise empty bed watching him until he was gone. My dad and I then took the short drive to the church where I would hand over my Christmas with Babyface album so “You Were There” could be played at the funeral.
The next day, Mommie and I shared one last Babyface moment together.