The often overused term multi-talented is true to its definition when referring to Robert F. Brookins. The singer/songwriter/musician/ arranger and producer -- born 1965 in Sacramento, CA -- was singing at four, drumming at five, playing keyboards at nine, and wowing locals with his band Little Robert & the Fondeles at 11. They were tight enough to best a field-of-plenty to win Motown's 1974 Soul Search Contest.
After school and seven years later, Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White inked Robert and his brother Michael Brookins to his CBS-distributed ARC Records. Calling themselves Afterbach, they cut Matinee (1981) which received good reviews, lots of print promotion, but few sales. A single, "It's You," which also shared a 12" with the Emotions' "Turn It Out," nearly broke out.
He enhanced his resume with guitar, bass, and horns' skills and became a sought-after songwriter and session musician. The list of artists who recorded his songs, often co-written with Tony Ray Haynes, is star-studded and includes the Reddings, Bobby Brown, Stephanie Mills, Deniece Williams, George Howard, Nancy Wilson, Stanley Clarke, Roy Ayers, George Duke, Waymon Tisdale, Keisha Jackson, Everette Harp, the Newtrons, Mystery Man's Band, Angela Bofil, Kirk Whalum, Joe McBride, Sue Ann, Michael Cooper, the Isley Brothers, the Whispers, and Walter & Scotty.
A singing stint on George Duke's self-titled 1986 album led to a solo deal with MCA Records. Brookens cranked out two LPs: In the Night (1987) and Let It Be Me (1988); a duet with Stephanie Mills graced both LPs. He was major on Jackie Jackson's Be the One LP (1989), writing many of its songs. Reuniting with the EWF empire, he became the legendary band's musical director and keyboard player. And Brookins still found time to work on Benet, Bobby Brown, Analysis, Bruce Hornsby, the Company, and Philip Bailey's CDs. ~ Andrew Hamilton