Singer Freda Payne shot to fame with her 1970 hit, “Band of Gold,” that landed at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Before making the transition from Motown to disco music, Freda met singer Gregory Abbott. The pair were married in 1976 and welcomed their son, Gregory Abbott Jr., in 1977.
Gregory Sr. was born in Harlem, New York, to parents from Venezuela and Antigua. He holds dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Antigua. The platinum recording artist grew up alongside his cousin, Diahnne Abbott, who was married to Robert De Niro from 1976 to 1988. From an early age, Gregory took an interest in music much like Freda. In addition to pursuing music, he took a job teaching English at the University of California, Berkeley.
Gregory and Freda called it quits on their relationship and divorced in 1979. Both artists continued to focus on their careers, with Freda landing her own talk show in 1981. The “Deeper & Deeper” singer did not shy away from sharing details about their marriage in her 2021 memoir Band of Gold.
“Most fans know I’m from Detroit, but they will learn things about me and my sister and how we were raised,” Freda told Closer in December 2021. “And then, of course, all the juicy stuff starts when I get to New York at 18. So people will learn about my romantic relationships. It’s my life and my journey.”
Gregory soared to a new level of fame after the divorce with the lead single off of his 1986 debut album, Shake You Down. The song topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. “Shake You Down” had finally given Gregory the big break he was searching for back in college.
“Making music and singing is what I really love to do,” he shared in a February 1987 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I have a strong academic background so I could — and have — earned a living using that education: teaching, research, etc. But I’m into music. I want to play it, write it, sing it, produce it. But for a long time, it was just a serious hobby.”
The “You’re My Angel” singer went on to work with Whitney Houston and won the first prize at the Tokyo Music Festival. Gregory returned to the music scene in 2019 with a new song after years of focusing on writing and producing. The R&B ballad “My Heart Has Found a Home” was released under Mojo Man Entertainment. To celebrate the 35-year anniversary of “Shake Your Down,” Gregory released a song called “Summer in the City” in September 2021.
“We have had more than our share of stress lately. In light of this, and with the winter months behind us, I thought it would be nice to write a warm-weather song,” he wrote on his website. “One where we remember our connection to each other and more importantly to love.”
The Soul Train Award winner is still very active on social media. He and Freda kept Gregory Jr. out of the spotlight for most of his life. The songstress did share that she celebrated her birthday with her son in September 2021.