Freda Payne found fame in the ‘60s with her incredible voice as she set out to work with big-name artists in New York City. The “Band of Gold” singer earned her first gold record in 1970 and a successful film and theater career soon followed. One of her biggest achievements was welcoming her son, Gregory Abbott Jr., on September 19, 1977, her 35th birthday.
Freda scored big hits with “Deeper and Deeper” and “Bring the Boys Home” under the Invictus label in the first decade of her career. She later signed with ABC Records and Capitol where she became known for some of her hit disco songs. In 1976, the Michigan native married singer Gregory Abbott, a decade before he went No. 1 with his hit, “Shake You Down.” They welcomed their son a year after they wed, leaving Freda to adjust to life as a working mom.
“It got pretty difficult. I remember once I had to leave my son because I was working on a show that was supposedly heading to Broadway,” Freda told Closer in December 2021. “I needed all my attention on this show. I didn’t see my son for, like, four weeks, and that was a hard thing for me to do. My sister, Scherrie, if she wasn’t working or busy, she would come and keep him for a few days. She helped out a lot. I have a great sister. Scherrie is my heart.”
Gregory told Jet in 1977 that he was “overjoyed” to welcome their son into their lives and described him as a “sweet little spirit.” When the newborn cried, Gregory sang him some of Freda’s tunes to calm him down. Freda and Gregory divorced in 1979 and shared joint custody of their son, who was 19 months old at the time.
The “Only Minutes Away” singer kept busy with her career during the divorce, even hosting her own talk show in 1981. She also dated Edmund Sylvers, lead singer of The Sylvers until 1983. Edmund helped write and produce Freda’s 1982 single “In Motion.” Freda and Edmund attended an event hosted by Muhammad Ali in 1982 and brought Gregory Jr. along.
The Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame inductee celebrated her birthday along with Gregory Jr.’s birthday in September 2021. The pair posed for photos together before heading out for a birthday lunch attended by RuPaul. Though Gregory Jr. has stayed out of the spotlight for most of his life, he did play Samson Webb in the 2006 film The Eden Formula, according to IMDb.