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Miss. Senate honors late singer of popular 50s R&B band

Prentiss Barnes’ voice brought him fame, adoration and the means to travel the world, but he never forgot his roots in the tiny town of Magnolia.

That was the message his family wanted people to know when they gathered Thursday for the state Senate to honor the life and accomplishments of the late Moonglows’ singer.

Barnes was born in Magnolia in 1925, rose to fame in the 1950s and ’60s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He died last September in a car accident. He was 81.

During the ceremony, tears streamed down the face of Rajah Barnes, a 25-year-old great nephew of the singer.

“He always stayed grounded,” Rajah Barnes said after the ceremony. “He was a very fun-loving person and whatever you needed he was there. If he had it, you had it.”

Barnes was a bass singer for the Moonglows and was a member of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer.

The Moonglows’ recordings include “Blue Velvet,” “Most of All,” “We Go Together” and “Ten Commandments of Love.” The McGuire Sisters recorded a pop version of their ’50s hit “Sincerely.”

When the state Senate passed a resolution honoring Barnes’ life and work, the song “Sincerely” played over loud speakers and Democratic Sens. Gloria Williamson of Philadelphia and Ezell Lee Picayune danced as the Barnes family swayed and sang along.

Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, said he was proud to be from the same town as Barnes.

“Mississippi and music seem to go hand in hand. No other state can claim as many pioneers in the development of modern music as this great state,” he said. “One of those pioneers was Prentiss Barnes.”

Butler recited a line of the song “Sincerely” — “I’ll do anything for you baby all you gotta do is be mine.”

“I must admit, I may have stolen that line for my own personal use on an occasion or two,” Butler said.

Family members described Barnes as humble man who never forgot his roots.

Bill Morris, who sang with Barnes for a time, said they became the best of friends.

He told the Senate that if everyone looked beyond color, there were great friendships to be forged. Morris is white and Barnes was black.

“Each of you could have a friend like Prentiss. A friend that could be a different color, but a friend that God has given you,” Morris said.