Jim DeRogatis ended his talk Friday at the Seminary Co-op on a slightly deflated note. “The book’s a complete flop.
We have printed 31,700 copies and sold 1300 since June. And that’s with being on Terry Gross!”
Over the preceding hour, DeRogatis had made a compelling case for why the audience of about 20 people should care about “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” which he was there to discuss.
Released earlier this summer, “Soulless” is a thorough account of the alleged crimes of the R&B star R. Kelly, known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly,” and “Ignition (Remix).” Kelly grew up on the South Side and briefly attended Kenwood Academy.
DeRogatis has covered the singer’s relationships with underage women since 2000, the year a mysterious letter was faxed to his desk at the Sun-Times, where he was then the paper’s music critic.
A few days earlier, he had reviewed R. Kelly’s newest album, “TP-2.com.”
The fax—he’s never figured out who sent it, though he suspects it’s someone who worked for the singer—reads, in part: “You compared him to Marvin Gaye.
Well, I guess Marvin Gaye had problems, too, but I don’t think they were like Robert’s…. Robert’s problem, you see, is underage girls.”
The letter led to a front-page story about a month later, in which DeRogatis and Abdon Pallasch, a fellow Sun-Times journalist (whom DeRogatis described as a “Polish-Irish leprechaun”), reported on allegations that Kelly had “used his position of fame and influence…to meet girls as young as 15 and have sex with them.”
A little over a year later, Jim DeRogatis received a package, again from someone anonymous—this one contained a pornographic video allegedly showing Kelly having sex with and urinating on a fourteen-year-old girl.
DeRogatis turned it over to the police; Kelly went to trial and was acquitted in 2008.
During the next decade, DeRogatis occasionally surfaced to remind the public of Kelly’s actions.
In 2013, for instance, he wrote a column for WBEZ criticizing the Pitchfork Music Festival’s decision to book Kelly as a headline act.
But it wasn’t until 2017, when he published a long investigative piece in BuzzFeed detailing Kelly’s apparent “cult” for teenage girls, that the issue regained prominence. Read more