Every Little Step: Bobby Brown’s Long Road to Redemption

The 'bad boy of R&B' talks about his new book, Whitney Houston, and coming home to Boston.

Bobby Brown

Photo by Giuliano Bekor

Looking back on his more than three decades in show business, Bobby Brown can pinpoint the exact moment when everything started to go wrong.

It was early on in his career, before the scandals and relationship issues, when Brown was hoping to make it as a solo act following his departure from seminal boy band New Edition in 1985. The Boston-born musician earned a multi-million dollar contract at the tender age of 17, which he believes led him down a dark road to fame, fortune, and excess.

“What is a young man coming from the ghetto going to do with $30 million?” Brown says. “That was the point of no return. You don’t do that. You don’t give a young man like myself that much money.”

As the former boy bander turned “bad boy of R&B” details in his new memoir, Every Little Step, it was a bit of a culture shock going from a rough neighborhood like Roxbury’s Orchard Park projects to the glamorous world of entertainment. However, no matter how crazy or dark things got, he would look to his Boston roots for strength.

Crediting the city for giving him “super powers,” Brown always makes a trip to his old stomping grounds when he’s in town, and plans to do so when his book tour comes to the Trident Booksellers & Cafe this week.

“Whenever I go there, I can still walk down the street. I can still be Bobby Brown, without security, without anybody, and not worry,” Brown says. “When I was growing up there, that was not the situation. It was difficult growing up there.”

Like his hometown, the “Don’t Be Cruel” singer says he’s changed a lot over the years and is working hard to be a “better Bobby Brown” for his family, friends, and even his “foes.”

Brown says that writing the memoir helped him through the healing process following the death of his daughter Bobbi Kristina in 2015 and the death of his ex-wife Whitney Houston in 2012.

“It was therapeutic, getting it all out of my heart and my soul,” Brown says. “Once you get things out, you can move on with life.”

He adds, “I’m still mourning the last six years, my mother, my father, my ex-wife, my daughter. Mourning is a process, it’s not something you can call and find out the instructions for.”

Before he can truly move on, though, Brown has been forced to come to terms with his many demons, particularly when it comes to his past with his late ex-wife.

While his promotion of the book and portrayal of his relationship with Houston has been criticized by members of her family, Brown says that he’s just trying to give his account of what happened during their tumultuous marriage. Although opinions may differ on certain issues about their time together, one thing that Brown does admit to is the fact that he got rough with Houston, even if he objects to being labeled a “violent man.”

“I will forever be known as, ‘I hit Whitney Houston,’ and that disturbs me, so I had to get it off my heart and let people know why things happened that way,” he says. “I got to own up to everything I’ve been through, every up, every down, every side to side thing. I’ve got to live up to it and this is what I’m doing.”

Regardless of how the world views him, Brown hopes that he can continue to redeem himself in the eyes of his children. The singer also hopes that his life story serves a warning to other young artists who are vulnerable to going down the same dark path he did.

“They need to understand that trouble will find you. You don’t have to go out there looking for it,” Brown says. “Work on yourself and know that anybody that loves you is important.”

Update, June 21: Bobby Brown’s book signing at Trident Booksellers & Cafe has been canceled.