*An innocent log in to Facebook on Tuesday morning, July 2nd revealed a large photo of Soni D (aka Kevin Allen, Sr.) with a heart felt message from Johnnie Walker stating that Soni had been killed in an auto crash. I had just spoken to Soni a few days prior. He has asked me to help him look out for his daughter Bria, and help her find a job. I had also seen Soni a few weeks prior, as he, Monica, Bria and Brian had visited my new hip hop church, Freedom Fellowship in Pacoima, California. He and Monica appeared quite cozy for a divorced couple. They both beamed as Soni reported that eighteen year Bria had just graduated from high school. Meanwhile, a very quiet and distinguished sixteen year old Brian rounded out the picture of a happy family.
Having known Soni for at least twenty five years, I flashed back to his commitment to his older sons (Julian and Muppet) when they were young and Soni was the producer of the Tom Joyner count down show “On The Move.” That’s where we met for weekly sessions of writing and selling comedic bits and song parodies to add comic relief to Tom’s weekend show, and some of the bits made it on to Tom’s morning shows when he commuted as the Fly Jock! Our names were not known to the general public, but long before Tom blew up to iconic proportions, we were the bit players hired by Westwood One and then Cutler Productions to bring on the funny! Each week Brad Sanders, Myra J, Mary Flowers, Greg Eagles, Doug Starks, Darryl Littleton, Buddy Lewis, Roxanne Reese, Joe Torry, Licia Shearer, Rusty Cundieff, Joey Gaynor and yours truly were among a select crew of participants who got paid for our hilarious concoctions. However, sometimes the bits (or comedic sketches) weren’t so funny when we came through the door. We had to pass Brad Sanders’ approval, which was round one and then we had to win the approval of Soni D, the astute engineer and comedic inspector. If Soni sat there and gave you a blank stare it was a no-go. If he smiled, the bit needed work and if he chuckled, it was $50 a bit, up to 5 bits per session!
Soni D’s entrepreneurial spirit was in full bloom even in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When he conceived Soni’s Funnies as a comedy service for morning radio, I was a shoe in because I could write, do character voices and sing song parodies. From there our brotherly and sisterly relationship began. Soni’s oldest children Julian and Kevin Jr. were elementary school aged. I’d traipse out to his home in Woodland Hills, where a newly divorced Soni was cooking dinner in the kitchen, producing and mixing in the studio and being a full time father. I remember when he longed to be in love again, and soon after he met Monica, a shy young woman who stole his heart. They married and along came Bria and Brian. I never shall forget, it was 1997 and I was desperately hoping to hold on to my contract with Armed Forces Radio. To be competitive, I invested in a semi-automated control panel and Soni D helped me build my digital radio studio at home, when such technology was brand new. He and Bria (still in diapers) came to my home while Soni D manually transferred 1500 songs from CD’s to mp3 files. And when I was going through my own divorce, it was Soni D who stood up to any untruth that he heard about me, my character or my heart’s intentions. It was then that I truly knew that I had a brother and a friend for life.
(Pictured in Memphis with Myron Mays, Lawrence Wayne, Elvin Brown, Jr., LaRita Shelby, the late broadcast legend Chuck Scruggs, Barry Ford and DJ Soni D)
In 2011 when I was reuniting with my own father, I needed to get from Memphis to Mississippi. Soni D offered to drive me and my son. We had a ball on the open road laughing, listening to Soni D’s mixes and jonin’ on each other. Make no mistake about it, I am funny and can hang with the best of them. I paid for the gas and bought Soni a big ole bag of Krystal burgers and we headed off down the highway. Soni D also joined us for a meeting of minds in Memphis. I wanted the broadcasters that I knew to connect with each other. We met at Piccadilly along with radio personalities Myron Mays and Barry Ford, Lawrence Wayne of the Memphis Black Writer’s Conference and Southern Film Festival and my long time friend and other brother Elvin Brown (who was seeking to get into voice overs). Mr. Chuck Scruggs (former GM of WKNO-now deceased also) and Soni D were walking encyclopedias when it came to the radio industry. Soni and I also hung out at my old stomping ground WDIA, and we were newly introduced to Craten Armmer at WQOX in Memphis.
(Pictured at WQOX FM Memphis with Chris ‘Ya Baby Boy’ Malone. 2011)
Soni D, my son and I had a memorable and hilarious visit to Willie Mitchell’s studio one night on Lauderdale Street in Memphis, right down the street from my grandma’s house. When Soni was in LA, he spoke of his Memphis roots, but now it was relevant, seeing that he knew the same landmarks that I did. That night we laughed at one story after another with Willie Mitchell’s kids. I tried to spell out for my son the significance of the ancient organ that sat near the walk way, explaining that this was the organ that created the famous rifts in Al Green’s hit songs. With Soni D, it was always about laughter, about music, about radio and about striving for the next great opportunity that was going to make the difference in our career.
The first Sunday in June 2013 Soni D was one of few who responded to my many invitations to experience our new hip hop church Freedom Fellowship, just outside of Los Angeles. I told him to bring the kids, but was surprised to see Monica. She looked great! Not a shy young bride anymore but a fully grown woman with two amazing kids beside them. A few days later I spoke with Soni and he confirmed that he was getting his family back together. A couple of weeks after that he called asking for my assistance with Bria’s job hunt. I said that I would, and responded with news of Brian’s great progress on another paid assignment that I got for him. We laughed, and joked and I assured him that I would look out for the kids in any way that I could. Soni was on his way back to L. A., back to his wife, his life and a new spirit of livelihood for his syndicated programs Gospel Reflections and Soni D’s Mix shows.
July 1st at 3:20 pm, it all ended on Highway 58, in a car crash outside the town of Hinkley, California as he and Monica returned from Las Vegas. They had just remarried. Here’s the truth that I know about Soni D. He lived and (and possibly died) going at full speed, plunging ahead to get to the next mark, the next goal, the next opportunity to move him and his family forward. I know him, because I am him. The truth about Soni D is that any one thing could have made the difference, the big difference. Many of us were in the mix and on the road to success. Some made it big, really big like Tom Joyner. Some, like me, remained in the camp for a long time, and some are still trying to find our way. Soni was good at what he did, damn good! He was a born visionary and an entrepreneur. He loved his kids to the bone, all of his kids! And he loved Monica. She renewed her love for him and they resealed their vows before God. How many men have died beside the woman that they love? Whatever was once wrong, they made it right. They reconciled for a new day. For those in power, who can say yes, who can approve budgets, who can answer phone calls, who can take a chance on the other guy, let the life of Soni D inspire you. For those that quietly supported Soni D’s efforts, thank you. The truth about Soni D is that he is gone too soon and he left a legacy. Hopefully the biggest truth that he left is a challenge for us to wake up and show love for one another each day, in the way that we have shown the love for this brother after he has gone.
Soni’s wife Monica still needs our prayers and support. She is recovering from broken legs, a broken arm, cracked ribs, a fractured hip and punctured lung. From a hospital bed, she is doing her best to care for her children and see that her husband is honored in all of the places where he was loved. Soni’s younger children are managing well considering all that they have been through. Urgent donations are needed and may be sent to http://www.cooldjsonid.com. Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission Executive Director Johnnie Walker waged a major and much appreciated funding effort in Memphis that showed a historic turn out of DJ’s, fans and mix masters. Prayers are extended to Soni D’s entire family. Service details are still pending in Los Angeles and Chicago. The family thanks everyone for all of the love and support that they have been shown.
Below are remarks from other industry friends:
“Kevin “DJ Soni D” Allen was many things to so many people whose lives he touched during his 51 years on this planet. He was a gentle giant from Chi Town who stood and walked tall amongst those in the broadcasting industry. He was also a loving husband, father and friend who shared his life, talent and his love of music with the entire world. DJ Soni D meant so much to all of us here at 88.5 FM as he touched us all in a special way. DJ Soni D loved life and the human spirit. He volunteered his services freely and shared his knowledge of radio production and syndication with our Broadcasting students and was an active member of the SCS Telecommunications Center Advisory Board. He also shared the “Gospel Reflections” radio program with us that aired on our station Sunday mornings from 7-9am. Our broadcasting program, our students and our station benefited so much from the knowledge DJ Soni D brought to the table and we were indeed blessed to have him as member of our broadcast family. We all loved DJ Soni D, but God loved him more and called him home to fill the heavenly airwaves with his brand of music. DJ Soni D will be greatly missed; and on behalf of the SCS Broadcasting students and the entire staff here at the Shelby County Schools Telecommunications Center (WQOX/88.5FM & C19/TV) we’d like to send our heartfelt condolences to the entire Allen Family.”
Craten M. Armmer, Sr. General Manager
“Soni D was a dear brother and friend of mine for over 20 years. He was a true man of God. He loved his family but most of all he knew and loved The Lord with all of his heart. Soni had a big heart that touched the hearts of many in a big way! We were created to serve others and that’s what Soni did. He served many with his talent and time. People would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon and Soni’s life was a sermon; and it spoke volumes!
Yes, many loved Soni D but God loved him more! Soni has finished his course and kept his faith. Soni is at peace because I know that he heard the words he shared with me, that he looked forward to hearing one day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”-Matthew 25:21
Soni D is gone but will never be forgotten. Rest in peace my dear brother, rest in peace.”
-Minister Cheryl Golden also known as “CeCe McGhee” the “Angel of Inspiration” on Praise 103.9FM-Philadelphia
I don’t know quite how to process the sickening sadness I’m feeling now. I just got news that one of my oldest TRUEST friends has recently passed, a victim of a car accident. Soni D (Kevin Allen) was one of those larger than life individuals one couldn’t help but like. A fixture in the radio industry, he worked with everyone from Wendy Williams to Patti Labelle. He was a great producer and mix master DJ. We met in the early 90′s when I wrote and performed comedy bits for Tom Joyner’s radio show. He was always supportive of my VO career and produced my reels and even set up my home studio. Just a genuine, honest guy who was always out there in the mix getting it DONE! Always got his hustle on… I will miss you my brother.
Actor, voice over artist
Soni D was known for his knowledge and ability as a production engineer and radio producer. He was always acquiring knowledge about new technologies as reflected in his work. His greatest asset was his warm personality and that billion dollar smile. I’m glad to know that Soni D’s kids will be carrying his work forward. And even though he’s greatly missed he will never be far from us.
Our Prayers Continue For Monica And The Family,