CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "Disco Lady". "Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone". " Who’s Makin Love?"
All songs R&B singer Johnnie Taylor made famous. There’s no disputing his musical talent. But his daughter Fonda Bryant says just because he was a great entertainer doesn’t mean he was a great father.
“I think my mom said when she told him she was pregnant that was the last time she saw him.”
Fonda never met him before he died and didn’t even have a conversation with him until she tracked him down and called him at the age of 28.
“He said 'hello' and I said who I was and the first thing he said was 'I know you’re my daughter.'”
But Fonda was only declared an heir after his death, after DNA tests and after a lengthy court battle with the six children her father recognized. The case is the subject of an investigation on Discovery Channel's show “The Will: Family Secrets Revealed”.
Fonda hopes her story serves as proof of the importance of fathers. She says growing up without one led her to bouts with low self esteem, depression and constant financial struggles.
“I started working at 14 at my junior high school and never looked back," she said. "And I think about that sometimes of what I would have had even if it was just the financial backing. I could have gone to school and made better grades and been a better student and gone off to college.”
She worries that out of wedlock births are glamorized in today’s society and people aren’t taking their parental responsibilities seriously.
“Because in an imperfect world we can’t help how we come here. Parents can but children can’t.”
After paying the court costs and her father’s bills, each of the nine children received less than $5,000 from the estate. But twice a year they receive royalty checks that can range anywhere from just over a dollar to several thousand dollars. And while she wishes part of her life could have been different, she can look back and see that her experiences also shaped her in a positive way.
“But it also made me a stronger person and it made me a better mother in raising my own son and for that I’m grateful .”