This Former Convict Turned His Life Around. Now He Writes Uplifting Music to Inspire Young People
by James Coulter
Sometimes to get the masses out of the street and into the church, you need to go into the streets. That’s been the driving philosophy behind the street gospel of artist Don Solomon Donaldson.
His songs contain street rhythm combined with the transcendental spiritual messages of hymns. Together, they create music that uplifts the children of the streets, encouraging them to seek a higher purpose in life and strive to do better.
When Donaldson shares his message, it’s never in a pandering manner. When he sings how today’s youth can do better, it’s always straight from his heart and based on his own experiences. As a troubled youth who spent time in prison and inevitably turned his life around for the better, he wants his music and experience to inspire others to set their lives straight, delivering messages he wished he heard as a boy.
“I am not afraid to go into the streets and tell people about hope and God and that they can change,” he said. “There is hope no matter the circumstances they are in, and anybody can change.”
By all accounts, Robert Andre Donaldson should have grown up to be an upstanding citizen. He was raised in a Christian home with a family of pastors and clergy. He grew up in Lake Wales with his mother, but circumstances had him live with his grandfather in Babson Park.
Despite being raised in a Godly environment, Donaldson grew up to be rude, disobedient, and unruly. His wild life as a troubled teen led him down a dark path where he ended serving time in juvenile detention and prison.
His older cousin, Justifi Donaldson, was fortunate enough to grow up taking the straight and narrow path by dedicating his life to God and becoming ordained as a minister. Seeing his younger cousin passing through the wide gate and down the narrow path that leads to destruction disheartened him. So, one Easter weekend, Justifi visited Andre in jail and shared with him the Word of God. As a result, Andre was successfully led to Christ and determined to turn his life around.
“Since then, we have been walking closer,” Justifi said. “For the past seven years, it has been a complete turnaround in his life, in his choices and decision-making, in his relationship with God, and having a will, not just a relationship, but a will to change.”
During his time in prison, Donaldson re-committed his life to God and passed his time by studying his Bible, dictionary, and thesaurus and using his new knowledge to write poems and music. By the time he was released, he had written 1,000 songs.
Donaldson had grown up with a musically-inclined family, with many members singing in the choir and performing instruments. However, he did not learn he had musical talent until he enrolled in the musical programs in juvenile detention.
Since then, he combined his newfound talent with his rekindled walk with God to write music to not only spiritually uplift others but also inspire and uplift himself. His message was as much to convince him as well as others that a better path was possible.
“Music has been my escape,” he said. “It helps me from going back to the streets.”
While incarcerated, he obtained his GED, and upon his release, he had earned his driver’s license. He then rekindled his relationships with his family and girlfriend and became employed. Whatever money he had leftover from his rent and bills, he invested into a studio. He went through several studios and started recording his music.
His journey soon opened new doors for him and provided him with better opportunities to share his music. Since then, he has recorded several songs and albums, performed the opening act for two-time Grammy-award winner, Canton Jones (Cajo), and filmed a video with Mr. Jones that was recently released on Nov. 1.
“God helped me find a way and seek out a way to make the music for the betterment of the community and the youth,” he said. “So sticking with it is hard. It has not been easy. It has been hard. There have been many times where I wanted to give up,and so, I think every person who has come from where I came from, they have a temptation to give up and go back to what they used to be doing, because, right now, it has been a struggle…I am not wanting for nothing, so I want to keep pushing with what little I do have.”
This year will be seven years since he was released from prison. Seeing how his life has changed from the moment he accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior in his jail to where he is now is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It is the inspiration he wishes to impart unto others.
“I give them inspiring words of hope and tell them that they can change also, but to change, they cannot get out and continue to do the things they did that got them in there in prison or jail,” he said. “I owe it to all the positive people who helped me…and to God, all the people who kept telling me to keep going and who believed me. I cannot give myself all of the credit.”
His cousin, Justifi, watched him walk his life path from a troubled teen and convict to a changed man and accomplished musician. If anyone’s music has the power to change the world and inspire millions, it’s him, he asserts.
“Right now, he is the hottest thing in Florida,” Justifi said. “His music, you gravitate toward it because you can hear his pain and struggle, you can also hear his victory as well…It will enlighten. It will encourage. It will inspire. It will strengthen and give you something to strive for and thank God for, to have you analyzing your own life and you can relate to it…and I think once the world hears it, it can change the world, it can change the vibrations of the whole earth realm.”
To learn more about Don Solomon Donaldson and his music, visit his website at: https://www.donsolomondonaldson.com/