For many years, Keisha Mimms—known as Keisha D—and her soulful, emphatic performances have wowed local audiences. Therefore, it’s no surprise that for the second time in three years, our readers have selected Keisha D as the Best Local Musician in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll.
Audiences can catch Mimms performing at the Palm Springs Cultural Center every Sunday—and she’ll soon be performing a special show featuring music by Tina Turner and Chaka Khan. A Tribute to Women of Soul will take place at the Cultural Center at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18.
During a recent interview, Mimms explained how the show came to be.
“Every Sunday, I’m at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, doing Soulful Sundays, and in talking with Nunzio Sisto and Michael Green (of the Cultural Center), they wanted to do something special, kind of an offshoot of the regular Soulful Sunday,” Mimms said. “We came up with this series that I’m going to be doing called A Tribute to Women of Soul. We’re going to take two iconic women, and I’m going to perform the songs of those women, so I picked Chaka Khan and Tina Turner to start. The next one will probably be Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin.”
Both Turner and Khan resonate with Mimms in special ways.
“I really have always admired Tina Turner,” Mimms said. “Her style, her delivery, her energy, her background of abuse—I suffered that in a past relationship while I was a musician and had a kind of kooky husband who didn’t want me to perform, and things of that nature. … I’ve always been drawn to her tenacity, and that she still went forward with her career and succeeded, regardless of him. She didn’t let any of that get her down, and she didn’t stop. A lot of women just stop and say, ‘Oh, well, I can’t do it,’ and she didn’t do that. She rose above.
“Chaka Khan, man, she’s just funky. She just has that funk, that soul, and I just wanted to start off with her, because she’s just near and dear to my heart. I love her style.”
At her Soulful Sundays shows, Keisha D serves as more than just a performer.
“Music for me is about love, and music for me is about community coming together, first and foremost,” Mimms said. “When people show up to my show, I’m there at the front door going, ‘Welcome. Come on in. How many? I’m gonna seat you,’ and they’re like, ‘Wait, what? You’re the star.’ I say, ‘No, I’m Keisha D, and this is my house right now, so come on in.’ … It’s taken off really well. We get a lot of people from out of town who have heard about the show, which always just floors me.”
Mimms, who has been open about her struggles with pancreatic cancer and autoimmune disease in recent years, is one of the most humble performers I have ever met. I believe that this aspect, combined with the depth of her talent, is why she is so appreciated.
“You have to be humble, and you have to be thankful, and grateful, and kind,” Mimms said. “I don’t take this for granted; I don’t take any of it for granted. I don’t take me even being here for granted. I fought to keep going. I fought to stay here, and I’m working to get healthy and get back to things. I’m just always so grateful. … There are times I don’t want to do it, or I’m tired, or I’m not feeling that great, and then the next thing you know, I’m like, ‘What do you mean, you don’t want to do it? Of course you want to do it!’ Once I’m there, it’s everything.”
When I asked Mimms about her health, she said she is doing “pretty good.”
“I’m a patient at DAP (Health), and those doctors there have just been dead-on with keeping me going, watching my numbers, and making sure I stay on point and stay healthy,” she said. “It’s just really been a blessing to have DAP there for me. We’ve had other conversations that weren’t so good. … I’ll always have to fight with the disease a little bit, but at this point, I’m pretty stable. Nothing’s metastasized. Everything is going quite well, actually.”
I didn’t tell Mimms about her Best Local Musician win until the end of our phone call. She was moved to tears, but managed to say: “I just try to give a great show and to make people enjoy what I’m doing.”
Michael Green, executive director at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, is a huge fan of Keisha D.
“I’ve known Keisha for a number of years, and I’ve always really loved her music,” Green said during a recent phone interview. … “We added her in February to do a Sunday, 5 to 7:30 program for us, which we’ve called Soulful Sundays, and we’ve been doing it ever since. We did it all through the summer, we’re still doing it—and every Sunday, it just is packed.”
When I told Green about Mimms’ Best Local Musician honors, he had nothing but good things to say about her.
“I’m totally not surprised. She’s just such a dynamo, and she’s such a great musician,” he said. “I think it’s very exciting for her, and we’re thrilled that she’s part of our program. I’ve known her a long time, and I just adore her. She’s a great performer to work with.
“The nice thing about Keisha is … she doesn’t just do the same show every time, so you’re always in for something new. We’re one of the few places where she plays with a full band; most other places, she plays with tracks. It’s nice to be able to go and see that whole group performing and backing her up. That’s part of what really makes it unique.”
Green and Mimms worked together on planning the Tribute to Women of Soul event.
“We had to close our upstairs lounge because we were renovating it, and so we moved everybody downstairs into Theater 3, our live theater space,” Green said. “When Keisha and Leanna (Rodgers, who performs every Tuesday) went downstairs, they wanted to do something with the theater as a backdrop, and have lights and sound and movement behind them. We just got the idea that: Wouldn’t it be fun to put Keisha back into our large theater, and have her do a full show? We initially started talking about just Tina Turner, and then Keisha said, ‘What if I kind of keep the theme of the women of soul, and mix it up with Tina Turner and Chaka Khan?’ … We want to think that it might be the first of several shows focusing on the women of soul.”
Green said he’s very much looking forward to the first A Tribute to Women of Soul show.
“This is probably the biggest show she’s done locally in a long time, so we’re really excited about it,” Green said. “She’s going to have a band and backup dancers. It’s going to be an exciting show.”
A Tribute to Women of Soul featuring Keisha D will take place at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $35 to $55. For more tickets or more information, visit psculturalcenter.org.