@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
11 May 2008
Click an image to enlarge.
Anita Baker was born in Toledo, Ohio, U.S.A, 26 January 1958. At
the age of 12, she began singing in the gospel choir at her grandfathers
At age 16, Baker formed the band Humanity with school friends;
she would also perform with other local bands at the time. David
Washington (bass player from the Detroit based group Chapter 8)
approached Baker suggesting that she attend an audition for lead
singer of the group. She did attend the audition and subsequently
joined the group. Chapter 8 were signed to Ariola Records and released
the album “Chapter 8” in 1979, however, Ariola were
suffering financial difficulties and were eventually bought by Arista
Records. Arista did not renew the contract with Chapter 8 stating
that ‘Anita Baker could not sing’.
Baker had to pay the bills. She worked as a cook and waited tables
in a bar before landing a job as the receptionist in a law firm.
In 1982, Otis Smith (the man behind Chapter 8’s contract with
Ariola) formed the Beverly Glen label. It would take a few telephone
calls from Smith offering the right figure to persuade Baker to
leave the relative security of full time ‘normal’ employment
and sign to his label.
In 1983, Baker’s debut “Songstress” was released.
Though this jazz / soul gem was not a major commercial success at
the time, “Songstress” was well received by soul / jazz
aficionados and was given ‘rare groove’ status. “Songstress”
would be re-packaged and re-released many years later on the Elektra
In 1986, Baker signed to Elektra Records. Here she would request
production assistance from old chum Chapter 8 band member Michael
J Powell. The result of this collaboration would be the US platinum
selling, double Grammy award winning album “Rapture”.
In 1987, Baker and Powell produced her successful follow up “Givin
you the best that I got”.
Her third Elektra album, “Compositions” was released
in 1990. Powell again produced this album, but this time Baker would
become more involved in both the production and song writing process,
writing 7 of the 9 tracks. “Compositions” was certified
Platinum selling status and received a Grammy Award for Best Female
R&B vocal performance in1991.
At this point in her career, Baker decided to divert her energy
towards her personal life. She suffered two miscarriages in the
last few years, so took a well-earned rest from the music business.
In January 1993, Baker and Walter Bridgforth Jr. (her husband) were
blessed with their first child (Walter Baker Bridgewater). Baker
returned to the studio just 5 months after the birth of her son
to record her fifth solo album “Rhythm Of Life”. During
recording she fell pregnant again; much of the album would be recorded
at her home studio.
The eagerly anticipated “Rhythm Of Life was released in September
1994. Baker would produce much of this album but would also invite
contributions from other iconic producers such as Arif Mardin, George
Duke, Tommy, LiPuma and Barry Eastmond. “Rhythm Of Life”
earned Baker a Grammy Award for Best Female vocal performance in
1995 (“I Apologise”).
After “Rhythm Of Life, Baker again decided to concentrate
on family life. The loss of her mother in1996 and her father two
years later would obviously take their tole. She also had to deal
with contractual issues with Elektra Records. She would eventually
leave Elektra and sign a deal with Atlantic Records.
Baker began working on her new album in 2000; however, technical
issues with recording equipment after recording meant she would
have had to start the process from scratch. She ended up filing
a suit in the US District Court in Detroit against Zomba Recording
Corp who allegedly supplied her with faulty recording equipment.
In 2004, Baker signed to Blue Note on a two-album release deal.
As well as celebrated live performances, Baker would contribute
on albums released by jazz giants Dave Koz and Cyrus Chestnut.
Music lovers always want to hear ‘more’, especially
from artists who have a proven track record for producing ‘quality
real music’. However, such music takes time to create. I guess
Mrs Anita Baker Bridgeforth will let us have more when she is ready.
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.