Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Anita Baker, The #60 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Anita Baker was born in Toledo Ohio.  At the age of two, her mother abandoned her, and Anita was raised by a foster family in Detroit.  When Baker was twelve, her foster parents died and her foster sister raised her afterwards.  When Anita was 16, she began singing R&B at nightclubs in Detroit.  After her first appearance, bandleader David Washington invited her to join his funk group, Chapter 8.

Baker joined the group in 1975, going on a frantic touring schedule which resulted in a recording contract with Ariola Records in 1979.  The group's self-titled release was released, but after Arista Records took over the label, they dropped Chapter 8 from its roster, convinced the lead singer, Baker, didn't have "star potential".

Baker returned to Detroit, working as a waitress and as a receptionist of a law firm.  In 1982, Otis Smith, a former associate of Ariola, called Baker and convinced her to begin a solo career on his Beverly Glen label.  Baker released her debut album, The Songstress, in 1983.  "Angel" reached the Top 5 on the R&B chart.  

But Baker wasn't happy, complaining she hadn't received any royalties for her work.  The matter had to be resolved in court, with Baker winning the right to pursue another recording contract.  She signed with Elektra in 1985, and began work on her next album.  

The following year, Baker released a masterpiece of an album called Rapture.  It made her a beloved superstar.  While the initial single, "Watch Your Step" was unsuccessful, "Sweet Love" caught on in a big way.  It landed at #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #3 R&B and #8 overall in the U.S. and peaked at #10 in Ireland.  

"Sweet Love" captured the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song, and the album was honored with a Grammy for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.  Three other hit singles helped the album become a huge seller.  "Caught Up In The Rapture" was extremely underrated (#37 overall), but adults recognized the great song, helping it hit #9 on the AC chart.

Adults once again showed better taste with Anita's other singles from the album.  Baker hit #6 AC and #8 on the R&B chart with the great song "Same Ole Love (365 Days A Year)", another highly underrated song on the "popular" charts at #44.

Baker had another huge hit with "No One In The World", despite Billboard's insistence that it wasn't a "popular" song.  It peaked at #5 on the R&B chart and #9 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  

In 1987, Baker collaborated with the Winans on the song "Ain't No Need To Worry", which earned Baker a third Grammy, this time for Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo, Group, Choir or Chorus.  

Baker's sophomore release also contained two other great tracks that are among The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  This is "You Bring Me Joy".

Baker toured extensively to promote the album, and by 1988, Rapture had sold over eight million copies worldwide, five million in the United States alone.  This is Baker's great song "Mystery".

Baker proved with her next release that she was not a fleeting star but one of enduring success.  The album Giving You the Best That I Got was a #1 album and sold over five million copies worldwide, three million in the U.S.  The title song hit #1 on both the AC and R&B charts and peaked at #3 overall.  It earned Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, and was nominated for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

"Just Because" shot up to #1 on the R&B chart, #4 Adult Contemporary and reached #14 overall.  It earned Baker another Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.

"Lead Me Into Love" became another Top 10 R&B hit.  

In 1990, Baker became more involved in songwriting and production, and she began introducing jazz elements into her sound.  The result was the album Compositions, and the Grammy Awards honored the entire LP with the award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.  The single "Talk To Me" became Anita's seventh Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit in five years.

"Soul Inspiration" just missed the Top 10 on the AC chart at #11.

Compositions went Gold, but after a third straight tour, Baker took a break and focused on her family.  This decision won her considerable respect from her fans.

After appearing on Frank Sinatra's Duets album, Baker returned with the album Rhythm of Love in 1994.  While "Body and Soul" peaked at #36, Anita was nominated for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.  

Baker was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that year.  "I Apologize" won Baker her eighth Grammy Award (once again for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance), and helped the album sell two million copies (it was also nominated for Best R&B Album), giving Baker her fourth consecutive Platinum album.  

Baker toured extensively to promote the album, but, unsatisfied with Elektra's end of the deal, transferred to Atlantic Records in 1996.  She combined with James Ingram for the song "When You Love Someone", which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Collaboration with Vocals.  But Baker's studio recordings from the period were ruined by random popping noises from inferior recording equipment.  Baker filed a lawsuit, and she was let go from Atlantic without any material being released.  

Reaction from her fans at concerts inspired Baker to sign a new recording deal with Blue Note Records.  In 2004, Anita released the album My Everything.  Despite a ten-year absence from the charts, My Everything reached #4 on the album chart and went Gold.  "You're My Everything"  helped Baker earn the 14th and 15th Grammy nominations of her fabulous career for Best R&B Traditional Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album.

Baker released the album Christmas Fantasy in 2005 and earned a Grammy nomination for the song "Christmas Time Is Here".  In 2006, Baker sang the National Anthem at the World Series, and did it again in 2012. 

In 2012, Baker released her cover of the Tyrese hit "Lately".  She appeared at the Grammys, where "Lately" was nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance.  

Anita  received the Legend Award from the Soul Train Music Awards in 2010.  Seventeen Grammy nominations, eight Grammy Awards, and a catalog teeming with great tracks have made Anita Baker one of the greatest female singers the world has known.  She has sold 12 million albums in the U.S. alone, and has scored 11 Popular hits and 25 Adult Contemporary hits, with 12 reaching the Top 10 and two number one songs.

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