Friday, March 28, 2014

From Backing Singer to Recording Star

Irresponsible disc jockeys and television programs mistakenly refer to artists as "overnight stars", when this is nearly never the case.  We hear songs on the radio and it sounds so easy to score a big hit that most people have no idea how difficult it is, as is any career in the arts. 

For every person that makes it as a successful recording artist, there are a million or more that don't.  So there's your odds of becoming successful in the music business, defined as being able to take care of future generations financially:  about a million to one.

If you're considering such a career, you should also know that hard work alone doesn't do it.  You have to surround yourself with music professionals you can trust, from backing musicians or songwriters to managers, publicists, talent agents and promoters.  Most of the time, artists hire inexperienced, dishonest, or greedy people who end up ruining their career instead of helping to advance it.

Yep, the road to fame is fraught with obstacles and booby traps.  But below, we feature some of the more prominent stars who began their career as backing vocalists for other famous singers.  Often, these are the breaks needed to make it on their own.  Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, for example, can choose anyone they want to sing vocals for their songs--when they choose you, that says a lot!


Mary J. Blige
Blige is of course The #37 Female Artist of the Rock Era*, but before that, she sang backing vocals for Father MC on "I'll Do 4 (sic) U (sic)" (#20 in 1991).
Mariah Carey
In the recently revealed The Top 100 Female Artists of the Rock Era*, Carey was #1*, but before her "overnight sensation" (and she's probably one of the closest stars ever to that distinction), she sang backing vocals for Brenda K. Starr.



Cher is yet another of Rock's Famous Females to begin her career as a backing vocalist.  The voice of The #22 Female Artist of the Rock Era* is included on some famous songs, too; among them, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers and "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes.


Sheryl Crow
The #35 Female Artist of the Rock Era* also began her career as a backing vocalist, singing for Michael Jackson on his "Bad" tour of 1989.


Whitney Houston
The amazing #3 Female Artist of the Rock Era* began her professional career at the tender age of 14 singing backing vocals for the Michael Zager Band.  She also sang background vocals for Chaka Khan on "I'm Every Woman" and on Aretha Franklin's Gospel tour.


John Legend
Before becoming a successful recording artist, Legend sang backing vocals for Kanye West, Jay-Z, and most famously on "You Don't Know My Name" by Alicia Keys.
Melissa Manchester
Manchester, The #92 Female Artist of the Rock Era*, began her career as a member of Bette Midler's "Harlettes" from 1971-72.

Richard Marx
Prior to becoming one of The Top Artists Out of the Gate*, and setting a record for being the first solo artist to reach the Top Five with each of his first seven releases, Richard was a backing vocalist for Lionel Richie.  Marx sang on the hits "You Are", "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Running with the Night".  He also sang backing vocals for Madonna, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross.



Bruno Mars

Bruno is one of the world's hottest recording artists today, but he too got his start as a backing vocalist for B.o.B.


Luther Vandross
The great Luther Vandross was a hard worker to earn his fame, singing backing vocals for Stevie Wonder (notably on "Part-Time Lover"), Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer ("No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)", Diana Ross ( So Close"), Roberta Flack, Carly Simon ("De Bat (Fly in Me Face)"), Bette Midler (Thighs and Whispers album), David Bowie (Young Americans album), Ben E. King, Chaka Khan, Sister Sledge ("We Are Family"), and the Average White Band.

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