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Baker, Anita

Anita Baker

Singer, songwriter, producer

For the Record

Enticed Back to Music After Stint at Law Firm

Finished Rapture With Own Funds

Felt the Sting of Criticism

Established Bridgforth Foundation

Selected discography

Sources

Fear doesnt overcome me, singer Anita Baker told Ms. I say if its going to be done, lets do it. Lets not put it in the hands of fate. Lets not put it in the hands of someone who doesnt know me. I know me best. This determination has not only allowed Baker to weather early struggles with recording industry exploitation and later media battles, it has also made her an accomplished artist of enormous popularity, with almost complete control over her creative projects.

Known for her three-octave vocal range and exceptional evocative power in the recording studio and onstage, Baker described her voice in Ebony as a tool that was given to me that would allow me to take care of myself and to rise above my beginnings. Baker grew up in inner-city Detroit, where she became aware of her vocal powers while singing in small church choirs. As a child she idolized gospel great Mahalia Jackson and as a teenager became enamored of the sounds of jazz singers Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. While these women continue to inspire Baker, she identifies her aunt, Lois Landry, a beauty salon owner with whom Baker lived from infancy to adulthood, as the individual whose love and encouragement most allowed her to develop her talent. Baker dedicated her landmark recording, 1986s Rapture, to Landry.

Although Landry gave consistent emotional support to Baker, she and other family members worried about the practicality of Bakers quest to become a singer. They encouraged her to attend community college and get a nine-to-five job when she graduated from high school in 1976. Baker enrolled briefly in community college, then quit to begin singing with bands in Detroit nightclubs. At the Cabaret Lounge, on the citys east side, David Washington, bassist for Detroit funk group Chapter 8, heard Baker and asked her to join the group. Baker agreed and spent the next several years touring with Chapter 8 and recording for Ariola Records. Although the album yielded one hit, I Just Want to Be Your Girl, in 1980 Ariola chose not to renew the bands contract. At the time, Ariola executives said they were dropping Chapter 8 because Bakers singing was substandard. Baker later concluded that this assessment was most likely Ariolas attempt to mask its imminent demise; hindsight aside, she was devastated by the companys judgment. She decided to take her familys advice and gave up singing altogether in favor of traditional employment. Waiting tables in a bar for a short time, she soon found a job as a receptionist at a Detroit law firm, Quin and Budajh.

For the Record

Born January 26, 1958, in Toledo, OH. Raised in Detroit, MI, by an aunt, Lois Landry (owner of a beauty salon), and uncle, Walter Landry (an auto worker); married Walter Bridgforth, Jr. (a marketing specialist), 1988; children: Walter Baker Bridgforth. Education: Attended community college in Detroit.

Singer, songwriter, producer. Performed with various bands in Detroit nightclubs, c. 1976; with group Chapter 8, toured and recorded for Ariola Records, late 1970s; waited tables and worked as a receptionist for Detroit law firm Quin and Budajh, c. 1980; released first solo album, The Songstress, Beverly Glen Records, 1983; signed with Elektra Records, served as executive producer for first Elektra release, Rapture, 1986; toured with Luther Vandross, 1988; performed at inauguration of president George Bush, 1989, and at Montreaux Jazz Festival. Created Bridgforth Foundation.

Selected awards: Grammy Awards for best female vocalist, rhythm and blues, for Rapture, and song of the year, rhythm and blues, for Sweet Love, and American Music Awards for favorite female vocalist, soul/rhythm and blues, and favorite album, soul/rhythm and blues, all 1987; Grammy Awards for best rhythm and blues song and best female vocal, rhythm and blues, 1989, for Giving You the Best That I Got; Grammy Award for best female vocalist, rhythm and blues, for Compositions, and American Music Award for favorite female vocalist, soul/rhythm and blues, both 1990.

Addresses: Home Grosse Pointe, MI. Record company Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

Enticed Back to Music After Stint at Law Firm

Baker had not performed in a year and a half when she received an offer from Otis Smith, a former Ariola executive who had formed Beverly Glen Records. After Smith promised her an apartment and a salary matching what Baker was earing at Quin and Budajh, she agreed to move to Los Angeles and record a solo album for Beverly Glen. The Songstress was released in 1983, sold more than 300,000 copies, and was on Billboards black music charts for more than a year. The record included the hit singles No More Tears and Angels.

The treatment Beverly Glen dished out was no better than Ariolas, however: Baker did not receive royalties from The Songstress. The label claimed the album hadnt made enough money to cover recording costs and continually delayed release of a new Baker album. When Baker informed the company that she was leaving, executives threatened to sue any company that signed her. Ignoring these threats, Baker hired Sherwin Bash as her manager, a man she told Ms. was as old as God and had managed everyone from the Carpenters to Neil Diamond. Bash arranged a deal with Elektra Entertainment, the president of which, Bob Krasnow, was willing to go to court with Beverly Glen. Baker signed with Elektra after a long court battle, with permission to work as executive producer on her first Elektra release, Rapture.

Finished Rapture With Own Funds

Enlisting the production assistance of Michael Powell, guitarist for Chapter 8, Baker threw herself into the project. Resolving not to squander what she saw as her chance to finally prove she could succeed, Baker personally paid for recording costs greatly in excess of Elektras budget; Rapture was released in 1986. The record won two Grammy awards in 1987, and by 1988 it had sold 5 million copies. Spinning off two hit singles, Sweet Love and You Bring Me Joy, Rapture earned Baker an invitation to perform at George Bushs inaugural festivities. She also appeared at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival, accompanied by jazz luminaries including David Sanborn on sax, Freddie Washington on bass, and Al Jarreaus rhythm section, all under the musical direction of the esteemed George Duke.

In 1988 Elektra released Bakers Giving You the Best That I Got. Like Rapture a collection of soul and R & B love songs, the record revealed Bakers strategy of sticking with a winning formula. Although several reviewers commented that the songs Baker chose for Giving You the Best That I Got were inadequate vehicles for her richly varied voice, the album was a respectable success, selling over three million copies, winning a Grammy, and eliciting a three-month tour with R & B superstar Luther Vandross.

With the triumph of Bakers first two Elektra albums came trouble with the media, which had begun to exploit Bakers personal life. Widespread coverage of Bakers 1988 miscarriage made healing from the traumatic event more difficult and forced Baker and her husband, IBM marketing specialist Walter Bridgforth, Jr., to retreat to Maui, Hawaii, for several weeks. Baker tried to remain positive about the unwanted publicity, stating in Ms., Since [the miscarriage] happened, hundreds of women have shared their experiences with me and let me know I wasnt alone. That was good.

The bad thing was having the whole world know. Families can suffer their problems and difficulties with each other and its not easy, but its multiplied a million times when everyone knows about it.

To avoid media intrusion into her personal life, Baker had not notified the press of her pregnancy. She has also consistently resisted media efforts to place her in opposition to other popular black female vocalists. In Ebony, Baker said she feels a sisterhood with these artists, referring to Oleta Adams as a complete artist, calling Vesta a bottomless pit of vocal dynamics, describing Regina Belle as awesome, and naming Whitney Houston as a super talent [who gets a] bum rap because shes at the top. Of phenomenon Mariah Carey, Baker said, I aint gonna lie, Im jealous!

Felt the Sting of Criticism

Despite this graciousness, Baker did not escape the label bitchcommonly assigned to women who assert their professional autonomy in the music industry. She initially earned this dubious moniker when she reportedly chastised sound crews onstage when they made mistakes during her first tours. Baker has since acknowledged that she engaged in some unprofessional behavior. Luther Vandrosss comments on the Oprah Winfrey Show implying that he and Baker were in conflict during their 1988 tour perhaps added to Bakers reputation as a difficult performer. Baker, however, did not make any negative statements about Vandross, telling Ebony, I just wish that Luther and I had talked face-to-face, just once. We didnt.... We should have talked instead of our managers and promoters talking.

With Compositions, her 1990 Elektra release, Baker demonstrated that she had developed considerably as a songwriter while at the same time becoming adept at unraveling publicity snarls. She did not write most of the songs on Rapture or Giving You the Best That I Got, although this clearly was not because she lacked abilityshe received Grammys for co-writing Sweet Love and Giving You the Best That I Got. While working on Compositions Baker built on both the confidence of those two successes and the skills she had been gaining in music theory classes. I did a lot more writing on [Compositions] than I ever thought I would, she told Jet After my first Grammy for songwriting I had a little more confidence. I leaned into it a little bit more. Her efforts were well rewarded: In addition to selling 1.5 million copies and winning a 1991 Grammy, Compositions gave Baker a credibility in the jazz world that she had not previously enjoyed. [Compositions] got me the respect of people whose respect I wanted. Betty Carter will talk to me now, Baker joked in Ebony The album also gained recognition from other artists and the public for its warmth and immediacyas executive producer, Baker chose to record half the songs in live studio sessions with a rhythm section. Compositions included the hits Talk to Me, Whatever It Takes, and Fairy Tales.

Established Bridgforth Foundation

The aftermath of Compositions found Baker taking time off from recording and touring. In 1991 she enjoyed herself at home with her husband, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a short distance from her family in Detroit. Never idle, however, Baker continued to work on various projects. One that holds her attention is the Bridgforth Foundation, which Baker created and through which she has established a college endowment for a class of 25 children at Berry Elementary School, in Detroit. The Foundation also funds a program to educate young musicians in recording industry negotiation, teaching them how to promote their work in a commercially viable manner, retain competent attorneys, and control their finances. In establishing the program, Baker hoped to help other musicians learn from the missteps she had made during the early stages of her career.

Although Baker has enjoyed great success writing and singing varied and sophisticated love songs, she suggested in Ebony that new songs may broach topics other than love. There are things that go on in my life besides the battle of the sexes, said Baker. That is a part of life, but there are other things that are equally important. On January 19, 1993, Baker gave birth to an 8-lb., 5-oz. son whom she and her husband named Walter Baker Bridgforth.

Selected discography

(With Chapter 8) Chapter 8 (includes I Just Want to Be Your Girl), Ariola, 1980.

The Songstress (includes No More Tears and Angels), Beverly Glen, 1983.

Rapture (includes Sweet Love, Same Or Love, You Bring Me Joy, Been So Long, Watch Your Step, Mystery, and No One in the World), Elektra, 1986.

Giving You the Best That I Got (includes Priceless, Lead Me Into Love, and Giving You the Best That I Got), Elektra, 1988.

Compositions (includes Talk to Me, Perfect Love Affair, and Fairy Tales), Elektra, 1990.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1991.

Down Beat, October 1990.

Ebony, July 1989; July 1991.

High Fidelity, March 1989.

Jet, February 1988; February 1989; July 1989; October 1990.

Ms., June 1989.

New Yorker, March 20, 1989.

People, July 30, 1990.

Rolling Stone, October 23, 1986; December 15, 1988; August 9, 1990.

Stereo Review, March 1989; December 1990.

Variety, September 23, 1987; June 6, 1990.

Jenny Bleier

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"Baker, Anita." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Baker, Anita." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/baker-anita

Baker, Anita

Anita Baker


Singer



Anita Baker's rich and entirely distinctive alto voice has invited comparisons that range beyond the world of contemporary pop to include mention of such legendary jazz figures as Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. One of the leading performers in the field of sophisticated black adult pop in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she waged a successful battle to take control of her career and realize her artistic vision. In the 1990s, with her stardom assured, Baker cut back her activities to focus on home and motherhood—in the process revealing something of the intense difficulties she faced during her own youth. Baker took an extended hiatus from music beginning in 1994 but returned in 2004, picking up right where she left off.

Baker was born on January 26, 1958 in Toledo, Ohio, and grew up in Detroit's inner city. Her birth mother, a substance abuser who was only 16 when Anita was born, abandoned her when she was two years old, leaving her in the care of friend named Mary Lewis. Lewis died when Anita was 13, and an older sister in her adoptive family told her the truth about her past. Baker made the conscious decision to meet her birth mother for the first time.


Feelings of Abandonment

Much later, in an interview with Essence, Baker recalled how she tried to cope with this discovery: "That child believed her mother abandoned her," she said (referring to herself), "because there was something bad about her. Something terrible that made her unlovable. And until Walter [Baker's future husband], that is how I felt about me—that I was not good enough. Not good, period." Baker's new foster parents, beautician Lois Landry and her husband Walter, provided her with a stable environment that emphasized hard work and religion; she joined a church choir and identified with the deep voice of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. She began to sing secular music with her friends as well, and she was performing in Detroit clubs by the time she was 16. Baker attended a community college briefly, but a strong drive toward musical performance asserted itself, and she dropped out of school to front a funk ensemble called Chapter 8 whose bass player had heard her perform in an East Side nightclub.

Chapter 8 toured widely and landed a contract with Los Angeles-based Ariola Records. They had a minor hit with "I Just Want to Be Your Girl" in 1980, but disbanded after being dropped from the label, which was itself in dire financial straits. Label executives offered the assessment that Baker lacked star quality. Later on Baker correctly concluded that their criticism could have masked any number of reasons that might through no fault of their own led to the group's dismissal, but at the time she was shattered by the turn of events. She returned to Detroit, worked as a waitress, and then landed a stable position as a receptionist with a law firm whose members, understandably enough, liked the sound of her voice on the phone.


Baker was only with difficulty coaxed back into music by a former Ariola executive who started an independent label, Beverly Glen, in 1982 in Los Angeles. Promising to make Baker a star, he offered to match her receptionist's salary, and Baker finally agreed to come to Los Angeles. Her first solo album The Songstress, was released in 1983. The album attracted wide industry attention, yielded two R&B hit singles (the sultry "Angel" and the gospel-drenched "No More Tears," which did indeed bring to mind the voice of Mahalia Jackson), and it sold a respectable 300,000 copies. But Baker, still unschooled in the frequently unscrupulous ways of the music business, received no royalties from the album and parted ways acrimoniously with Beverly Glen, a much-needed follow-up album still unreleased.

Released Rapture LP

Hiring as her manager Sherwin Bash, a Hollywood veteran with the smarts to clear up the resulting legal problems, Baker signed with the Elektra label and threw herself wholeheartedly into her next project, the album Rapture, released in 1986. Gaining a reputation as pushy but consistently moving to gain control over her career, Baker supervised every aspect of the record's production. Filling the role of executive producer herself, a nearly unprecedented move for a rising but untested star, Baker chose Songstress collaborator Michael Powell as producer, and the two painstakingly selected songs that fit Baker's smooth, ultra-romantic, jazz-inflected vocal stylings. They succeeded brilliantly. The album yielded two massive hit singles in both R&B and pop tabulations, "Sweet Love" and "You Bring Me Joy." Baker's voice, low, intimate, and rounded, yet filled with a gospel-derived intensity that manifested itself in sudden bursts of strong feeling, became familiar to a wide public. The singer was rewarded with two Grammy awards in 1987, and by the end of 1988 Rapture had racked up sales of over five million units.


Baker stretched herself with an appearance at Europe's prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988, but the two albums that followed Rapture, Giving You the Best That I Got (1988) and Compositions (1990), followed basically the same path as their multiplatinum predecessor. Compositions featured examples of Baker's songwriting, which had gained in technical skill since she had begun to take classes in music theory. The album gained for Baker the respect of jazz musicians, and caused some critics, such as Alex Henderson of the All Music Guide, to suggest that she should record an album of straight jazz. Both recordings again earned Grammy awards for Baker, who kept up a grueling schedule of concerts and personal appearances. After one Detroit nightclub gig, Baker was greeted on her way to her dressing room by a persistent admirer who bought six copies of her album and asked her for a hug and then a date. She and Walter Bridgforth were married on Christmas Eve of 1988.

For the Record . . .

Born on January 26, 1958 in Toledo, OH; abandoned by birth mother at age two and raised in Detroit, MI; married Walter Bridgforth, December 24, 1988; children: two sons, Walter Jr. and Eddie. Education: Attended community college in Detroit, MI.


Sang as a teenager in Detroit nightclubs, mid-1970s; joined group Chapter 8, late 1970s; signed with Beverly Glen label and released The Songstress, 1983; signed with Elektra and released Rapture, 1986; released albums Giving You the Best That I Got, 1988, Compositions, 1990, and Rhythm of Love, 1994; contributed songs as composer to all these recordings; cut back on performing to devote herself to family life, 1990s; signed with Atlantic label, 1996; signed with Blue Note label; released My Everything, 2004.


Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Rhythm & Blues Song, 1986; Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, 1986; Best Soul Gospel Performance By A Duo, Group, Choir Or Chorus (with The Winans), 1987; Best Rhythm & Blues Song, 1988; Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, 1988-1990; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, 1995.


Addresses: Record company—Blue Note Records, 150 Fifth Ave., 6th Fl., New York, NY 10011. Website— Anita Baker Official Website: http://www.anitabaker.org.

Suffered Two Miscarriages

Exhausted from touring and from the pressures of her high-profile career, Baker suffered two miscarriages as she and Bridgforth attempted to start a family. "I sort of came apart," Baker told Essence. "All my old negative feelings reemerged. I felt like such a failure." Finally Baker retreated to the sumptuous home she shares with Bridgforth in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, outside Detroit—one of a group of structures originally owned by the Dodge family of automaking fame. She enlisted the help of medical specialists and is now the mother of two sons.

Baker reemerged in 1994 with the Rhythm of Love album, which followed up on a series of revelatory interviews in which Baker finally delved into her own painful past. The album received mixed reviews, but the singer's popularity was little diminished by her four years out of the spotlight. In 1996 Baker once again came into conflict with industry figures, filing lawsuits against her record label, Elektra, her management, and her legal staff. She won the right to move to the Atlantic label at the end of the year. Baker's stylistic influence could clearly be heard in the voices of younger contemporaries such as Toni Braxton, and Baker retained a place in the hearts of many fans as one of the finest vocalists of her generation even as tastes in urban music turned toward raunchier, hip-hop oriented sounds.

As she so often had before, Baker faced a period of adversity before she finally found her way back to music. Marital difficulties flared between Baker and Bridgforth, who owned and operated a successful International House of Pancakes franchise on Detroit's Jefferson Avenue. They worked through their problems, but Baker also became involved with caring for her ailing foster parents, Walter and Lois Landry. She was especially hard hit by the death in 2002 of Lois Landry, whom she told People she referred to as her "earth mother," and she was still raising two growing boys. She wasn't willing to do anything that smacked of abandoning them as she herself had been abandoned.

Unable to focus on her music, Baker was dropped by Atlantic. "The two—my life and my music—would not coexist. They simply would not," she told Essence. After a period of mourning, though, she was seized with the desire to perform again. And she began to hear the music of younger "neo-soul" singers like Jill Scott and India.Arie—performers whose own music harked back to the sound of Baker's own. "I called my agent and I said, 'You know, I need to do something,'" she told Essence. Booked into a 3,000-seat theater on New York's Long Island, Baker performed for two sellout crowds and was moved by the positive reception she got from fans who had stuck with her over a decade of inactivity.

In 2004 Baker was signed to a two-album contact by the jazz-oriented Blue Note label; the plan was for her to record an album of urban contemporary music followed by another in a jazz vein. The former disc, My Everything, was released late in 2004 to strong sales and positive reviews. "The passionate Anita Baker and her rich talent are back in stride, and perhaps all will be right with the music world again," gushed Ebony reviewer Lynn Norment. Baker herself, in an Essence interview, attributed her renewed success to her determination to make music only when she could give it her all. "I've come to understand that I'm a monomaniacal person," she told the magazine. "I do one thing at a time. … And when I'm true to that, I'm at my best, even in a bad situation. I'm in this for the live exchange that happens with music. Otherwise, it's like making love to a corpse."



Selected discography

The Songstress, Beverly Glen, 1983.

Rapture, Elektra, 1986.

Giving You the Best That I Got, Elektra, 1988.

Compositions, Elektra, 1990.

Rhythm of Love, Elektra, 1994.

My Everything, Blue Note, 2004.



Sources

Books

Erlewine, Michael, et al., editors, All Music Guide to Rock, 2nd ed., Miller Freeman, 1997.

Graff, Gary, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, editors, MusicHound R&B: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1998.

Smith, Jessie Carney, editor, Notable Black AmericanWomen, Gale, 1996.


Periodicals

Billboard, October 26, 1996, p. 26.

Ebony, September 1994, p. 44; October 2004, p. 42; November 2004, p. 158.

Essence, December 1994, p. 80; October 2004, p. 158.

Jet, March 13, 1995, p. 60; June 19, 1995, p. 33.

Newsweek, September 13, 2004, p. 58.

People, October 10, 1994, p. 77; September 13, 2004, p. 91.


—Jenny Bleier and James M. Manheim

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"Baker, Anita." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Baker, Anita

Anita Baker

1957

Singer

Anita Baker's rich and entirely distinctive alto voice has invited comparisons that range beyond the world of contemporary pop to include mention of such legendary jazz figures as Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. One of the leading performers in the field of sophisticated black adult pop in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she waged a successful battle to take control of her career and realize her artistic vision. In 1994, with her stardom assured, Baker cut back her activities to focus on home and motherhoodin the process revealing something of the intense difficulties she faced during her own youth. Then, after a ten-year hiatus from the business, she made a triumphal return with a new album that met with critical acclaim.

The facts of her early life are far from clear; most have been supplied by Baker herself in interviews that sometimes contradict one another. She was born in 1957 or 1958 in Toledo, Ohio, perhaps on January 26 or December 20, and grew up in Detroit's inner city. Her birth mother, who was only 16 when Anita was born, abandoned her, leaving her in the care of a woman who has been variously described as a friend and as a relative; this woman, Mary Lewis, became her foster mother. When Anita was 13, her foster mother died, and an older sister in her adoptive family told her the truth about her past. This older adoptive sister, Lois Landry, raised Anita.

Combated Feelings of Abandonment

Much later, in an interview with Essence, Baker recalled how she tried to cope with this discovery: "That child believed her mother abandoned her," she said (referring to herself), "because there was something bad about her. Something terrible that made her unlovable. And until Walter [Baker's future husband], that is how I felt about methat I was not good enough. Not good, period." Baker's foster family provided her with a stable environment that emphasized hard work and religion; she joined a church choir and identified with the deep voice of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. She began to sing secular music with her friends as well, and was performing in Detroit clubs by the time she was 16. Baker attended a community college briefly, but a strong drive toward musical performance asserted itself, and she dropped out of school to front a funk ensemble called Chapter 8, whose bass player had heard her perform in an East Side nightclub.

Chapter 8 toured widely and landed a contract with Los Angeles-based Ariola Records. They had a minor hit with "I Just Want to Be Your Girl" in 1980, but disbanded after being dropped from the label, which was itself in dire financial straits. Label executives offered the assessment that Baker lacked star quality. Later on Baker correctly concluded that their criticism could have masked any number of reasons that might through no fault of their own led to the group's dismissal, but at the time she was shattered by the turn of events. She returned to Detroit, worked as a waitress, and then landed a stable position as a receptionist with a law firm whose members, understandably enough, liked the sound of her voice on the phone.

In 1982 Baker was coaxed back into the music business by a former Ariola executive who started an independent label called Beverly Glen. Promising to make Baker a star, he offered to match her receptionist's salary, and Baker finally agreed to come to Los Angeles. Her first solo album, The Songstress, was released in 1983. The album attracted wide industry attention, yielded two R&B hit singles (the sultry "Angel" and the gospel-drenched "No More Tears," which did indeed bring to mind the voice of Mahalia Jackson), and sold a respectable 300,000 copies. But Baker, still un-schooled in the frequently unscrupulous ways of the music business, received no royalties from the album and parted ways acrimoniously with Beverly Glen, a much-needed follow-up album still unreleased.

Released Hit Album

Hiring as her manager Sherwin Bash, a Hollywood veteran with the smarts to clear up the resulting legal problems, Baker signed with the Elektra label and threw herself wholeheartedly into her next project, the album Rapture, released in 1986. Gaining a reputation as pushy but consistently moving to gain control over her career, Baker supervised every aspect of the record's production. Filling the role of executive producer herself, a nearly unprecedented move for a rising but untested star, Baker chose Songstress collaborator Michael Powell as producer, and the two painstakingly selected songs that fit Baker's smooth, ultra-romantic, jazz-inflected vocal stylings. They succeeded brilliantly. The album yielded two massive hit singles in both R&B and pop tabulations, "Sweet Love" and "You Bring Me Joy." Baker's voicelow, intimate, and rounded, yet filled with a gospel-derived intensity that manifested itself in sudden bursts of strong feelingbecame familiar to a wide public. The singer was rewarded with two Grammy awards in 1987, and by the end of 1988 Rapture had racked up sales of over five million units.

Baker stretched herself with an appearance at Europe's prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988, but the two albums that followed Rapture, Giving You the Best That I Got (1988) and Compositions (1990) followed basically the same path as their multi-platinum predecessor. Compositions featured examples of Baker's songwriting, which had gained in technical skill since she had begun to take classes in music theory. The album gained for Baker the respect of jazz musicians, and caused some critics, such as Alex Henderson of the All Music Guide, to suggest that she should record an album of straight jazz. Both recordings again earned Grammy awards for Baker, who kept up a grueling schedule of concerts and personal appearances. After one Detroit nightclub gig, Baker was greeted on her way to her dressing room by a persistent admirer who bought six copies of her album and asked her for a hug and then a date. She and this fan, Walter Bridgforth, were married on Christmas Eve of 1988.

Exhausted from touring and from the pressures of her high-profile career, Baker suffered two miscarriages as she and Bridgforth attempted to start a family. "I sort of came apart,"Baker told Essence. "All my old negative feelings reemerged. I felt like such a failure." Finally Baker retreated to the sumptuous home she shares with Bridgforth in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, outside Detroit, one of a group of structures originally owned by the Dodge family of automaking fame. She enlisted the help of medical specialists and is now the mother of two sons.

At a Glance

Born c. 1957 in Toledo, Ohio; abandoned by birth mother at age two and raised in Detroit, Michigan; married Walter Bridgforth, December 24, 1988; children: Walter and Eddie. Education: Attended community college in Detroit. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Vocalist. Sang as a teenager in Detroit nightclubs, mid-1970s; joined group Chapter 8, late 1970s; signed with Beverly Glen label, 1983; signed with Elektra, 1986; signed with Atlantic label, 1996 (released on albums); signed with Blue Note, 2004.

Awards: Six Grammy awards, two each for Rapture, Giving You the Best That I Got, and Compositions.

Addresses: Home Grosse Pointe, MI. Label Blue Note, 150 5th Ave., 6th Fl., New York, NY 10011.

Back on Track After Ten Years

Baker reemerged in 1994 with the Rhythm of Love album, which followed up on a series of revelatory interviews in which Baker finally delved into her own painful past. The album received mixed reviews, but sold well. At the time, fans did not know it would be the last Anita Baker album for the next decade. Baker signed a deal to produce an album with Atlantic, but she could never finish the job. It seems that she had more important things on her mind, for Baker had made the decision that she would not repeat the mistakes of her own mother and was giving more and more of her time to taking care of her children. "My grandmother gave up my mother, and my mother gave me up," Baker told People. "I just wanted to stop any hint of that cycle." For the next ten years, Baker played the role of mom, joining the local PTA and shuttling her kids to school activities. She also nursed her foster parents, Walter and Lois Landry, through the last years of their lives.

By the early 2000s Baker realized that with her kids needing less attention than before and the Landrys gone, she once again had time to devote to her music. She gave several small concerts in the Detroit area and was overwhelmed by the positive response of her fans. Soon her bookings grew and she signed with Blue Note to record two albums. The first album, My Everything, was released in 2004, and its title track soon soared to the top of the charts. To most critics, it appeared that Baker picked up right where she left off, providing soulful R&B in a sultry voice that was unmatched in the business. Ever the perfectionist, Baker insisted on complete control over the album and on not being pressured to tour too much. "I only work two days a week, so I'm not away from the boys and my husband too much," she told Newsweek. "And my record company so got it and so understood that. I had to learn to prioritize my life, because I have been the woman who tried to do everything, and I was miserable." With its life-affirming tracks, My Everything is a clear indication that Anita Baker is happy to be back.

Selected discography

The Songstress, Beverly Glen, 1983.

Rapture, Elektra, 1986.

Giving You the Best That I Got, Elektra, 1988.

Compositions, Elektra, 1990.

Rhythm of Love, Elektra, 1994.

My Everything, Blue Note, 2004.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 9, Gale, 1993.

Erlewine, Michael, et al., eds., All Music Guide to Rock, 2nd ed., Miller Freeman, 1997.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 26, 1996; September 4, 2004.

Ebony, September 1994, p. 44.; November 2004.

Essence, December 1994, p. 80; October 1, 2004.

Jet, March 13, 1995, p. 60.

Newsweek, September 13, 2004.

People, October 10, 1994, p. 77; September 13, 2004.

On-line

"Anita Baker," Blue Note Records, www.bluenote.com/artistpage.asp?ArtistID=3739&tab=1 (November 18, 2004).

Anita Baker, www.anitabaker.org (November 18, 2004).

James M. Manheim and

Tom Pendergast

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Baker, Anita 1957(?)–

Anita Baker 1957(?)

Vocalist

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Anita Bakers rich and entirely distinctive alto voice has invited comparisons that range beyond the world of contemporary pop to include mention of such legendary jazz figures as Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. One of the leading performers in the field of sophisticated black adult pop in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she waged a successful battle to take control of her career and realize her artistic vision. In the 1990s, with her stardom assured, Baker cut back her activities to focus on home and motherhoodin the process revealing something of the intense difficulties she faced during her own youth.

The facts of her early life are in many cases murky, emerging over the years from Baker herself in interviews that sometimes contradict one another. She was born in 1957 or 1958 in Toledo, Ohio, perhaps on January 26 or December 20, and grew up in Detroits inner city. Her birth mother, who was only 16 when Anita was born, abandoned her when she was two years old, leaving her in the care of a woman who has been variously described as a friend and as a relative; this woman, Lois Landry, became her foster mother. When Anita was 13, her foster mother died, and an older sister in her adoptive family told her the truth about her past. Baker made the conscious decision to meet her birth mother for the first time.

Much later, in an interview with Essence, Baker recalled how she tried to cope with this discovery: That child believed her mother abandoned her, she said (referring to herself), because there was something bad about her. Something terrible that made her unlovable. And until Walter [Bakers future husband], that is how I felt about methat I was not good enough. Not good, period. Bakers foster family provided her with a stable environment that emphasized hard work and religion; she joined a church choir and identified with the deep voice of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. She began to sing secular music with her friends as well, and was performing in Detroit clubs by the time she was 16. Baker attended a community college briefly, but a strong drive toward musical performance asserted itself, and she dropped out of school to front a funk ensemble called Chapter 8 whose bass player had heard her perform in an East Side nightclub.

Chapter 8 toured widely and landed a contract with Los Angeles-based

At a Glance

Born c. 1957 in Toledo, Ohio; abandoned by birth mother at age two and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Married Walter Bridgforth, December 24, 1988; two children. Education : Attended community college in Detroit. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Vocalist. Sang as a teenager in Detroit nightclubs, mid-1970s; joined group Chapter 8, late 1970s; signed with Beverly Glen label and released The Songstress, 1983; signed with Elektra and released Rapture, 1986; released albums Giving You the Best That I Got, 1988, Compositions, 1990, and Rhythm of Love, 1994; contributed songs as composer to all these recordings; cut back on performing to devote herself to family life, 1990s; signed with Atlantic label, 1996.

Awards: Six Grammy awards, two each for Rapture, Giving You the Best That I Got, and Compositions.

Addresses: PublicistBaker, Winokur, Ryder PR, 405 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA90212. Booking agent-Associated Booking Corp., 1995 Broadway, Suite 54, New York, NY 10023.

Ariola Records. They had a minor hit with I Just Want to Be Your Girl in 1980, but disbanded after being dropped from the label, which was itself in dire financial straits. Label executives offered the assessment that Baker lacked star quality. Later on Baker correctly concluded that their criticism could have masked any number of reasons that might through no fault of their own led to the groups dismissal, but at the time she was shattered by the turn of events. She returned to Detroit, worked as a waitress, and then landed a stable position as a receptionist with a law firm whose members, understandably enough, liked the sound of her voice on the phone.

Baker was only with difficulty coaxed back into music by a former Ariola executive who started an independent label, Beverly Glen, in 1982 in Los Angeles. Promising to make Baker a star, he offered to match her receptionists salary, and Baker finally agreed to come to Los Angeles. Her first solo album The Songstress, was released in 1983. The album attracted wide industry attention, yielded two R & B hit singles (the sultry Angel and the gospel-drenched No More Tears, which did indeed bring to mind the voice of Mahalia Jackson), and sold a respectable 300,000 copies. But Baker, still unschooled in the frequently unscrupulous ways of the music business, received no royalties from the album and parted ways acrimoniously with Beverly Glen, a much-needed follow-up album still unreleased.

Hiring as her manager Sherwin Bash, a Hollywood veteran with the smarts to clear up the resulting legal problems, Baker signed with the Elektra label and threw herself wholeheartedly into her next project, the album Rapture, released in 1986. Gaining a reputation as pushy but consistently moving to gain control over her career, Baker supervised every aspect of the records production. Filling the role of executive producer herself, a nearly unprecedented move for a rising but untested star, Baker chose Songstress collaborator Michael Powell as producer, and the two painstakingly selected songs that fit Bakers smooth, ultra-romantic, jazzinflected vocal sty lings. They succeeded brilliantly. The album yielded two massive hit singles in both R & B and pop tabulations, Sweet Love and You Bring Me Joy. Bakers voice, low, intimate, and rounded, yet filled with a gospel-derived intensity that manifested itself in sudden bursts of strong feeling, became familiar to a wide public. The singer was rewarded with two Grammy awards in 1987, and by the end of 1988 Rapture had racked up sales of over five million units.

Baker stretched herself with an appearance at Europes prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988, but the two albums that followed Rapture, Giving You the Best That I Got (1988) and Compositions (1990) followed basically the same path as their multiplatinum predecessor. Compositions featured examples of Bakers song-writing, which had gained in technical skill since she had begun to take classes in music theory. The album gained for Baker the respect of jazz musicians, and caused some critics, such as Alex Henderson of the All Music Guide, to suggest that she should record an album of straight jazz. Both recordings again earned Grammy awards for Baker, who kept up a grueling schedule of concerts and personal appearances. After one Detroit nightclub gig, Baker was greeted on her way to her dressing room by a persistent admirer who bought six copies of her album and asked her for a hug and then a date. She and Walter Bridgforth were married on Christmas Eve of 1988.

Exhausted from touring and from the pressures of her high-profile career, Baker suffered two miscarriages as she and Bridgforth attempted to start a family. I sort of came apart, Baker told Essence.All my old negative feelings reemerged. I felt like such a failure. Finally Baker retreated to the sumptuous home she shares with Bridgforth in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, outside Detroit one of a group of structures originally owned by the Dodge family of automaking fame. She enlisted the help of medical specialists and is now the mother of two sons.

Baker reemerged in 1994 with the Rhythm of Love album, which followed up on a series of revelatory interviews in which Baker finally delved into her own painful past. The album received mixed reviews, but the singers popularity was little diminished by her four years out of the spotlight. In 1996 Baker once again came into conflict with industry figures, filing lawsuits against her record label, Elektra, her management, and her legal staff. She won the right to move to the Atlantic label at the end of the year, but as of early 1999 had not yet released an album on the label. Nevertheless, Bakers stylistic influence could clearly be heard in the voices of younger contemporaries such as Toni Braxton, and Baker was widely known as one of the finest vocalists of her generation.

Selected discography

The Songstress, Beverly Glen, 1983.

Rapture, Elektra, 1986.

Giving You the Best That I Got, Elektra, 1988.

Compositions, Elektra, 1990.

Rhythm of Love, Elektra, 1994.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 9, Gale, 1993.

Erlewine, Michael, et al., eds., All Music Guide to Rock, 2nd ed., Miller Freeman, 1997.

Graff, Gary, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, eds., Music Hound R&B: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1998.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed., Notable Black American Women, Book II, Gale, 1996.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 26, 1996, p. 26.

Ebony, September 1994, p. 44.

Essence, December 1994, p. 80.

Jet, March 13, 1995, p. 60.

People, October 10, 1994, p. 77.

James M. Manheim

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Baker, Anita

ANITA BAKER

Born: Toledo, Ohio, 20 December 1957

Genre: R&B, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Rhythm of Love (1994)

Hit songs since 1990: "Body & Soul," "I Apologize"


One of the most successful rhythm and blues performers of the 1980s and early 1990s, Anita Baker excelled at what the Washington, D.C., disc jockey Melvin Lindsey termed "quiet storm," a style of music that creates a romantic mood through lush instrumentation and smooth vocalizing. More than any other popular performer of the era, Baker brought a jazz music sensibility to her work, claiming as her inspiration great jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.

Born in Toledo but raised in Detroit, Baker was singing in a local Baptist church choir by age twelve, and in her late teens she joined the Detroit rhythm and blues band Chapter 8. After several small hits with Chapter 8, Baker left the music business for the security of a nine-to-five job, but by 1982 she was working her way back into the industry as a solo artist. Her first solo album, The Songstress (1983), brought her some attention, but it was her second album, Rapture (1986), that made her a household name. Rapture is different from other rhythm and blues recordings of the 1980s in eschewing a synthesizer-based sound in favor of more traditional instrumentation such as guitar, saxophone, and drums. Rapture 's most distinctive feature, however, was Baker's voice: rich, deep, and creamy, it recalled Sarah Vaughan but also had a contemporary, urban edge. The album sold 6 million copies in the United States and won a Grammy for Best R&B Female Performance in 1987.

In 1990 Baker released Compositions, an ambitious, personal album that featured five of her own compositions. Stylistically, Compositions is similar to Baker's previous work, but unfortunately the material is not as melodic or distinctive as anything on Rapture, and sales were disappointing. Her next album, Rhythm of Love (1994), contained more of Baker's own material as well as updated versions of older, "standard" songs such as "My Funny Valentine" and "The Look of Love." By this time critics were beginning to complain of overstylization in Baker's vocals. The writer Goeffrey Himes claimed that "Rhythm of Love . . . is so embellished with slides, moans and trills it's often difficult to find the songs underneath it all." Others felt that, given Baker's remarkable voice, she should move away from the mainstream and record jazz music instead.

Baker herself was getting tired of the fast-paced music industry and decided to take time off to raise a family. After suffering several miscarriages, she gave birth to healthy sons in 1993 and 1994, settling down into home life with her husband in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe. In 2000 she signed with Atlantic Records and began work on a new album but wound up in an extended lawsuit, claiming the recording equipment had been defective and the tapes therefore unusable. In 2002 Baker announced plans to return to recording, launching a concert tour in December of that year and promising a new album in 2003.

Anita Baker's relaxed, fluid, and engaging style made her a pioneer of contemporary rhythm and blues and a profound influence on younger performers such as Toni Braxton. Her best music flows with the creativity of one who understands the subtle art of vocalizing and links Baker with a long line of legendary singers.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

The Songstress (Beverly Glen Music, 1983); Rapture (Elektra, 1986); Givin' You the Best That I Got (Elektra, 1988); Compositions (Elektra, 1990); Rhythm of Love (Elektra, 1994).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Nathan, D., The Soulful Divas (New York, 1999).

david freeland

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"Baker, Anita." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/baker-anita