Baylor, Helen 1953–

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Helen Baylor 1953

Gospel singer

Began Professionally Singing at 12

Spread Gospel Through Music

Extended Her Ministry

Selected discography


Helen Baylors music career has included notable accomplishments in R&B, jazz, and soft rock, before she earned a cherished position in gospel music. Her career began when she was a child, and the obstacles from her early career were what eventually set her apart from the rest. Instead of accepting early defeat, Baylor turned her life around, set her personal testimony to a melody and some music, and chose to spread the gospel through music.

Began Professionally Singing at 12

Baylor was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1953, and grew up in Los Angeles. Her parents noticed her talent as a vocalist early on. They tested her star power when she was 12 years old by convincing a local nightclub owner to let Baylor sing with the band. That nightclub was just the beginning. She marked a number of milestones between 1965 and 1970, that included serving as the opening act for Stevie Wonder and as a backup singer for artists like B. B. King and Aretha Franklin.

During high school Baylor auditioned for a part in the hit Broadway musical Hair. She landed a part in the production when she was 17 and left Los Angeles to join the musicals tour. On her website, Baylor described this period as the beginning of her trouble with drug abuse: I was the youngest person in the show, and I wanted to belong so badly.

With her incredibly soulful sound and her willingness to experience whatever life sent her way, Baylor achieved early success. She began performing as Helen Lowe, and joined the R&B group Side Effect in 1976. Baylor replaced Sylvia Nabors as the female lead in the group on their second album, What You Need. The album included the single, Keep That Same Old Feeling, made popular by the group in 1976.

Baylor left Side Effect the next year to tour with some of the more successful artists of that time. She worked with such peformers as mega-vocalist Chaka Khan, and the chart-topping Captain & Tenille. Baylor appeared on the Rufus & Chaka Khan album Street Player in 1978, and on the Les McCann album Tall, Dark & Handsome in 1979. She was able to enjoy the fruits of her success until the bad began to outweigh the good in the early 1980s. Upon self-inspection, she realized that her recreational drug use had spiraled into an addiction that was claiming her life.

Spread Gospel Through Music

By 1981 Baylors career was far from the one she had visualized when she was 12. I wasnt working much anymore because my reputation as a musician was going downhill, she described on her website. She was also an unwed mother who pawned the things she bought during her 12 years on the road in order to obtain more drugs.

It was at this point that she turned to the grandmother that she often includes in her musical testimony. When I went to church with my grandmother, I knew what Id been missing, she explained. During one such

At a Glance

Born in Tulsa, OK; married James Baylor; four children.

Career: Toured with musical Hair, 1970; performed in musicals; guest vocalist with groups including Captain & Tenille, Chaka Khan, Les McCann, 1970s; recorded with R&B group Side Effect, 1976; ordained to Christian ministry, 1993; recorded with World Records gospel label, 1990nadsh;.

Memberships: Advisory council, Elizabeth Home for unwed mothers; board member, St. Domenics Home for unwed mothers, both 2000.

Awards: Soul Train Lady of Soul Award, Best Gospel Album, 1995, for The Live Experience; four Grammy nominations; two Dove Awards; three Stellar Awards; honorary doctorate, Friends International Christian University, 1995.

Address: Office P.O. Box 9098, Moreno Valley, CA 92552.

visit to church with her grandmother, she became a born-again Christian. Six years would pass before the doors to a new music career would open.

Word Records released Baylors first album, Highly Recommended, in 1990. She followed that release with Look a Little Closer in 1991. This release received the first of Baylors two Grammy nominations. The release was a perfect example of Baylors reliance on her personal experience to generate material for her songs. Though gospel driven, her material generated a contemporary feel through the musical styles and real life stories woven throughout each piece.

Baylor released her third solo effort, Start All Over, in 1993. She was also ordained a minister in that same year. Two years later in 1995, more success followed for Baylor with the release of the highly successful Live Experience. The album represented a collection of her greatest hits performed live at the Denver Heritage Christian Center in front of more that 6,500 people, who got a first-hand example of the power of Baylors testimony. The release solidified her place on the gospel music charts.

Extended Her Ministry

In 1995 Baylor received an honorary doctorate in sacred music from Friends of International Christian University. She continued to work on her music, releasing Love Brought Me Back in 1996. This album marked her second Grammy nomination as a contemporary gospel artist.

Baylor released Live in 1999. By the end of the decade, she had become a permanent fixture on the touring circuit as well as on the gospel music charts, delivering her message of hope. To extend her ministry, Baylor made concerted efforts to reach out to those experiencing the exact situations she had lived to tell about in her music. By 2000 she was serving as a member of the advisory council of Elizabeth Home, a non-profit Christian home for unwed mothers in Grapevine, Texas. In addition, she became a member of the board of St. Domenics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also a refuge for unwed mothers.

In 2002 Baylor released My Everything to glowing reviews. Her personal experience and sincerity continued to be apparent in her music. The Dayton Daily News summed up her many musical contributions in a review of My Everything: Theres an intangible quality to her singing that adds sincerity to her music. You get the feeling that she is using her talent to promote her beliefs and to bring hope, rather than to simply sell albums. That description of Baylor has served as an appropriate description of her contributions to her ministry as well as her music.

Selected discography

What You Need (as a member of Side Effect), Fantasy Records, 1976.

Highly Recommended, Word Records, 1990.

Look a Little Closer, Word Records, 1991.

Start All Over, Word Records, 1993.

Live Experience, Word Records, 1995.

Love Brought Me Back, Sony Records, 1996.

Live, Verity Records, 1999.

My Everything, Diadem Records, 2002.



Dayton Daily News, February 22, 2002.

Star-Ledger (Newark), July 9, 1999.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis), January 18, 1997.


All Music Guide,

Helen Baylor Online,

Soul Train Lady of Soul,

Live Experience,

Leslie Rochelle