What was predicted for Randy Crawford in 1977 has come true more than two decades later. “If consistency is an indication of professionalism,” Gary Vercelly wrote in a Downbeat portrait of the then-24-year-old singer, “Randy Crawford’s stable performance record proves that she is well on her way toward establishing herself, not only as a singer of great sensitivity, but also as a mature woman of sincere, honest expression”. Since then Randy Crawford has released over 15 albums and had several international multi-platinum hits. And if she still goes relatively unrecognized in her native land, she has become one of the world’s most successful popular singers of the late 1990s. Since her hit interpretation of Bernard Igner’s Everything Must Change, the secret of Crawford’s popularity has changed little. “Regardless of the mode she chooses,” Vercelly wrote, “the bottom line of Randy’s appeal clearly lies in her ability to bring any tune to life, giving lyrics new meaning and melodies fresh dimensions. Randy has the necessary tools to carry off a sustained cry, creating a religious aura. Even at her most soulful moments, however, her flexible delivery never sounds forced. Her
Born Veronica Crawford, February 18, 1952 in Macon, GA.
Performed on the American and European club circuit at age 15; released first single “If You Say the Word” at age 20; shared stages with jazz musicians Cannonball Adderly, George Benson, and Quincy Jones, 1973-75; signed with Warner Bros., released first album Everything Must Change, 1976; first international hit “Street Life” with Crusaders, 1978; released sophmore album Miss Randy Crawford, 1978; world tour with Crusaders, 1979; early 1980s albums included Secret Combination and Night-line; duet “Taxi Dancing” with Rick Springfield, 1984 from the soundtrack Hard to Hold; “Almaz” on Abstract Emotions became international hit in 1986; released Rich and Poor, 1989, includes cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”; duet with Italian star Zuccero at the Kremlin, performed at the Vatican Christmas 1991; released Through The Eyes Of Love and Don’t Say It’s Over, Warner Bros., 1992-93; dined with South African President Nelson Mandela in 1993; Naked and True produced and released in Europe; “Give Me The Night” number one hit in United States in 1995; Warner Bros, released Best Of Randy Crawford, 1996; “Street Life” was used on the soundtrack to the 1997 movie Jackie Brown directed by Quentin Tarentino; released Every Kind of Mood—Randy, Randi, Randee, Wea/Atlantic, 1998; released Love Songs, WEA, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.
approach to any music, soul, country, or jazz, is one without dilution.”
The art of interpreting songs, as the great popular singers of old did, seems to be going out of fashion more and more. It is Crawford’ s strength. She is willing to interpret any style of song—jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, pop melodies, smooth ballads or funk—as long as she feels connected to the music and lyrics at a certain time. The pieces she selects are transformed by her pure, warm tone and her emotional vibrato, together with their light and breezy jazz and funk arrangements. “Before you know it, regardless of whatever category the tune was at its inception, it is a Randy Crawford song,” wrote Sonia Murray in Atlanta Journal and Constitution, describing the “refashioning” that happens when Crawford interprets a song.
Crawford has toured extensively throughout the world, performed at Europe’s best known jazz fests and shared stage with renowned jazz artists like Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, and Joe Sample. Some of her most memorable live performances took place in unusual places such as the Vatican and the Kremlin, at a United Nations benefit concert in Croatia, or a benefit show for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Despite this apparent globe-trotting, though, she isn’t a flashy performer. On stage, she rarely speaks and she moves about very little. Her showmanship seems completely internalized, something displayed in every note she sings. Randy Crawford is not a performer to be seen, she is a singer who has to be heard.
Crawford grew up with five brothers and sisters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her parents loved singing themselves and encouraged all their children to sing at home and in the church choir. Asked about early influences, Crawford told Vercelly, “Aretha Franklin was the only person who really touched me deeply as a child.” She especially liked Franklin’s early recordings made for the Columbia label before she became a star with Atlantic. By the time she was 15, Crawford wassinging in night clubs in the United States and Europe with her father acting as her chaperon. Soon she learned to read music and play piano, performed in a group with bassist William “Bootsy” Collins, and later in a jazz band. When she was 20, she released her first single “If You Say the Word.”
Within a few years the young singer had shared stages with famous jazz musicians such as Cannonball Adderley, George Benson, and Quincy Jones. According to Vercelly, the late Cannonball Adderley especially valued Crawford’s “rare ability to wed strength and emotion in a natural, spontaneous manner” and in 1975, he selected her for the role of Carolina in the folk musical Big Man: The Legend of John Henry— Crawford’s first exposure to a national audience. In the same year, Crawford took the stage in front of 5000 jazz enthusiasts at the World Jazz Association’s (W.J.A.) annual fund raiser at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Accompanied by an orchestra directed by Quincy Jones, Crawford interpreted—at Jones’s request—Bernard Igner’s “Everything Must Change,” the lyrics of which she had seen for the first time only one day before the event. In 1976, Crawford’s first album, Everything Must Change, was released by Warner Bros. It contained two live recordings from the W.J.A. concert, including the title track, as well as studio recordings in styles ranging from soul to country, by composers such as Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, and Keith Carradine, all newly arranged by Larry Carlton of the renowned jazz band Crusaders.
Crawford’s second album, 1978’s Miss Randy Crawford, was also primarily a collection of cover versions of recent hits, leading Downbeat’s reviewer to comment “as if Randy Crawford was still back there interpreting and needing other people’s songs,” hoping Crawford’s next album would be “her own totally.” However, like many reviewers in the meantime, this attitude expressed a deep misunderstanding of Crawford’s true gift—to give a second life to every song she takes on.
When the popular instrumental jazz group Crusaders were looking for a vocalist to perform with them for the first time, Bob Krasnow, vice-president of talent at Warner Bros., suggested Randy Crawford. “Street Life,” the title track of the Crusader’s MCA album, became Crawford’s first international hit. In 1979, she toured the United States and Europe with the group; Crawford opened the show with own recordings and joined the Crusaders at the end of the group’s show to sing “Street Life.”
With her early 1980s albums Secret Combination and Night-Line, Crawford’s music became funkier, livelier; however, smooth soul ballads still remained her hallmark, songs like “One Day I’ll Fly Away” from 1980, and “Almaz,” featured on her 1986 album Abstract Emotions. Crawford went on three world tours to promote her albums, playing a number of sold-out concerts. Her 1989 album Rich and Poorwas one of the United States’ most popular jazz albums for almost a year. Its first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” became a hit and was used on the soundtrack of the movie Lethal Weapon 2.
Crawford started the 1990s with two noteworthy live performances. One was at the Kremlin in 1990, with Italian superstar Zuccero whose duet with Crawford, “Diamante,” became a hit single in Germany. The other was a Christmas concert for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1991. Crawford’s last albums for Warner Brothers were Through The Eyes Of Love and Don’t Say It’s Over.
After experiencing difficulties with America record companies who didn’t know what to do with an artist who wasn’t limited to either the jazz or R&B domain, Crawford got off to a new start in Europe. There the singer had instant success with the album Naked and True, released by WEA Germany. Produced by Germany based Ralf Droesemeyer, the record saw Crawford return to her jazzy soul sound of the 1970s. The initial Naked and True tour took Crawford through Europe and South America. The “import,” especially Crawford’s haunting interpretation of J.J. Cale’s song “Cajun Moon,” soon won the hearts of jazz and adult contemporary station listeners in the United States. As a result the Atlantic label, Bluemoon, reissued and distributed the album in the United States. In addition to covers of the Patrice Rushen hit “Forget Me Nots” and the Prince classic “Purple Rain,” it included a cover of George Benson’s multi-format hit “Give Me the Night,” which became number one on Smooth Jazz/National AC radio charts. The album remained in the top ten on R&R’s NAC album charts for 20 consecutive weeks. 250,000 copies of Naked and True were sold in the United States and over half a million worldwide. Awash in newfound popularity, Crawford hit the road again and toured extensively all over the world.
In 1996, in the wake of Crawford’s second wave of success, Warner Bros, released Best Of Randy Crawford with 14 of Crawford’s greatest hits from 1976-95. Crawford’s comeback won her new fans—not only those who grew up with black music classics of the sixties and seventies, but also younger people into acid jazz, retro funk and groove samplers.
Crawford’s 1998 album Every Kind of Mood—Randy, Randi, Randee contained an updated remake of “Almaz”, one of Crawford’s biggest international hits, as well as covers of trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack’s “Hymn of the Big Wheel” and Rose Royce’s classic ballad “Wishing on a Star.” The album was produced by Mousse T. who had worked on tracks by Prince, U2, Michael Jackson, and Jens Krause, who gave “Give Me The Night” its great sound. Mario Tarradell, reviewing the album for the Dallas Morning News, called Crawford a “song stylist” who “can sing anything with elegance, emotion and warmth.” And that’s all Crawford intends to do in the future. “I will always sing,” she told her new record company Atlantic in 1998. “I don’t want to do anything else.” In the late 1990s, Crawford resided in Europe, enjoying the star-status that her native land refused her.
“Are You Sure,” 1997.
“Give Me the Night,” 1997.
Everything Must Change, Warner Bros., 1976, reissued, Musicrama, 1997.
Miss Randy Crawford, Warner Bros., 1978.
Now We May Begin, (includes “One Day I’ll Fly Away”), 1980, reissued, Musicrama, 1997.
Secret Combination, Warner Bros., 1981, reissued Wea/Warner Bros., 1987.
Nightline, 1983, reissued, 1994, reissued, Musicrama, 1997
Abstract Emotions, 1986, reissued, Wea, 1994, reissued, Musicrama, 1997.
Rich And Poor, (Includes “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”), Wea/Warner Bros., 1989.
Through The Eyes Of Love, Wea/Warner Bros., 1992.
Don’t Say It’s Over, Wea/Warner Bros., 1993.
Very Best of Randy Crawford, Fly, 1993, reissued, 1999.
Naked And True, (includes “Give Me the Night”) WEA/Atlantic, 1995.
Best Of Randy Crawford, Wea/Warner Bros., 1996.
Raw Silk, Musicrama, 1997.
Every Kind of Mood —Randy, Randi, Randee, Wea/Atlantic, 1998.
Love Songs, Wea, 1998.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 29, 1998, p. E4.
Billboard, May 26, 1979, p. 39; October 28, 1995, p. 29.
Dallas Morning News, August 28, 1998, p.71; September 3, 1998, p. 37A.
Downbeat, March 24, 1977, p.30; October 11, 1978, p. 26.
Essence, August 1990, p. 48.
Crawford, Randy 1952–
Randy Crawford 1952–
Proving herself to be a versatile interpreter of jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, and pop, singer Randy Crawford has been an active presence on the music scene since she began performing in local night clubs as a teenager. Her recordings have run the gamut from smooth ballads such as “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” which became her trademark song, to covers of songs made famous by Bob Dylan (“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”), Brook Benton (“Rainy Night in Georgia”), and the artist formerly known as Prince (“Purple Rain”).
Whether recording new songs or established favorites, Randy Crawford has long been known for her signature sound that makes every song seem new. “Before you know it, regardless of whatever category the tune was at its inception, it is a Randy Crawford song,” noted the Atlanta Constitution in its review of her 1997 release Every Kind of Mood. The singer has also been lauded by critics for her ability to create a personal link with listeners that brings them right into the sentiment of the song. As Jeremy Helligar noted in People, “Crawford’s great assets are her intimate singing style and vocal restraint—the way she lightly tugs her vowels when she’s caught up in the heat of passion and unleashes gentle tremolos when she’s suffering the agony of heartache.”
Despite being frequently praised for her mastery of many different musical styles, Crawford’s versatility has in some ways hampered her career. As Ron Wynn remarked in The All-Music Guide to Rock, “Crawford’s quivering delivery and eclectic nature has made it difficult for record companies to target and market her materials.” Although she has not attracted a wide audience within the United States, she has been a popular star in Europe for nearly two decades. From 1979 to 1984, eleven of her singles reached the top 75 in Britain.
As a child in Cincinnati, Ohio, Crawford’s vocal talent was developed by singing in church and social choirs. By the time she was 15, she was performing in local night clubs. In 1967, she made her international debut in St. Tropez, France during a summer vacation trip to Europe. Crawford has cited singers such as Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin as important early career influences. As a young girl, she discovered gospel music by listening to recordings of Aretha Franklin. “I used to listen to all of those records for many, many hours,”
Born Veronica Crawford on February 18, 1952, in Macon, GA; one of five children.
Career: Sang in church and school choirs and local night clubs as a teenager, Cincinnati, OH; performed in St. Tropez, France, 1967; began performing with George Benson, 1972; released first single, “If You Say the Word,” 1972; sang at World Jazz Association tribute concert to Cannonball Adderley, Los Angeles, CA, 1975; released first album, Everything Must Change, on Warner Brothers, 1976; sang lead on “Street Life’’ for The Crusaders, 1979; completed tour of Europe, 1984; performed with London Symphony Orchestra, 1988; collaborated with Italian performer Zucchero at a performance in the Soviet Union, 1990; performed at Christmas concert at he Vatican for Pope John Paul II, 1991; released Every Kind of Mood on Mesa/Blue Moon Label, 1997.
Awards and honors: Most Outstanding Performer, Tokyo Music Festival, 1980; Best Female Artist, BRIT Awards, U.K., 1982.
Addresses: Management —Barry Gross, 930 Third Street, Suite 102, Santa Monica, CA 90403; Record company —WEA Records Germany; licensed by Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings, Inc.; manufactured and distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1290 Avenue of the America, New York, NY 10104.
Crawford remarked in Ebony Man.
As a teenager, Crawford was lead vocalist in a group that included bassist William “Bootsy” Collins, who taught her how to play piano. A television appearance attracted the attention of a Los Angeles booking agent, who helped land her a gig as an opening act for noted jazz guitarist/singer George Benson. In 1972 she began opening for Benson at Nico’s, a popular jazz/soul club in New York City. “I got discovered while I was singing with George Benson,” Crawford later told Ebony Man. During her first year with Benson, she released her first single “If You Say the Word.”
Crawford’s career received another boost in 1975, when Warner Brothers signed her to a contract after she appeared with Benson and Quincy Jones at the World Jazz Association tribute concert for the late Cannonball Adderley. Her debut album, Everything Must Change, “displayed her ability to interpret songs in a variety of styles with a voice that was rich in inflection and capable of a wide range of expression,” according to The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Although reviews of the album were largely positive, sales were only mediocre. In 1977, Crawford appeared as a backup vocalist on Please Don’t Touch, the second solo album of former Genesis member Steve Hackett.
In 1979 Crawford recorded Raw Silk, which featured songs written by Allen Toussaint, Ashford & Simpson, and Oscar Brown. That same year she sang lead vocals on the title track of Street Life, an album by the popular jazz group The Crusaders. The song topped jazz charts in the United States for 20 weeks and made Crawford a star on the international music scene. The Crusaders co-wrote, produced, and provided instrumental support on Crawford’s 1980 release Now We May Begin. The title track from this album was “a beautiful ballad that established her independent career,” claimed The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Although Now We May Begin failed to climb music charts in the United States, it reached number ten in Britain. In 1981, Crawford recorded the love theme for the soundtrack of The Competition, a film starring Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving.
Crawford continued to experience tremendous success in Europe. Her song “You Might Need Somebody” rose to number 11 on the British charts. Her next album Secret Combination climbed to number two in Britain and number 71 in the United States. This album featured a mix of smooth ballads, as well as funkier music, and utilized a wide range of musical styles. Secret Combination also marked the first time that a Crawford album charted in the top 100 on the American music charts.
In 1984, Crawford launched a successful tour of Europe. She returned to the United States that same year and recorded a duet with pop star Rick Springfield entitled “Taxi Dancing.” In 1986 Crawford released Abstract Emotions, which reached number 14 on the British charts. In 1988, she appeared in two sold-out concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra. She also performed at jazz festivals throughout the world with such notable jazz musicians as Al Jarreau, Joe Sample, and Ray Charles. She traveled to the Soviet Union in 1990 and performed in the Kremlin with the Italian superstar Zucchero.
During the early 1990s, Crawford experienced a slow period in her career. In 1995, she released a new album on the WEA Germany label entitled Naked and True and began another tour of Europe. The album was soon released in the United States by the Mesa/Bluemoon label. Naked and True became Crawford’s third most successful album, selling 250,000 copies in the United States and over 500,000 copies worldwide. The album featured songs in a wide range of styles, including “Give Me the Night,” which hit number one on the Smooth Jazz/NAC radio charts.
Crawford remains active as a performer and recording artist after some 30 years of professional singing, and her music continues to attract critical acclaim. “Crawford’s unique vocal styling gives life to the fifteen tracks that emote love, heartbreak, sympathy, and passion,” raved John Norment in his review of Crawford’s 1997 release Every Kind of Mood. In the liner notes of Every Kind of Mood, Ahmet Ertegün offered even higher praise. “I listen to Randy Crawford and hear something so familiar,” wrote Ertegün. “It’s a sound that’s timeless, beautiful, and honest. It’s the sound of one of the most truly soulful voices of our time.”
Everything Must Change, Warner, 1976.
Now We May Begin, Warner, 1980.
Abstract Emotions, Warner, 1986.
Naked and True, Mesa/Bluemoon, 1995.
Every Kind of Mood, Mesa/Bluemoon, 1997.
Clarke, Donald, ed., The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989, pp. 295-296.
Erlewine, Michael, Vladimir Bogdanov, and Chris Wood-stra, eds., All Music Guide to Rock, Miller Freeman, 1995, pp. 211-212.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Volume 1, Macmillan, 1986, p. 531.
Larkin, Colin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 3, Guinness Publishing, 1992, p. 976.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, eds., Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC-CLIO, 1991, pp. 126-127.
Atlanta Constitution, January 29, 1998, p. E-4.
Billboard, October 28, 1995, p. 29; March 7, 1998, p. 60; March 21, 1998, p. 98.
Ebony, June 1998, p. 22.
Ebony Man, July 1996, p. 8.
People, March 9, 1998, p. 29.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Atlantic Recording Corporation publicity materials.