Brenda Russell

Brenda Russell's Biography

With a unique musical perspective and intimate voice, singer-songwriter Brenda Russell proves that a truly glowing talent only deepens with time. Composer of the classics "Get Here," "If Only For One Night," and the Grammy-nominated "Piano In The Dark," Brenda's songwriting prowess and chameleon-like ability to shift between musical genres and combine styles is evident in her work. In fact, it trumpeted ovations in 2005 with the opening of the Tony Award-winning hit Broadway musical The Color Purple, in which she, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray co-wrote the music and lyrics. Brenda and her co-authors were nominated for a Grammy in the Best Musical Show Album category.

While composing The Color Purple, Brenda also wrote, recorded and co-produced a solo album, Between the Sun and the Moon, released in 2004 on Dome Records. The album aptly displays her song craft and nuanced vocals, mixing up-tempo grooves with her classic balladry. Recorded in both the UK and the U.S., the album includes production and writing collaborations with such notables as Bluey from Incognito, Lee Ritenour and Patty Austin.

Her first album since 2000's Paris Rain, Brenda promoted Between the Sun and the Moon with live performance dates in the U.S. and Japan, including a 2005 U.S. tour with Norman Brown, Peabo Bryson and Everette Harp. The first UK single from the set, "Make You Smile," became a top-five Smooth Jazz hit in that country.

Brenda's signature style has helped propel a variety of projects. She co-wrote the song "Justice of the Heart" with Stevie Wonder for the Denzel Washington movie John Q. And her co-composition with Brazilian artist Ivan Lins titled "She Walks This Earth" was recorded by Sting for the all-star tribute album called Love Affair: The Music Of Ivan Lins. Sting's performance earned him a Grammy in 2001 for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance.

In 2002, singer Will Downing had a Top 20 Urban radio hit with one of her co-compositions, "Don't You Talk To Me Like That." That same year, Solomon Burke's critically acclaimed and Grammy-winning comeback album Don't Give Up On Me (Fat Possum) featured "None of Us Are Free," co-written by Brenda, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The three were among an all-star lineup of songwriters on Burke's recording including Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Brian Wilson. The song was also recorded as a duet by soul legend Sam Moore and Sting for Moore's highly praised 2006 album Overnight Sensational. Other superstar artists who have either collaborated with Brenda or recorded her songs include Babyface, Mary J. Blige, Michael McDonald, Bow Wow, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ray Charles, Luther Vandross, Joe Cocker, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau and Johnny Mathis.

Born to musical parents in Brooklyn, New York, Brenda split her time between there and the Canadian town of Hamilton, Ontario. She encountered her first piano while singing as a teenager in the Canadian company of the rock musical Hair in Toronto. Without formal musical education, Brenda says she worried that she would never be able to write another song after her first composition. "Then I had a revelation: 'You're not doing this alone. You are just a channel for this,' Brenda recalls. "Once I realized that, I was sort of fearless about songwriting. I thought: 'If that's the way it is, I can write anything.' And that's the premise I've based my whole writing career on."

In the late 1970s, living in Los Angeles, Brenda was signed to Tommy LiPuma's Horizon Records, and her first single, "So Good, So Right" was released in 1979. Brenda transferred to A&M Records, where she formed a bond with label founder Herb Alpert and released Brenda Russell and Love Life. Her contract was picked up by Warner Bros. for the 1983 album Two Eyes before moving to Sweden, where she wrote tunes for her A&M return, Get Here. That 1988 album contained the Grammy-nominated "Piano In The Dark," "Le Restaurant," and the title cut, which later became an international hit for Oleta Adams.

After a 1992 Greatest Hits package and her 1993 set Soul Talkin', Brenda took time off to regroup and travel. Continuing to write, produce and collaborate with other artists, Brenda honed her craft and contributed tunes to other projects, including albums by Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle and the score to How Stella Got Her Groove Back, a collaboration with the late composer Michel Colombier. She also wrote and performed two songs in director Barry Levinson's film Liberty Heights.

Brenda Russell's music is bound by neither time nor trend as she continues to attract fans around the world. Her self-titled debut was re-released by Universal Records in 2000, and the label released Brenda Russell: Ultimate Collection in 2001. In 2002, music writer David Nathan's Ambassador Soul Classics label reissued Two Eyes.

Brenda Russell

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