Fonzi Thornton

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Fonzi Thornton
Fonzi Thornton
Background information
Birth name Alfonso Thornton
Origin East Harlem, New York, U.S.
Years active 1975–present

Fonzi Thornton is an American singer, song writer/producer, stage performer and radio personality.

Thornton has provided background vocals on albums by artists which include Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Garth Brooks, Chic, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Sheena Easton, Mariah Carey, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Air Supply, Natalie Cole, The B-52's, R. Kelly, Leona Lewis, Shawn Colvin, Scritti Politti, Al Jarreau, Celine Dion, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Patti Labelle, Jewel, Bette Midler, Bob James, Candi Staton, Donald Fagen, Carly Simon, Change, Michael Bolton, Jody Watley, Debbie Harry, BB and Q band, Joe Cocker, Jimmie Vaughan, The System, Vanessa Williams, and Will Downing.

In 2008, Thornton joined the musical entourage of 20 time Grammy winning Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, as backing vocalist and vocal contractor and continues to tour with her. In March 2014, Thornton appeared with Aretha at the White House before President and Mrs. Obama in a PBS special "Women of Soul".

In 2008, Thornton sang with Aretha on tour, TV and her first-time Christmas album, with Pearl Jam at New York City's Madison Square Garden and Beacon Theatre, and with Phoebe Snow in concert, on her live album and TV. On CBS' 2008 Fashion Rocks, in addition to accompanying Mary J. Blige and Kid Rock then Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, Thornton sang a step-out on "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" during the Motown tribute.

In 2009, Thornton performed at We Are One, the pre-inaugural concert on the steps of Washington's Lincoln Memorial with Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks and James Taylor and provided off camera backing vocals for Aretha's "My Country Tis of Thee" at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. In May 2012, Thornton sang at President Obama's White House presentation of the Gershwin Prize to Burt Bachrach and Hal David accompanying Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crowe, Lyle Lovett and Diana Krall. In October 2012, he performed at One World Concert for the Dalai Lama in Syracuse, NY with Philip Phillips, Roberta Flack, Natasha Bedingfield, David Crosby, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bebe Winans and had a private audience with the Dalai Lama along with Whoopi Goldberg and others.

From 2004 to 2008, Thornton was a weekend disc jockey on Sirius Satellite Radio at 51 Heart and Soul playing modern and classic R&B and sharing behind the scenes experiences.


Born Alfonso Thornton in East Harlem, New York, in his early teens, Fonzi joined neighborhood vocal group, Shades of Jade and befriended a young Luther Vandross. Inspired by the big city soul sounds of the 1960s from Motown to Aretha, the Shades competed in school talent shows and placed 2nd at Harlem's Apollo Theater Amateur Night.

Thornton and Vandross became soloists with Listen My Brother, the Apollo's 16 member artist development workshop and opened at the famous venue for greats like Sly and the Family Stone and Isaac Hayes. During the 2nd season of the children's show, Sesame Street, Thornton sang solo and step-out parts when LMB performed soul-gospel renditions of "Count to 20", "Those are the ABC's" and "Children are Beautiful".

Later, Thornton gained a following on the NYC night club circuit with his band and self-titled vocal trio Fonzi. Developing a distinctive vocal style and showmanship, while honing valuable songwriting and vocal arranging skills. He and his group (renamed F360) toured England with Candi Staton and The Stylistics then appeared with heavyweight Joe Frazier in a Miller Lite beer commercial.


In the late 1970s, approached by producers, Bernard Edwards and teenage friend, Nile Rodgers, Fonzi became male vocalist on six albums and went on tour with Chic. Blending with Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin and chant-singing "Leave your cares behind" on the band's song "Good Times" and on "My Forbidden Lover", Thornton sang solo on You "Can't Do it Alone" for Chic's "Real People" album and "I Work For A Livin" on their "Soup for One" soundtrack. In 2010, Nile Rodgers included 2 previously unheard Fonzi Thornton performances on the Chic box set "Savoir Faire" released thru France to the excitement of diehard Chic fans: Nile's remix of "I Work For A Living" and "I'll Change My Game" (from Thornton's unreleased 1980 album produced by Nile and Bernard).

In the early 1980s, Thornton established himself as a NYC jingle soloist for Cheerios, Pringles, McDonald's, Burger King and Chevrolet, also singing off camera vocal backups for Ray Charles' lip-synching "uh-huh" girls for Diet Pepsi.

He sang on sessions for Evelyn King, Kashif, Stephanie Mills, and on well known dance classics, "Paradise" by Change, "On the Beat" by B. B. & Q. Band and solo vocals on "So Fine" by Howard Johnson.

Luther Vandross[edit]

From 1980 through 1982, Thornton rejoined his childhood friend, Vandross, as a backup singer for his first two national tours. Besides singing on all of the singer's gold and platinum recordings, Thornton served as vocal contractor for every album, appeared on numerous TV shows, sat in on the singer's concerts and co-wrote songs on Luther's final four albums.

Crossing musical boundaries, 1982 Thornton sang solo backing vocals on Roxy Music's entire Avalon album and their world tour that followed. He performed with Bryan Ferry on several solo albums, on Saturday Night Live and in 1985, at Live Aid. In 2007, Thornton reunited with Ferry on the Late Show with David Letterman for the debut of his CD Dylanesque, and in 2011 joined Ferry on his first U.S. tour in 15 years.

Solo albums[edit]

In the spring of 1983, RCA Records released Thornton's debut urban soul-pop album The Leader (co-written and produced) featuring the lead single "Beverly," which reached number 43 on Billboard's R&B chart. The album featured Luther, Nile and Bernard, Jocelyn Brown, Kashif and other industry artists. In 2001, The Leader was re-released to CD on BMG Japan and in 2014 was re-released again on Funkytown Grooves with three remixes of 'Beverly', two of (Uh-Oh) There Goes My Heart & the 7 Inch Version of 'Sayin' Goodbye (To Lonely Nites)'.[1]

Thornton's second solo album, titled Pumpin'... Let Me Show U How Ta Do It was released the following year (1984).[1] Fonzi Thornton- Pumpin'...Let Me Show U How Ta Do It]</ref> Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page).


In the 1990s, Thornton expanded his singing career to motion pictures and television. His filmography credits include:

  • Hercules - (Singer/Vocal Contractor/Released 1997/Disney/Village Roadshow Pictures Worldwide)
  • Tarzan - (Singer/Vocal Contractor/Released 1999/Disney/Village Roadshow Pictures Worldwide)
  • The 24 Hour Woman - (Co-writer Title Song with L. Vandross, Louie Vega, Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez/Released 1999/Canyon Pony)
  • Keeping the Faith - (On Camera Singer/Vocal Contractor/Released 2000/Touchstone Pictures)
  • A Walk to Remember - (Singer/Vocal Contractor/Released 2000/Paradiso Filmed Entertainment)
  • Chicago - (Singer/Released 2002/Miramax Films)


In 2000, in a short stint with Diana Ross and her new Supremes, Thornton appeared on HBO's Divas Live Tribute to Ross, singing her hits with Donna Summer, Mariah Carey, RuPaul, and Destiny's Child.

Thornton performs annually at two events honoring lifetime achievement in the arts – the Kennedy Center Honors and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, participating in musical tributes to the following artists:

Kennedy Center Honors[edit]

Songwriters Hall of Fame[edit]

Hollywood Walk of Fame[edit]

Thornton was instrumental in securing a star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame for Luther Vandross, which was bestowed on June 3, 2014.


Album Title Year Artist Credited Role
1. Young Hearts Run Free 1976 Candi Staton Vocal (Backgrounds)
2. Thighs and Whispers 1979 Bette Midler Vocal (Backgrounds)
3. Risqué 1979 Chic Vocals
4. Real People 1980 Chic Vocals
5. Love Somebody Today 1980 Sister Sledge Vocals (Background)
6. Détente 1980 The Brecker Brothers Vocals (Background)
7. Miracles 1981 Change Vocals (Background)
8. Take It Off 1981 Chic Vocals
9. KooKoo 1981 Debbie Harry Vocals, Vocals (Background)
10. Never Too Much 1981 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
11. Freeze Frame 1981 The J. Geils Band Vocal (Backgrounds)
12. Jump to It 1982 Aretha Franklin Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
13. Sharing Your Love 1982 Change Vocals (Background)
14. Forever, for Always, for Love 1982 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
15. Avalon 1982 Roxy Music Vocals (Background)
16. Hello Big Man 1983 Carly Simon Vocals (Background)
17. The Leader 1983 Fonzi Thornton Vocals, Producer, Vocal Arranger
18. Busy Body 1983 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
19. High Road 1983 Roxy Music Vocals (Background)
20. Search Is Over 1983 Tramaine Vocals (Background),Choir, Chorus, Drum Programming, Vocal Contractor
21. Believer 1983 Chic Vocal (Backgrounds)
22. No Lies 1984 E.P.M. Vocals (Background)
23. Pumpin'...Let Me Show U How Ta Do It[1] 1984 Fonzi Thornton Vocals
24. Art of Defense 1984 Nona Hendryx Vocals (Background)
25. Love Language 1984 Teddy Pendergrass Vocals (Background)
26. Night I Fell In Love 1985 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
27. Cupid & Psyche 85 1985 Scritti Politti Vocals (Background)
28. She's The Boss 1985 Mick Jagger Vocals, Vocals (Background)
29. Riptide 1985 Robert Palmer Vocals (Background)
30. Do You 1985 Sheena Easton Vocals (Background)
31. Power Station 3313 1985 The Power Station Vocals (Background)
32. Boys and Girls 1985 Bryan Ferry Vocals (Background)
33. As the Band Turns 1985 Atlantic Starr Vocals (Background)
34. Hearts In Motion 1986 Air Supply Vocals (Background)
34. L Is For Lover 1986 Al Jarreau Vocals (Background)
35. One to One 1986 Howard Jones Vocals (Background)
36. Give Me The Reason 1986 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
37. Labyrinth 1986 Trevor Jones/David Bowie Vocals (Background)
38. Jody Watley 1987 Jody Watley Vocals (Background)
39. Love Changes 1987 Kashif Vocals (Background)
40. Contact 1987 Platinum Blonde Vocals (Background)
41. Don't Disturb This Groove 1987 The System Vocals (Background)
42. Any Love 1988 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
43. Provision 1988 Scritti Politti Vocals (Background)
44. Forever Yours 1988 Tony Terry Vocals (Background)
45. D'Atra Hicks 1989 D'Atra Hicks Vocals (Background)
46. Soul Provider 1989 Michael Bolton Vocal (Backgrounds)
47. Desert Wind 1989 Ofra Haza Vocals (Background)
48. Addictions, Volume 1 1989 Robert Palmer Vocals (Background)
49. Joe Cocker Live 1990 Joe Cocker Vocals
50. Mariah Carey 1990 Mariah Carey Vocals (Background)
51. Contribution 1990 Mica Paris Vocals (Background)
52. Rituals 1990 Michael Colina Vocal (Backgrounds)
53. Other Voices 1990 Paul Young Vocals (Background)
54. Inside Out 1990 Philip Bailey Vocal (Backgrounds)
55. Heart Still Beating 1990 Roxy Music Vocals (Background)
56. Give in to the Rhythm 1991 Arthur Baker Vocals (Background)
57. So Intense 1991 Lisa Fischer Vocal (Backgrounds)
58. Power of Love 1991 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
59. Burnin' 1991 Patti LaBelle Vocal Contractor, Vocals
60. Set the Night to Music 1991 Roberta Flack Vocals (Background)
61. Emotionally Yours 1991 The O'Jays Vocal (Backgrounds)
62. Chic-Ism 1992 Chic Vocals, Vocals (Background)
63. Houseparty: Anthology 1992 J. Geils Band Vocals (Background)
64. Fat City 1992 Shawn Colvin Vocals (Background)
65. Good Stuff 1992 The B-52's Vocals (Background)
66. Don't Look Back 1993 Al Green Vocals (Background)
67. Black Tie White Noise 1993 David Bowie Vocal (Backgrounds)
68. Kamakiriad 1993 Donald Fagen Vocals (Background)
69. Never Let Me Go 1993 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
70. Call Me Nightlife 1993 Nokko Vocals (Background), Vocal Arranger/Producer
71. Transformation: The Best of Nona Hendryx 1993 Nona Hendryx Vocal (Backgrounds)
72. Dream Harder 1993 The Waterboys Vocals (Background)
73. Carlito's Way (Original Soundtrack) 1993 Various Artists Vocals (Background)
74. Greatest Hits (1980–1994) 1994 Aretha Franklin Vocals (Background)
75. Restless 1994 Bob James Vocals (Background)
76. Mamouna 1994 Bryan Ferry Vocal (Backgrounds)
77. Now 1994 France Joli Vocals (Background)
78. Songs 1994 Luther Vandross Vocal (Backgrounds)
79. Cover Girl 1994 Shawn Colvin Vocals (Background)
80. That Was Then, This Is Now 1994 Ten City Vocal (Backgrounds)
81. Best of Candi Staton 1995 Candi Staton Vocals (Background)
82. Think With Your Heart 1995 Debbie Gibson Vocal (Backgrounds)
83. Strange Pleasure 1995 Jimmie Vaughan Vocal (Backgrounds)
84. This Is Christmas 1995 Luther Vandross Vocals (Background), Choir Vocal Contractor
85. Manzanera Collection 1995 Phil Manzanera Vocal (Backgrounds)
86. Sunshine, Moonlight 1995 Toshi Kubota Vocal (Backgrounds)
87. Bumpin' Voyage 1995 Toshinobu Kubota Vocals (Background)
88. Sweetest Days 1995 Vanessa Williams Vocal (Backgrounds)
89. Free Spirit 1996 Bonnie Tyler Vocals (Background)
90. Falling Into You 1996 Celine Dion Vocals (Background)
91. Got to Be Real: The Best of Cheryl Lynn 1996 Cheryl Lynn Vocals (Background)
92. Your Secret Love 1996 Luther Vandross Vocal Contractor, Vocal (Backgrounds)
93. Get on the Bus 1996 Original Soundtrack Vocals (Background)
94. Living in Fear 1996 The Power Station Vocals (Background)
95. Star Bright 1996 Vanessa Williams Vocal (Backgrounds)
96. BeBe Winans 1997 BeBe Winans Vocals (Background)
97. Untitled 1997 Billy Porter Vocal (Backgrounds)
98. Deborah 1997 Deborah Gibson Vocals (Background)
99. Invitation Only 1997 Will Downing Vocals (Background)
100. Bathhouse Betty (Japan) 1998 Bette Midler Vocal (Backgrounds)
101. These are Special Times 1998 Celine Dion Vocal (Backgrounds)
102. I Know 1998 Luther Vandross Vocal (Background), Vocal Contractor, Songwriter
103. R. 1998 R. Kelly Vocals (Background)
104. Touched by an Angel: The Album 1998 Various Artists Vocal (Backgrounds)
105. This Time They Told The Truth: The Columbia Years 1998 Z.Z. Hill Vocal (Backgrounds)
106. All the Way: A Decade of Song 1999 Celine Dion Vocals (Background)
107. Celine Dion/Unison 1999 Celine Dion Vocals (Background)
108. Joy: A Holiday Collection 1999 Jewel Choir, Chorus
109. Snowfall on the Sahara 1999 Natalie Cole Vocals (Background)
110. Tarzan 1999 Original Soundtrack Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
111. Rosie Christmas 1999 Rosie O'Donnell Vocals (Background)
112. Love & Freedom 2000 BeBe Winans Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
113. Moonchild 2000 Debbie Gibson Vocals (Background)
114. Love Has a Name 2000 Kathy Troccoli Vocals (Background), Vocal Arrangement, Contractor
115. Greatest Hits, Volume 1 2000 Natalie Cole Vocal (Backgrounds)
116. Eternity 2000 Norman Connors Vocal (Backgrounds)
117. All-Star Christmas (Sony 2000) 2000 Various Artists Vocals (Background)
118. Not That Kind (Bonus Track) 2001 Anastacia Vocals (Background)
119. M.Y.O.B 2001 Deborah Gibson Vocals (Background), Vocal Arrangement
120. Luther Vandross 2001 Luther Vandross Vocal (Background), Vocal Contractor, Songwriter
121. Ultimate Luther Vandross 2001 2001 Luther Vandross Vocals
122. Music Box/Emotions/Mariah Carey 2001 Mariah Carey Vocals (Background)
123. Best of Roxy Music 2001 Roxy Music Vocal (Backgrounds)
124. Unison/Celine Dion/The Colour of My Love 2002 Celine Dion Vocal (Backgrounds)
125. How Sweet It Is 2002 Joan Osborne Vocals (Background)
126. Chicago: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture 2002 Original Soundtrack Choir, Chorus, Vocals
127. Best of Both Worlds: The Robert Palmer Anthology (1974–2001) 2002 Robert Palmer Vocals (Background)
128. Sissel 2002 Sissel Vocals (Background)
129. Capitol 1942–2002 (Deluxe Box Set) 2002 Various Artists Vocals (Background)
130. Sound + Vision (2003 Box) 2003 David Bowie Vocal (Backgrounds)
131. Diane (Deluxe Edition) 2003 Diana Ross Vocals (Background)
132. Essential Jimmie Vaughan 2003 Jimmie Vaughan Vocals (Background)
133. Dance With My Father 2003 Luther Vandross Vocal (Background), Vocal Contractor, Songwriter
134. Essential Luther Vandross 2003 Luther Vandross Vocals
135. Live Radio City Music Hall 2003 2003 Luther Vandross Producer
136. Enter My Mind 2003 Marlon Saunders Vocals (Background)
137. R in R & B Collection, Volume 1 2003 R. Kelly Vocals (Background)
138. Avalon (Bonus Track) 2003 Roxy Music Vocals (Background)
139. Thrill of It All (Remastered) 2003 Roxy Music Vocal (Backgrounds)
140. Woman's Love 2003 Vaneese Thomas Vocal (Backgrounds)
141. Best of Vanessa Williams: 20th Century Masters 2003 Vanessa Williams Vocals (Background)
142. Xmas Collection: 20th Century Masters 2003 Vanessa Williams Vocal (Backgrounds)
143. Crunch Beats 2003 Various Artists Vocals (Background), Vocal Arrangement
144. Genius Loves Company 2004 Ray Charles Vocal (Backgrounds)
145. Forever, for Always, for Luther 2004 Various Artists Vocals, Vocal Contractor
146. Soul Divas: Toni Braxton/Patti Labelle/Jody Watley 2005 Vocal (Backgrounds)
147. Essential Luther Vandross (2-CD/DVD) 2005 Luther Vandross Vocals
148. In the Rhythm 2005 Suzanne Couch Vocals (Background)
149. Power Station (Expanded) 2005 The Power Station Vocals
150. Cool Yule 2006 Bette Midler Vocals (Background)
151. In the Night/Instant Love 2006 Cheryl Lynn Vocals (Background)
152. Romancing the '60s 2007 Frankie Valli Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
153. Love, Luther (Box Set) 2007 Luther Vandross Vocals
154. Forever Ray Charles 2007 Ray Charles Singer
155. Best of Van Morrison, Volume 3 2007 Van Morrison Vocals (Background)
156. Defected Presents 20 Years of Def Mix: Part One 2007 Various Artists Vocals (Background)
157. This Kind of Love 2008 Carly Simon Vocal (Backgrounds)
158. Spirit US 2008 Leona Lewis Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
159. Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits 2008 Southside Johnny/La Bamba's Big Band Choir, Chorus
160. This Christmas, Aretha 2008 Aretha Franklin Vocals (Background), Vocal Contractor
161. Blue Eyed Soul, Garth Brooks 2013 Garth Brooks Vocals (Background)


  1. ^ a b c [1]