Brenda Russell

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Brenda Russell
Brenda Russell.jpg
Background information
Birth nameBrenda Gordon
Born (1949-04-08) April 8, 1949 (age 70)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Genres
Years active1963–present
LabelsHorizon (1979)
A&M (1979–81, 1988–92)
Warner Bros. (1983)
EMI (1993)
Hidden Beach (2000)
Dome/Narada Jazz (2003–)
Associated actsThe Tiaras, Donna Summer, Neil Sedaka, Barbra Streisand, Yellowjackets, Diana Ross, Kirk Whalum

Brenda Russell (née Gordon; born April 8, 1949)[1] is an American singer-songwriter and keyboardist. Russell has a diverse musical style which encompasses pop, soul, dance, and jazz. She has received a sum of five Grammy nominations altogether.[2][3][4]

Life and career[edit]

Brenda Gordon was born to musical parents, with her mother being a singer/songwiter and her father Gus Gordon, a one-time member of the Ink Spots. She spent her early years in Canada after moving to Hamilton, Ontario at the age of 12. As a teenager she began performing in local bands and was recruited to sing in a Toronto-based girl group called The Tiaras along with Jackie Richardson. The group's one single, "Where Does All The Time Go", was released on Barry Records in 1968 but was unsuccessful.[3][5]

In her late teens, she joined the Toronto production of Hair, during which time she had begun to play the piano. In the early 1970s she married musician Brian Russell. The couple went on to compose Rufus's Please Pardon Me (on their album Rufusized) and contribute backup vocals to Neil Sedaka's Laughter In The Rain. The Russells also featured as backing vocalists for Elton John's concert at Wembley Stadium on 21 June 1975. Billed as Brian & Brenda they released two albums on John's Rocket label being Word Called Love in 1976 and 1977's Supersonic Lover.[3][5]

The duo also performed on two tracks from Robert Palmer's breakout soul-pop album Double Fun. Their daughter, Lindsay, was born in 1977, but the couple had divorced by the late 1970s, and Russell, now living in Los Angeles, had set out on a solo career.

During 1979 Russell's self-titled debut album was released by A&M Records. The album got to No. 20 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[3][6] An album cut entitled So Good So Right also got to Nos. 8, 15 & 30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs, Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[7][8][9]

Russell went on to work with Earth, Wind & Fire as a composer on their 1980 album Faces and 1981 LP Raise!.[3][10]

Russell issued her sophomore album Love Life in 1981 on A&M.[11] She also appeared and wrote songs on Patrice Rushen's 1981 LP Straight From The Heart and Donna Summer's 1982 album Donna Summer.[2]

During 1983 she released her third album, Two Eyes on Warner Bros. Records. Russell eventually relocated to Sweden where she began writing songs for her next album.[10]

Returning to A&M Records, Russell's fourth album, Get Here, was released in 1988. It became her greatest commercial success, spawning her biggest hit "Piano in the Dark" (a US Top 10 hit which featured Joe Esposito) and garnered three Grammy Award nominations.[12]

Russell then issued her follow up album, Kiss Me with the Wind in 1990. She then produced and guested on Phil Perry's 1991 album The Heart of a Man. The album rose to No. 17 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Russell also featured on the 1991 charity single Voices That Care which reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart.[13][14][15]

She later appeared on Joni Mitchell's 1991 LP Night Ride Home together with the Yellowjackets 1992 album Live Wires.[16][2]

She then released the album Soul Talkin' in 1993 on EMI Records. Russell went on to produce Diana Ross on her 1995 LP Take Me Higher. The album got to No. 10 on the UK Albums chart.[2][17] [18] She also contributed to the score for the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back and appeared in the 1999 film Liberty Heights where she also performed two songs for the film's soundtrack.

Russell resumed her solo career in 2000 with the album Paris Rain, released on Hidden Beach Records. The album (which includes collaborations with Carole King, Dave Koz and Sheila E.) saw Russell move away from the pop market toward a more adult-oriented sound.[19] In 2003, she signed to the new UK label Dome Records and released the compilation album So Good, So Right: The Best of Brenda Russell. Her eighth studio album, Between the Sun and the Moon, was released by Dome in 2004.[20]

2005 saw a Broadway musical version of Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, the show's score was written by Russell and lyricists-composers Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Russell and her co-writers were nominated for a Tony Award (for Best Score) and a Grammy Award (in the Best Musical Show Album category).[21][22][4]

During 2015 Russell, after making her home in Los Angeles for thirty years, took up residence in Austin, Texas.[23]

During 2016 Russell received a Grammy nomination for The Color Purple in the category of Best Musical Theater Album.[4]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Brenda Russell among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[24]

Legacy[edit]

Russell has been covered by artists such as Babyface, Oleta Adams, Luther Vandross, Patti Austin, Ruben Studdard and Ramsey Lewis. She has also been sampled by artistes such as Ariana Grande, Tupac Shakur, Chance The Rapper, Thalia, Flo Rida and Big Pun.[25][26][27]

Artists such as Hot Chip have also been influenced by Russell.[28]

Accolades[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Russell has received a sum of five Grammy nominations altogether.[4]

Year Category Nominated work Result
1988 Song Of The Year "Piano In The Dark" Nominated
1988 Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Get Here Nominated
1988 Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals "Piano In The Dark" Nominated
2006 Best Musical Show Album "Colour Purple" Nominated
2016 Best Musical Theatre Album "Colour Purple" Nominated

Tony Awards[edit]

Russell has also been nominated for a Tony Award.[22]

Year Category Nominated work Result
2006 Original Musical Score "Colour Purple" Nominated

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Russell featured as a singer in the 1978 feature film American Hot Wax and 1999 feature film Liberty Heights.[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gregory, Andy (2002).The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. p.444
  2. ^ a b c d "Brenda Russell". allmusic.com.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Counting the Stars: Treasured Singer-Songwriter Brenda Russell Shares Her Story". Popmatters.com.
  4. ^ a b c d "Brenda Russell". Grammy.com.
  5. ^ a b "FEATURE BRENDA RUSSELL: SOULSATIONAL". bluesandsoul.com.
  6. ^ "Brenda Russell: Brenda Russell (Top Soul Albums)". Billboard.com.
  7. ^ "Brenda Russell: So Good So Right (Adult Contemporary Songs)". Billboard.com.
  8. ^ "Brenda Russell: So Good So Right (Hot Soul Songs)". Billboard.com.
  9. ^ "Brenda Russell: So Good So Right (Hot 100)". Billboard.com.
  10. ^ a b "Brenda Russell: Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts.com. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  11. ^ "Brenda Russell: Love Life". allmusic.com.
  12. ^ "Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female - The 31st Annual Grammy Awards (1988)". The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  13. ^ "Various Artists: Voices That Care". 45worlds.com.
  14. ^ "Voices That Care: (Hot 100)". billboard.com.
  15. ^ "Voices That Care: (Adult Contemporary Songs)". billboard.com.
  16. ^ "Phil Perry: The Heart of the Man". billboard.com.
  17. ^ "Diana Ross". officialcharts.com.
  18. ^ "Brenda Russell". Smooth-jazz.de. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 4, 2005. Retrieved October 24, 2005.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Between the Sun and the Moon - Brenda Russell | Releases". AllMusic. 2004-07-13. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 25, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ a b "Brenda Russell". Tonyawards.com.
  23. ^ Pam Meade. "Brenda Russell finds inspiration for writing songs all around her". Monroe News. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  24. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Brenda Russell". secondhandsongs.com.
  26. ^ "Brenda Russell". genius.com.
  27. ^ "Flo Rida's 'I Cry' Puts Brenda Russell's 'Piano in the Dark' Back on Charts". atlantablackstar.com.
  28. ^ "The Songs Hot Chip Wish They Wrote". pitchfork.com.
  29. ^ "Brenda Russell". IMDb.com.

External links[edit]