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Brian McKnight

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Brian McKnight
McKnight at the 2019 Celebrity Fight Night
Brian Kelly McKnight

(1969-06-05) June 5, 1969 (age 55)
EducationMaynard Evans High School
Oakwood College (no degree)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actor
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • arranger
Years active1988–present
Julie McKnight
(m. 1990; div. 2003)
Leilani Mendoza
(m. 2017)
AwardsFull list
Musical career
OriginOrlando, Florida, U.S.
Formerly ofBlack Men United

Brian Kainoa Makoa McKnight Sr.[1] (born Brian Kelly McKnight; June 5, 1969) is an American singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, radio personality, and multi-instrumentalist.[2][3] An R&B performer, he is recognized for his strong head voice, high belting range, and melisma.

His first hit song, "Love Is" (with Vanessa Williams) was recorded for the Beverly Hills, 90210 soundtrack in 1993, and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. That same year, his single "One Last Cry" peaked at number 13 on the chart and spawned from his eponymous debut studio album (1992), which was released by Mercury Records the year prior and received platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His 1997 single, "You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste Your Time)" (featuring Mase) peaked within the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and led his third album, Anytime (1997)—his final release with Mercury before he signed with Motown. His 1999 single, "Back at One" peaked at number two on the chart and remains his highest-charting song; it preceded the album of the same name (1999), which was the first of four of his albums—Superhero (2001), U Turn (2003), and Gemini (2005)—to consecutively debut within the top ten of the Billboard 200. His ninth album, Ten (2006) marked his final major label release.

His work has earned him 16 Grammy Award nominations,[4] third only to Zubin Mehta and Snoop Dogg for the record of most nominations for the award without a win.[5]

Early life[edit]

McKnight was born in Buffalo, New York to Claude McKnight, Jr. and Ruth Elaine Willis. His music experience began in childhood when he became a member of his church choir, which was directed by his grandfather. McKnight explored different genres of music, and in his early teens he started musical ambitions by composing instrumental material while learning to play several instruments. McKnight formed a band and began performing his original songs at local venues. By the age of 18, he was offered a publishing deal.[6]


Mercury Records: Brian McKnight and Anytime (1990–1997)[edit]

McKnight's older brother, Claude V. McKnight III (and his band Take 6), signed a record deal with Warner Brothers subsidiary Reprise Records in 1987, releasing their self-titled debut in the Spring of 1988. This encouraged McKnight to shop his own demo tapes, and by the age of 19 he signed his first recording deal with Mercury Records subsidiary, Wing Records.[7] His self-titled debut album Brian McKnight was released in 1992, and peaked at number 58 on the Billboard 200 chart. His first release was "The Way Love Goes", which peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[8] The album also featured the ballad and Top 20 single, "One Last Cry". It was followed by two more albums for Mercury, I Remember You (1995) and Anytime (1997). Anytime, McKnight's final album with Mercury, sold over two million copies and was nominated for a Grammy. The video for "Anytime", directed by Darren Grant, was nominated for Best Male Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. In 1997, McKnight recorded "Remember the Magic" for Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary.[citation needed] After the release of his self-titled debut album, McKnight was part of the group Black Men United alongside Gerald Levert, his then-labelmate Joe, Christopher Williams, Boyz II Men, and others for the song "U Will Know", featured on the soundtrack to the film Jason's Lyric, released in late 1994, in which he produced it with D'Angelo.

Motown Records: Bethlehem and Back at One (1998–2004)[edit]

McKnight signed with Motown in 1998 and released a Christmas album, Bethlehem, the first of five albums he released on Motown.

In 1998, McKnight was a guest star on the show Sister Sister. He appeared in multiple episodes, as Tia and Tamera's college professor.

In 1999, McKnight released Back at One, his most successful album to date, which eventually went on to sell over three million copies. Additionally, Back at One is one of four of McKnight's studio albums to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, reaching number 7 on October 9, 1999.[9]

In 2004, McKnight co-wrote the song "Wait" with Australian soul artist Guy Sebastian, which appeared on Sebastian's Beautiful Life album.

Warner Brothers: Ten and media/radio gigs (2005–2014)[edit]

McKnight performing in 2006

In late 2005, McKnight signed with Warner Bros. Records and released the album Ten during December 2006. It was his only studio album with the label. Three singles were released from the album: "Find Myself in You" (which originally appeared on the soundtrack to the 2006 Tyler Perry movie Madea's Family Reunion), "Used to Be My Girl" and "What's My Name".

In October 2007, McKnight made his Broadway debut in the show Chicago.[citation needed]

Between 2006 and 2010, McKnight hosted The Brian McKnight Morning Show, a radio show with Pat Prescott on KTWV The Wave in Los Angeles. The show was briefly simulcast on KHJZ-FM, Smooth Jazz 95.7 The Wave in Houston, Texas. In January 2009, McKnight hosted "The Brian McKnight Show" on 98.7 KISS FM in New York City.[citation needed]

In 2009, McKnight appeared in the eighth season of Celebrity Apprentice.[10] Each celebrity played to raise money for the charity of his or her choice. McKnight elected to play for Youthville USA.[citation needed]

Between September 2009 and May 2010, McKnight served as the media personality and hosted[11] The Brian McKnight Show, a late night talk show billed as a combination of talk and variety which aired in syndication.

McKnight sang the National Anthem for MLB Opening Day in Cincinnati, Ohio with his sons Brian, Jr. and Niko on March 31, 2011. He had previously sung the National Anthem for the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland, Game 6 of the 2002 World Series in Anaheim, California (near his Los Angeles home), and the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Detroit. He has also made numerous other "National Anthem" appearances throughout his career. Additionally, McKnight sang "God Bless America" in the 7th inning of Game 7 of the National League Champion Series in San Francisco on October 22, 2012.[citation needed]

McKnight at the 2014 Pioneer of African American Achievement Awards Gala in Beverly Hills, California

On April 23, 2012, McKnight posted to YouTube "If You're Ready To Learn", which has been characterized by Billboard as a "filthy jam". Billboard selected this lyric from the work to quote: "Let me show you how your p—y works / Since you didn't bring it to me first."[12] Other media outlets such as MTV, the Toronto Sun, and NewMediaRockstars[13] have also written about McKnight's recent, more adult-oriented efforts.[14][15] Shortly after the single's release, McKnight and Funny or Die revealed that the single was a collaboration between the two. McKnight later explained that he wrote the parody as a commentary on the state of R&B, which he noted was in a period of degradation overall with famous radio station 98.7 Kiss FM shuttering and hit singles being inferior quality music, among other ailments.[16]

Brian McKnight Music and Kobalt: Better (2015–2016)[edit]

On August 14, 2015, McKnight released the single "Uh Oh Feeling", the first track from his album Better. It was released on his own label, Brian McKnight Music LLC via Kobalt Label Services.[17] Better was released on February 26, 2016. The album received positive reviews.[18]

SoNo Recording: An Evening with... and Genesis (2016–present)[edit]

On September 23, 2016 (twenty years from the date of his studio album Anytime), McKnight released his first live CD, DVD and Blu-ray collection entitled An Evening with Brian McKnight (in partnership with independent recording label, SoNo Recording Group, via the Universal Music Group). The concert was recorded in Los Angeles, at the historic Saban Theatre. The release includes fourteen songs performed live with his full band, plus three newly written and recorded songs. The first single, "Everything", reached the Top 20 on the national Adult Contemporary charts in September 2016. The CD version of the concert debuted on the Billboard R&B chart at number 13, as a Hot Shot Debut. Also included, is a duet with Gino Vannelli, on the song "Brothers in the End". The Blu-ray and DVD version of the release premiered on the Billboard Music DVD chart at number 9.[citation needed]

McKnight released the album Genesis on August 25, 2017.[19] It featured three Top 30 Urban AC and AC hits: "Everything", "Forever" and "I Want U". Genesis premiered on the Nielsen SoundScan Top 10 Current R&B Albums and Top 20 Current Hip Hop/R&B Albums. The album was produced by Tim Kelley, part of the legendary duo Tim & Bob.[citation needed]

In January 2018, McKnight was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards. He was nominated for Outstanding Male Artist and Outstanding Album for Genesis (alongside Bruno Mars, Charlie Wilson, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Mary J Blige).[citation needed]

In May 2018, McKnight announced he was working on his next studio album tentatively titled Bedtime Story, which would be 60 minutes of music "for the bedroom aka baby-making music".[20]

In 2021, Brian McKnight competed on The Masked Singer spin-off The Masked Dancer as "Cricket".

Personal life[edit]

McKnight was married from 1990-2003 to singer-songwriter, Julie McKnight, and they have two sons together.[21] McKnight also has a daughter he fathered from a previous relationship.[21]

In 2014, he began dating Dr. Leilani Malia Mendoza, a pediatric neurophysiologist, and they announced their engagement in May 2017.[22] On December 29, 2017, McKnight and Mendoza were married.[23] Mendoza has two children from a previous relationship. McKnight and Mendoza had a son who died in infancy.[24] In December 2022, McKnight and Mendoza had another son, Brian Kainoa Makoa Jr.[1] McKnight legally changed his name to Brian Kainoa Makoa McKnight Sr. to match his new son's name.[1]


Brian McKnight was raised a Seventh-day Adventist. Religion was important in the McKnight family, with many generations being Seventh-day Adventists. His grandfather was a pastor of a church, and his mother played the piano and sang in a gospel choir in Buffalo's Emanuel Temple. Being the youngest of four boys, McKnight became a member of an a cappella gospel quartet with his brothers. He also attended Oakwood College, a Seventh-day Adventist university in Huntsville, Alabama, from 1987 to 1989. In his second year, McKnight got into trouble for violating Oakwood's rules about dormitory visitors for having his girlfriend in his dorm room. They were both expelled.[25][26]


Studio albums



Year Title Role Notes
2000 A Diva's Christmas Carol Himself TV movie
2003 The Beat Record Executive
2005 Leverage Joe
2009 Black Dynamite Sweet Meat
2011 Cheaper to Keep Her Raymond Mays Video
2012 Note to Self Doctor William Thompson
Fuzzy Giners Professor Short
2013 The Country Christmas Story Danny Gibson TV movie
2017 Sandy Wexler Testimonial
Naked Himself


Year Title Role Notes
1993 Stanley T in Da House Himself Episode: "Boyz II Men"
The Mickey Mouse Club Himself Episode: "Episode #6.18"
1993-01 Showtime at the Apollo Himself Recurring Guest
1993-05 Soul Train Himself Recurring Guest
1994 Martin Himself Episode: "Love is in Your Face: Part 2"
1995 New York Undercover Himself Episode: "CAT"
Midnight Mac Himself Episode: "Episode #1.1"
1996 Living Single Himself Episode: "Wake Up to the Breakup"
Martin Himself Episode: "Where the Party At"
1997 The Steve Harvey Show Himself Episode: "Coming to Chicago"
1998 Beverly Hills, 90210 Himself Episode: "Ready or Not"
Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards Himself/Co-Host Main Co-Host
Soul Train Christmas Starfest Himself/Host Main Host
1998-99 Sister, Sister Keith/Clarence Recurring Cast: Season 6
1999 Mad TV Himself Episode: "Episode #4.16"
Soul Train Music Awards Himself/Co-Host Main Co-Host
2000 Hollywood Squares Himself/Panelist Recurring Panelist
2001 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Himself/Contestant Episode: "Top of the Charts Edition, Show 2-4"
The Wayne Brady Show Himself Episode: "Pilot"
The Parkers Himself Episode: "Crazy Love"
Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America Himself Main Guest
VH1 Presents the 80's Himself Episode: "Hip Hop/R&B"
2002 My Wife and Kids Himself Episode: "Anniversary"
2003 Star Search Himself/Guest Judge Episode: "The One with Singer Brian McKnight"
American Juniors Himself/Guest Judge Episode: "Episode #1.9" & "#1.10"
MTV Cribs Himself Episode: "Oct 13, 2003"
Pyramid Himself/Celebrity Contestant Episode: "Oct 16, 2003"
Platinum Mace Episode: "Power"
2004 The Chris Isaak Show Himself Episode: "Home Improvement"
Soundstage Himself Episode: "Chris Isaak Christmas"
2005 American Dreams Stokely Carmichael Episode: "The Commencement"
2006 Celebrity Duets Himself Episode: "Episode #1.2"
2007 Hey Paula Himself Episode: "All That Glitters"
2008 Secret Talents of the Stars Himself/Judge Episode: "Episode #1.1"
America's Got Talent Himself Episode: "Episode #3.20"
Great Performances Himself Episode: "Hit Man: David Foster and Friends"
2009 The Apprentice Herself/Contestant Contestant: Season 8
2009-10 The Brian McKnight Show Himself/Host Main Host
2012 Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives Himself Episode: "A Place Called Home"
The Mumblesteens Himself Episode: "Secret Lover"
2013 Shark Tank Himself Episode: "Hamboards, Scan, ScreenMend, Sunday Night Slow Jams"
Minute Motivations Himself Episode: "Holiday Special"
2015 Hollywood in Vienna Himself Episode: "Hollywood in Vienna 2015: Tales of Mystery"
2015-16 Celebrity Name Game Himself/Celebrity Player Episode: "Brian McKnight & Nia Vardalos 1-3"
2017 Grown Folks Pastor Episode: "Take 'em to Church"
2021 The Masked Dancer Contestant/Cricket Main Contestant
American Idol Himself Episode: "410 (All Star Duets and Solos)"
2022 Star Tracker Himself Episode: "The Pursuit of the Dream"
Atlanta Himself Episode: "The Goof Who Sat By the Door"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Year Nominee/work Category Result
American Music Awards 1999 Brian McKnight Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist Nominated
Anytime Favorite Soul/R&B Album Nominated
BET Awards 2007 Brian McKnight BET J Cool Like Dat Award Nominated
Grammy Awards 1994 "Love Is" with Vanessa Williams Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
1999 "Anytime" Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
"The Only One For Me" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
2000 Back at One Best R&B Album Nominated
"Back at One" Best Short Form Music Video Nominated
2001 "6, 8, 12" Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
"Stay or Let It Go" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
"Coming Back Home" with BeBe Winans & Joe Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
2002 "Still" Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
"My Kind of Girl" with Justin Timberlake Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Nominated
"Love of My Life" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
Best R&B Song Nominated
"Win" from Men of Honor Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Nominated
2003 "All the Way" with Kenny G Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
2004 "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
2005 "What We Do Here" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards 1998 "Anytime" Best Male Video Nominated
2000 "Back at One" Best R&B Video Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2000 "Back at One" Outstanding Male Artist Won
2001 "Stay or Let It Go" Outstanding Male Artist Nominated
2002 Superhero Outstanding Male Artist Nominated
2018 Genesis Outstanding Male Artist Nominated
Outstanding Album Nominated
Pop Awards 2018[27] Brian McKnight Lifetime Achievement Award Nominated
Soul Train Music Awards 1999 "Anytime" Best R&B/Soul Single, Male Won
2000 "Back at One" Best R&B/Soul Single, Male Nominated
Back at One Best R&B/Soul Album, Male Nominated
2002 "Love of My Life" Best R&B/Soul Single, Male Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Elibert, Mark (October 22, 2023). "Brian McKnight Criticized for Changing His Name Following the Birth of His Son". Complex. Retrieved October 22, 2023.
  2. ^ "ACE Repertory". www.ascap.com. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Collier, Aldore (July 2000). "Brian McKnight on Fame, Family and Female Fans". FindArticles.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
  4. ^ "12 Artists Who Could Win Their First Grammy in 2019". Billboard. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  5. ^ "'Sleep well, brother': In live video, Brian McKnight sings in memory of James Ingram". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  6. ^ "Brian McKnight Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic.
  7. ^ "Brian McKnight Back at One". SuperiorPics.com. 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  8. ^ "Brian McKnight Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic.
  9. ^ [1] Archived May 4, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, Brian McKnight's chart history on Billboard 200 Albums Chart
  10. ^ Trump Rounds Up Celebs for New Season of the Apprentice New York Times, January 8, 2009
  11. ^ "Stevie Wonder Confirmed as First Guest on Premiere of The Brian McKnight Show". PRLog.org. August 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  12. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (April 24, 2012). "Brian McKnight Previews 'Adult Mixtape' with Explicit Slow Jam". Billboard. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  13. ^ "Brian McKnight Interview | R&B Legend". Newmediarockstars.com. June 19, 2012. Archived from the original on December 27, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  14. ^ "Brian McKnight: 'Vulgar sex song a joke'". Toronto Sun. April 25, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  15. ^ "Brian McKnight Officially Re-Releasing Sexual Anthem". Rapfix.mtv.com. April 26, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  16. ^ MaxwellSchad (May 17, 2012). "Brian McKnight on why he wrote "If You're Ready to Learn"". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  17. ^ "Exclusive: Brian McKnight Teams With Kobalt for New Single 'Uh Oh Feeling'". Billboard. August 14, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  18. ^ "Brian McKnight releases 12th studio album 'Better'". Singersroom. February 29, 2016. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Kostanczuk, Bob (May 11, 2017). "McKnight enjoys 'rebirth' with new single, album". Post-Tribune. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  20. ^ Graff, Gary. "Brian McKnight at Sound Board, 3 Things To Know". The Oakland Press. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "All About Brian McKnight's Kids". People.
  22. ^ "Brian Mcknight on Instagram: "She said yes ❤❤❤❤❤ took me 42 years to find her and I'm never letting her go I'm so in love with you baby #iloveourlife #priceless…"". Instagram. Archived from the original on December 26, 2021. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  23. ^ "Brian McKnight Marries Leilani Malia Mendoza in New Year's Eve Ceremony". Us Weekly. January 2, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  24. ^ "Brian McKnight Reflects On The Loss Of His Infant Son As Child Abandonment Rumors Surface". www.yahoo.com. May 11, 2022. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  25. ^ "Brian McKnight Biography". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  26. ^ Jones, Joyce (June 5, 2014). "This in Black History". Bet. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  27. ^ "Pop Awards 2018, the 1st annual Pop Awards". Pop Awards. Retrieved January 11, 2019.

External links[edit]