Kathy Kosins

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Kathy Kosins
Birth name Kathy Ann Kosins
Born Highland Park, Michigan, United States
Genres Jazz, blues, R&B, disco, traditional pop
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, painter
Years active 1976–present
Labels Resonance
Mahogany Jazz
Website Kathy Kosins.com

Kathy Ann Kosins is an American singer specializing in jazz and R&B; she is also an ASCAP award-winning songwriter and modern abstractionist painter. Kosins has recorded several CDs under her own name and was first known as a singer of soul, rock, and pop having worked extensively with the bands Was (Not Was), Slingshot and recording artist Michael Henderson. In more recent years, she has become an internationally known jazz singer; as a multi-media artist she also incorporates her painting into those live presentations.


Early years and education[edit]

Kathy Kosins was born in Highland Park, Michigan to Marilyn and Harry Kosins. Her father was a well-known clothing store owner (Kosins Clothes) who dressed many of the Motown acts and music personalities.[1] Kosins worked in her father's store as a child and was heavily influenced by being able to meet prominent pop artists, music personalities such as Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, Jerry Vale, Dinah Washington, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Lou Rawls, and the Four Tops.[1] Her father took her on one of his clothing buying trips to New York in 1967 where she saw the Broadway production of Hair, and she was "sold on being a performer" from that point on.[1] She was primarily listening to pop and R&B while her brother David (two years younger) was listening to records such as Lester Bowie and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker. She notes the wide range of music she was exposed to early on; she was most influenced by Janis Joplin as a singer growing up.[1] Kosins attended Southfield High School and then Oakland Community College where she completed an Associate degree.

Detroit and rocks bands (1976-1992), Was (Not Was)[edit]

Kosins early on was working with rock bands in the late 1970s and had worked with Michael Henderson.[2] Kosins was 24 when she met David Weiss (David Was) and Don Fagenson (Don Was).[1] She met Don Was in the studio when he and Jack Tann were putting together the first record for the band Was (Not Was). The two men had a hit single before the first 1981 album Was (Not Was). She gave them a demo of her singing and was eventually hired as a backup singer and the contractor for other background singers for Was (Not Was).[1] She toured and recorded with the band Was (Not Was) and with Michael Henderson as a background vocalist during this time through the late 1980s.[2] She was also singing and arranging background vocals for producer Don Was on numerous sessions, which led to her becoming one of the most sought after session singers in the region.[1] Don Was produced her 1982 single You Shook Me All Night Long, which is a re-make of the AC/DC tune (with Slingshot). Kosins comments on the first Was (Not Was) hit album, "It was the best...this really was for me the most creative project I think I was ever involved in."[1] She went on to do several other albums with Was (Not Was) through the 1980s; she also recorded with the British band Floy Joy.[2]

Kosins had another dance single in 1985 she produced and wrote, "I Got The Night Off", which was distributed by Carrere/Sony of France. Besides playing in Europe, the recording did make it back to the United States and was popular with Hi-NRG DeeJays playing Euro disco.[2] During the late 1980s and early 1990s she established working relationships with songwriters and collaborated with Jeff Franzel, April Lang, Lisa Ives, and Walt Szymanski among others. She became a full-time songwriter doing mostly R&B, jazz and pop. Her song writing credits for recordings, TV and movies number at least one-hundred to include music for the Snoop Dogg movie Soul Plane.[1] She has also been a voice over and jingle talent for many television and radio commercials.

Jazz and painting (1993-present)[edit]

Moving into singing jazz[edit]

From 1993 through 1995 Kosins had her first notable engagements as a jazz singer with the J.C. Heard and Nelson Riddle Orchestras.[1] In the early 1990s, Kosins started to move her song writing into a more traditional jazz approach. She was writing in New York with Jeff Franzel; she was also working with Marcy Drexler and April Lang. Franzel, Lang and Kosins started writing what would become Kosins' first CD as a primary artist, All in a Dream's Work. Kosins had solicited this first set of tunes to a number of established jazz singers without result. She recorded the songs herself for the 1996 release with Schoolkids Records, it featured a collection of nine originals and an arrangement of the Miles Davis composition "Four".[3][4] The recording was played on over 250 jazz stations, her debut jazz offering reached the Top 20 in the Gavin Report.[3]

Her CD Mood Swings was released in 2002 on Chiaroscuro Records and received very good air-play on the radio.[5] The CD Vintage was released in 2005 and again she received very good reviews and airplay.[6] Through a collaboration with singer Kevin Mahogany and singing with him on his Big Joe Turner Show (Mahogany's Kansas City Revue and the Detroit-Memphis Experience),[7] Kosins signed in 2005 with Mahogany Jazz; she toured Europe with Mahogany in 2009. Vintage and her most recent recording The Space In Between (2013) are with the Mahogany Jazz Records label.

In 2010 Kosins decided to take a new approach by releasing singles quarterly under the new Mahogany Digital label, rather than an entire CD every few years. "If a live audience falls in love with a new song, I can record and release it to radio while the music is fresh and hot. This is something you can't do if you're committed in advance to a full album release," said Kosins.[8] Also she adds, "Vocalists are performing music that they, not their parents, grew up with. They feel this music in a convincing way and are destined to widen their audience with music that is both appealing and legitimate."[9]

In more recent years Kosins has utilized the talents of arrangers Paul Keller, Jack Cooper, and Tamir Hendelman for her big band book, the show Rhapsody in Boop and the 2012 CD release To The Ladies Of Cool with Resonance. To The Ladies Of Cool is a contemporary exploration of the West Coast School of Cool that focuses on the music of Anita O'Day, June Christy, Chris Connor and Julie London with music orchestraed by Hendelman for jazz quintet. Her tune "Hershey's Kisses" was co-authored with Johnny Mandel (from To The Ladies Of Cool) and also his "Little Black Night Gown", which first became famous with Gerry Mulligan's big band. Her show Rhapsody in Boop was premiered with the Jazz Orchestra of the Delta and has been performed in numerous venues in the United States.[10]


Kosins is a painter of modern abstractions and the works she produces are visual interpretations of audio recordings by the jazz greats.[11] She started painting in 1990, around the time her father died, but it had nothing to do with his death.[1] Her artwork has been shown in art gallery exhibitions and are held in private collections, including recent acquisitions from the Monk Institute in Los Angeles, Baruch College, the Oregon Council for the Arts and the Milford Center for the Arts.[1] She comments, "I like painting it keeps me sane. It keeps my Jou Jou going."[1]

Music and art education in schools[edit]

As a jazz educator and recording artist, she has been an artist in residence at over 180 colleges and universities over the past decade. She developed a unique workshop titled, Improvisation On Canvas.[1] The clinic has been well received with music, dance, art and theater students/professionals.

Awards and grants[edit]

  • ASCAP song writing awards
  • Michigan Council for the Arts (Jazz Composer of the Year)
  • Michigan ArtServe Advocacy Group (grants)

Venues performed at (partial list)[edit]

Artists worked with (partial list)[edit]


Year Single or individual cut
off a compilation
Album Primary artist
Lead singer
Background Singer
Type Label Billboard U.S. U.K. Review
1980 Wide Receiver background singer
Michael Henderson
Studio Buddah Pop Albums
1981 Party In Me composer/lyrics
Gene Dunlap
Capitol Allmusic
3.5/5 stars
Was (Not Was) background singer
Was (Not Was)
ZE, Island Allmusic
3.5/5 stars
1982 Don't Walk Away background singer
Sweet Pea Atkinson
3/5 stars
1983 Born To Laugh At Tornadoes background singer
Was (Not Was)
Geffen Pop Albums
Rolling Stone
4/5 stars
Panic In Detroit Background singer
Pleasure Circuit
You Shook Me All Night Long Lead singer
1984 Breathless Background singer
Figures on a Beach
Into The Hot Background singer
Floy Joy
Virgin New Zealand
Album Chart
1985 T.V. Scene Background singer
with Linda Di Franco
1986 The Rise Of The Heart Korova
1987 I've Got The Night Off Primary artist Carrere
1988 What Up, Dog? background singer
Was (Not Was)
Chrysalis Pop Albums
UK Album Charts
Rolling Stone
4/5 stars
1992 Let Your Mind Do The Lovin Rhonda Clark Background singer/composer
Rhonda Clark
1995 All in a dream's work...a collection of new standards Primary artist Schoolkids' Records top 20
Gavin Report
1996 Jazz and World Music Vol. 4
Planet Music
2002 Mood Swings Chiaroscuro Peaked JazzWeek April 26, 2002 #44 Allmusic
3/5 stars
2005 Vintage Mahogany Jazz Peaked JazzWeek June 15, 2005 #33 Allmusic
4.5/5 stars
2007 Party In Me
Gene Dunlap
Capitol Disco
composer Capitol
2012 To The Ladies Of Cool Primary Artist Resonance Peaked JazzWeek June 4, 2012 #47 Allmusic
4/5 stars
2013 The Space In Between Mahogany Jazz Peaked JazzWeek October 7, 2013 #31

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Miriello, Ralph A. Notes on Jazz: Life of a Working Musician: An Interview with Jazz Vocalist Kathy Kosins. Monday, June 10, 2013 (in two parts). Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  2. ^ a b c d Larkin, Colin. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Fourth edition, London. 2006.
  3. ^ a b Macnie, Jim. "Jazz: Blue Notes". Billboard Magazine, October 21, 1995, page 43. Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  4. ^ Cadence, Volume 22, Issues 1-6, Bob Rusch, 1996. Page 233.
  5. ^ CMJ New Music Report, Apr 1, 2002
  6. ^ Loudon, Christopher. "Kathy Kosins: Vintage". Jazz Times. October 2005. page 79. Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  7. ^ "Nightlife: Jazz and Standards". The New Yorker, March 3, 2008. Page 11.
  8. ^ Kosins, Kathy. Official web site
  9. ^ Graybow, Steve. "Where We're At: comments on the current state of jazz, as seen through artists' eyes". Billboard. June 8, 2002. Page 24. Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  10. ^ Rhapsody in Boop Show, web site
  11. ^ Kathy Kosins, Artist web site
  12. ^ Fox Jazz Fest 2005 Performers September 4, 2005, 4:00 pm


  • Larkin, Colin. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Fourth edition, London. 2006. ISBN 9780195313734
  • Freidwald, Will. A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, page 692. ISBN 0375421491
  • Macnie, Jim. Billboard Magazine, October 21, 1995, page 43.
  • Jazz Times, Review of Vintage, Volume 35, Issues 6-10, 2005. page 79
  • CMJ New Music Report, Apr 1, 2002
  • Cadence, Volume 22, Issues 1-6, Bob Rusch, B. Rusch, 1996. Page 233.
  • The New Yorker, Volume 85, Issues 1-7, New Yorker Magazine, Incorporated, 2009. Page 10.
  • Miriello, Ralph A. Notes on Jazz: Life of a Working Musician: An Interview with Jazz Vocalist Kathy Kosins Monday, June 10, 2013 (in two parts)

External links[edit]