Anita “Songstress” Baker


Anita Denise Baker was born January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, U.S. She is an American singer whose three-octave range and powerful, emotional delivery brought her international acclaim in the 1980s and ’90s. She was one of the most famous artists in urban contemporary music, a genre that her sophisticated, tradition-oriented soul and rhythm-and-blues singing helped to define.

Early Life

Baker’s mother was a young teenager who gave her up for adoption to a Detroit couple, Mary and Grandville Lewis. Later, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle, Lois and Walter Landry. Baker first began singing with her church’s gospel choir in Detroit, and the music she performed there uncovered her love and talent for music. The gospel sound would later influence her singing career. Baker’s other musical influences include jazz singers Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.  

Anita Baker Circa 1979

Deeper Dive Into Her Childhood

Baker’s birth mother, who was only 16 when Anita was born, abandoned her, leaving her in the care of a woman who has been variously described as a friend and as a relative; this woman, Mary Lewis, became her foster mother. When Anita was 13, her foster mother died, and an older sister in her adoptive family told her the truth about her past. This older adoptive sister, Lois Landry, raised Anita. Much later, in an interview with Essence, Baker recalled how she tried to cope with this discovery: “That child believed her mother abandoned her,” she said (referring to herself), “because there was something bad about her. Something terrible that made her unlovable. And until Walter, Baker’s future husband, that is how I felt about me—that I was not good enough. Not good, period.” Baker’s foster family provided her with a stable environment that emphasized hard work and religion; she joined a church choir and identified with the deep voice of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

Giving You The Best That I Got

Baker’s follow-up album, Giving You the Best That I Got, was released in October 1988 and immediately became a success, topping the 200 and selling 5 million copies worldwide, 3 million of which sold alone in the United States. The title track reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B and adult contemporary charts, becoming her most successful charted single. The follow-up, “Just Because“, reached the top 20 on the pop chart while also becoming an R&B chart-topper, while a third single, “Lead Me Into Love”, became a top ten R&B hit. The album resulted in three more Grammy Awards for the singer.


Baker’s talent first became apparent when she sang in church choirs in Detroit, where she grew up. Against her family’s wishes, she dropped out of community college to pursue a singing career, performing in nightclubs with local bands and joining the funk group Chapter 8, with whom she toured for several years and recorded an album that included the hit “I Just Want to Be Your Girl.” Discouraged when the band was dropped by its record company, Baker ceased performing. Lured back into the business by Beverly Glen Records, she recorded The Songstress (1983), a solo album that sold more than 300,000 copies and spent more than a year on the charts.

The Songstress

Baker released her debut solo album,The Songstress, in May 1983. The album produced four singles: “No More Tears” and its B-side, “Will You Be Mine,” “Angel,” and “You’re the Best Thing Yet.” “Angel” became Baker’s first top-ten single, reaching number five on the R&B charts in late 1983. “You’re the Best Thing Yet” followed it in the R&B top 40 early the following year. Despite this early success, Baker later complained that she hadn’t received any royalties from this work. In addition, the label delayed work on Baker’s follow-up of The Songstress. By 1984, after two years, Baker sought to leave the label but was sued by Smith for breach of contract in 1985. After months in court debating the matter, it was concluded that Baker should be allowed to record for other labels, winning the case against Beverly Glen label owner Otis Smith.

Moving to Elektra, she served as executive producer of her next album, Rapture (1986), which won two Grammy Awards, sold more than five million copies, and spawned two hit singles—“Sweet Love” and “You Bring Me Joy.” The album Giving You the Best That I’ve Got, and a three-month tour with Luther Vandross followed in 1988, and Compositions was released in 1990; both albums won Grammys. Personal issues led Baker to take a four-year hiatus, but in 1994 she returned with the album Rhythm of Love. In 1996 she signed with Atlantic Records.

Luther Vandross Vintage Concert Vintage Ticket from Oakland Coliseum Arena (Oakland, CA), Nov 28, 1988.

The Rapture

In March 1986, Baker released her second album, Rapture. While sales were initially slow following the release of the album’s debut single, “Watch Your Step,” Elektra released the mid-tempo ballad “Sweet Love,” which became her first pop hit, reaching number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and also reaching the UK Top 20. The album eventually launched three further hit singles, including “Caught Up in the Rapture,” “No One in the World,” and “Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)”. Between 1986 and 1987, Baker promoted the album by touring, headlining her first tour, The Rapture Tour, a show later released on home video as A Night of Rapture. By 1988, the album had sold over 8 million copies worldwide, 5 million of which were sold in the United States alone. The album won Baker two Grammy Awards at the 1987 ceremony.

Compositions, Motherhood, & Rhythm of Love

In 1990, Baker released Compositions, which had Baker more involved in the songwriting and production process and the first in which she began incorporating more jazz elements than in previous albums. The album launched the singles “Talk to Me”, “Soul Inspiration” and “Fairy Tales”, and eventually sold over a million copies. After the end of the album’s touring and promotion schedule in 1991, Baker took a break from the business to settle down with her husband at the time, later having two children with him. Meanwhile, Elektra bought the rights to, and reissued, her first album, The Songstress. It has since sold more than 300,000 copies. After appearing on Frank Sinatra’s Duets album, Baker returned to the charts with Rhythm of Love in 1994. The album featured “Body and Soul”, her first top 40 pop hit since 1989. The second single, the mid-tempo “I Apologize”, won Baker an eighth Grammy. The album eventually sold over two million copies: her fourth consecutive platinum-selling album. Baker undertook the Rhythm of Love World Tour from December 14, 1994 to November 14, 1995. Baker was transferred to another label within the Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records, in 1996. Taking a hiatus after the end of the Rhythm of Love Tour to care for her two sons, Baker returned to the studio in 2000. In May 2001, she filed a lawsuit against Zomba Recording and its Dreamhire division for alleged damage to her recordings by a hired 24-track tape machine. Due to a label restructuring, Baker was let go from Atlantic that November without releasing any material with the company. During this hiatus, Rhino Records released the compilation, The Best of Anita Baker (named Sweet Love: The Very Best of Anita Baker in the UK) in June 2002. The album eventually was certified platinum by the RIAA, denoting sales in excess of 1,000,000 units in the US.


  • The Rapture Tour (1986–87)
  • Giving You the Best World Tour (1988–89)
  • Compositions World Tour (1990–91)
  • Rhythm of Love World Tour (1994–95)
  • Anita Live! (2002–04)
  • An Evening with Anita Baker (2007–09)
  • Anita Baker Farewell Tour (2018)
  • The Songstress (2023)


  • The Songstress (1983)
  • Rapture (1986)
  • Giving You the Best That I Got (1988)
  • Compositions (1990)
  • Rhythm of Love (1994)
  • My Everything (2004)

Works Cited

The Songstress. (2022, November 1). In Wikipedia.

Anita Baker. (2022, November 23). In Wikipedia.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Anita Baker.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 Apr. 2022, Accessed 2 December 2022.  

Anita Baker Biography – Combated Feelings of Abandonment, Released Hit Album, Back on Track After Ten Years, Selected discography – JRank Articles

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