“Fear doesn’t overcome me. I say if it’s going to be done, let’s do it.

Let’s not put it in the hands of fate.

Let’s not put it in the hands of someone who doesn’t know me.”

—Anita Baker

Methodology

I conducted research by using scholarly journal articles that included Anita Baker’s background information and her influence on soul and R&B in the industry. Before researching Anita Baker, I did not know much about her than her two songs, “Sweet Love” and “Giving You The Best That I Got.” Quite honestly, I thought Anita Baker had passed away not too long ago. At the time I did not know how much of an impact Baker had on the soul/R&B genre. Not only that, but how many awards her albums and songs have gotten, and her lasting influence she has had on performers that came after her. I chose Anita baker because I really enjoy listening to both of her songs I mentioned earlier and I wanted to learn more about her and her work. It was also pleasant to know she is still alive today!

Summary & Abstract

Anita Baker is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter known for her elegant R&B canon, with hits like “Sweet Love” and “Just Because.” Baker made her album debut in 1983 with The Songstress before releasing several years later her megahit Rapture, featuring the single “Sweet Love.” With a lush, soaring voice, Baker has remained a revered force in contemporary soul music for decades with tunes like “Just Because,” “Talk to Me” and “Body and Soul.” She has not only won eight Grammy awards, and has five platinum albums, but one gold album to her name. Anita is regarded as one of the most popular singers of soulful romantic ballads during the height of the quiet storm period of contemporary R&B in the 1980s.

Thesis

Although Anita was among other popular female soul singers of her time, Anita Baker is a tiny powerhouse who helped unleash a new generation of female soul singers by her many achievements at a young age.

Early Life

Anita Baker was born on January 26, 1958 in Toledo, Ohio. When she was two, her mother abandoned her and Baker was raised by a foster family in Detroit, Michigan. When she was 12, her foster parents died and her foster sister raised her. By the time Baker was 16, she began singing R&B at Detroit nightclubs. After one performance, she was discovered by bandleader David Washington, who gave her a card to audition for the funk band, Chapter 8. Anita joined Chapter 8 in 1975 and the group toured until securing a deal with Ariola Records in 1979. The group’s first album, Chapter 8, was released that year and featured the singles “Ready for Your Love,” a duet between Baker and bandmate Gerald Lyles, and the Baker-led “I Just Want to Be Your Girl.” After Ariola was bought out by Arista Records in 1979, Chapter 8 was dropped by the label who were convinced that Baker, as the group’s lead singer, didn’t have “star potential.” Baker returned to Detroit, working as a waitress and a receptionist until, in 1982, Otis Smith, a former associate of Ariola, convinced Baker to start a solo career under his Beverly Glen label.

Music Career

In 1983, she released her debut solo album, The Songstress, under the Beverly Glen label. The album was a popular one and many of the songs made it to the music charts. Following the release of the album she had a protracted legal battle with the Beverly Glen label over payment of royalties and breach of contract issues. She won the case against the label in 1985. During that same year,, she signed a contract with Elektra Records label and was able to came out with her second album 'Rapture' in 1986. Anita recalls how if it had not been for The Songstress, she would not have gotten the attention from Elektra. She states, “[She] has grown so much. [She] has learned that [her] instincts are very sharp, and it comes with experience” (Norment 3). The album became a big hit, with over eight million copies sold worldwide and also led to ‘The Rapture Tour’. In 1988, Baker released her third album titled ‘Giving You the Best That I Got’ it immediately became a big hit. The title song and the song ‘Just Because’ became chart toppers. She was plumbing the roots of R&B, combining soul with the sophistication of adult pop at this point in her career. Steve Ivory, R&B editor of Black Beat magazine, says, “At a time when we're dealing with all this techno-pop with R&B artists who can't play instruments and can't sing, I look at [Anita] as an oasis on an island of mediocrity, [Anita’s] record-buying audience spans from the early teens to people in their 40s and 50s''(Jones). Rapture was critically acclaimed; yet Giving You the Best That I Got was criticized for sounding too similar. Anita explains how “[she] knew [she] had to do something different this time. This is basically the way [her] heroines recorded. ([They] got) the energy back that [she] thinks [they] lost on the last album” (Jones). Moving forward into 1990, she released the album ‘Compositions’ and songs like ‘Talk to Me’ and ‘Fairy Tales’ propelled the album past the million copies threshold in terms of sales. The songs were inspired by jazz music and Baker as involved with the songwriting process as well. After taking a brief hiatus from music, Baker came out with her 5th album ‘Rhythm of Love’ in 1994 and its song ‘Body and Soul’ became a chat topper. The album was an instant hit and sold in excess of two million copies making her one of her one of the few artists to have had the distinction of having four straight platinum selling albums. Towards the end of the year, she also took part in a ‘Rhythm of Love World Tour’ that went on for 11 months. Baker took a hiatus from music in order to look after her family and went back to recording in 2000. In 2004, she released the album ‘My Everything’ and in spite of the fact that she had returned to music after a considerable period of time, the album was appreciated by music fans and was certified gold. A year later, she released the album ‘Christmas Fantasy’.In 2007, she embarked on a two-year concert tour titled 'An Evening with Anita Baker' and performed at different events. Baker released her own version of the song titled “Lately” in 2012 and the song became quite popular. She has been working on the album featuring the single, "Only Forever", since 2010 but the release date of the album has still not been finalized.

Personal Life

Baker got married to Walter Bridgeforth Jr. in December of 1988. However, the marriage ended in a divorce in 2007. The couple has two children, both sons, named Walter Baker Bridgeforth and Edward Carlton Bridgeforth.

Awards & Achievements

Baker’s most important work in her career was the album ‘Rapture’ which sold more than eight million copies. Baker also won two Grammy Awards in recognition of her efforts for that album. In 1987, Baker won the Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for ‘Rapture’ and the Best Rhythm & Blues Song for the song ‘Sweet Love’. In 1988, she won the Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo, Group, Choir or Chorus for the song ‘Ain’t No Need to Worry’. That following year,  Baker won the Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female and the Best Rhythm & Blues Song for the song ‘Giving You The Best That I Got’. In 1991, she won the Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for ‘Compositions’. In 1996, she won the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the song ‘I Apologize’.

Conclusion

Anita Baker is regarded as one of the most popular singers of soulful romantic ballads during the height of the quiet storm period of contemporary R&B in the 1980s. Anita had a strong foundation within herself, influenced by her childhood life and the idea that she was told early on that she did not have “star potential.” She not only has taken her craft seriously to become a great musician, but a performer as well. She has taken a lot of her influences from her own two idols, Mahalia jackson and Sarah Vaughan, to obtain the ability to synthesize all genre’s of music into her own style. Anita Baker has made a lasting impact on music that will continue to live on.

DISCOGRAPHY:

Studio Albums

  1. The Songstress (May 31, 1983)
  2. Rapture (May 14, 1986)
  3. Giving You The Best That I Got (October 4, 1988)
  4. Compositions (June 12, 1990)
  5. Rhythm of Love (September 13, 1994)
  6. My Everything (September 7, 2004)

Bibliography

“Anita Baker.” In Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. New York: Schirmer, 2001. Biography in Context (accessed March 6, 2018). http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2051/apps/doc/K2420000710/BIC1?u=auctr_woodruff&xid=77ae0fa5.

“Anita Baker.” In Notable Black American Women. Gale, 1996. Biography in Context (accessed March 6, 2018). http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2051/apps/doc/K1623000508/BIC1?u=auctr_woodruff&xid=60dc4

Holden, Stephen. “THE POP LIFE; ANITA BAKER AND HER MUSICAL ROOTS.” New York Times, Sep 03, 1986, Late Edition (East Coast). https://login.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/docview/426275421?accountid=8422.

Jones,James T.,,IV. “Baker Takes to Jazz;She Turns a New Leaf of Composure.” USA TODAY (Pre-1997 Fulltext), Jul 05, 1990. https://login.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/docview/306330836?accountid=8422.

NORMENT, LYNN. “ANITA BAKER.” Ebony 42, no. 2 (December 1986): 52. MAS Ultra – School Edition, EBSCOhost(accessed March 6, 2018).

 





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