Born on January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, Anita 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," picking up multiple Grammy Awards along the way.
Background and Early Career
Anita Baker was born on January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio. She was given up by her teenage biological mother and subsequently raised by a foster clan in Detroit, Michigan, with some reports stating that they were actually relatives as well. Baker was raised and guided during most of her adolescence by beauty salon owner Lois Landry.
A great singer, Baker performed for church congregations and eventually joined the band Chapter 8, who had a hit with the slow and sweeping "I Just Wanna Be Your Girl." The band's label Ariola later folded, and after staff made disparaging comments about Baker's performance abilities, she decided to quit singing and worked as a law firm secretary. Nonetheless, Baker was courted by a former Ariola exec to join Beverly Glen Records; she was thus able to put forth her 1983 debut album, The Songstress.
Major Hit: 'Rapture'
After negotiating for release from her contract with Beverly Glen, Baker signed with Elektra Records and executive produced her next album, understanding that creative control was essential. Rapture landed in music stores in 1986, featuring "Sweet Love," a Top 10 pop and No. 2 R&B hit. The album went multi-platinum and practically all of its tracks found rotation on quiet-storm radio playlists, including the tender "Caught Up in the Rapture" and "Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)."
Baker followed up in the fall of 1988 with the No. 1 album Giving You the Best That I Got, which yielded two No. 1 R&B hits as well—the title track, with its supple, casual charm, and "Just Because," a study in unmitigated joy. Baker's exquisite, unearthly vocal prowess evinced a sound that honored soul, pop-songbook and jazz traditions yet was still contemporary, yielding her a variety of fans as she developed a very full touring schedule. In late 1988, Baker wed Walter Bridgforth; the couple would divorce two decades later.
Writer on 'Compositions'
Baker's next album, 1990's Compositions, recorded with total live instrumentation, contained works written by Baker herself and showcased a more freeform, jamming style on a couple of tracks. Along with the single "Talk to Me," "Fairytales"—featuring vividly rendered storytelling about a woman coming to grips with the real dimensions of her relationship—was another hit for the singer.
By the beginning of the new decade, Baker had suffered two miscarriages, and she took time off to recuperate, grieve and focus on family. She gave birth to two sons and returned in 1994 with the album Rhythm of Love, with singles "Body and Soul" and "I Apologize." The collection also showcased standards such as Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" and more tunes composed by Baker, like "Baby" and "Wrong Man."
Returns With 'Everything'
Baker decided that she wanted to continue to focus on family life with her husband and boys while also looking after her adoptive parents, who were failing in health. Though signed to Atlantic, she was dropped by the label for not putting forth a release, and then made her first album for Blue Note: 2004's My Everything. The rest of the decade was rounded out by the holiday collection Christmas Fantasy and a live concert album.
By 2013, Baker had won eight Grammy Awards—primarily in the R&B category, and for her 1980s and '90s work—with singles from all of her albums routinely finding a place on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop, Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. In 2012, she released a cover of Tyrese's "Lately," slated to be part of her forthcoming album Only Forever.
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