Jody Watley Biography

30 January 1959, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Formerly one third of Shalamar between 1977 and 1984, a hugely successful group of the disco era, Watley’s first professional experience had come as a dancer on the television show Soul Train. After Shalamar disbanded she made the progression to solo artist, working in a contemporary soul/urban R&B vein. Her self-titled debut album, released in 1987, became a million-seller and included three US Top 10 hits - ‘Looking For A New Love’, ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Some Kind Of Lover’. It brought her a Grammy award for Best New Artist of 1987. The subsequent Larger Than Life achieved gold status, and included the US number 2 hit ‘Real Love’, as well as further hits ‘Everything’ and ‘Friends’, the latter a collaboration with Eric B And Rakim and Whodini. ‘Precious Love’ (1990) was remixed by Soul II Soul’s Simon Law and ‘I’m The One You Need’ by David Morales and Drizabone as part of the remix project, You Wanna Dance With Me? Though not replicating the scale of earlier successes, the release of Affairs Of The Heart and Intimacy consolidated Watley’s position as one of the most energetic and able contemporary soul singers, readily adaptable to changes in R&B such as the swingbeat movement.

Watley launched her own Avitone Records label in 1995 to facilitate the release of her fifth album, Affection. The following year she appeared on Broadway playing the role of Rizzo in Grease, and guested on Babyface’s hit remake of the Shalamar track ‘This Is For The Lover In You’. She relocated to the Atlantic Records subsidiary Big Beat for her next album. On Flower she collaborated with artists including Rakim, Masters At Work, Rahsaan Patterson and Changing Faces, but despite dance hits with ‘Off The Hook’ and ‘If I’m Not In Love’ the album failed to gain a US release. This prompted the singer to release 1999’s The Saturday Night Experience through her Avitone label. The album and its successor Midnight Lounge enjoyed commercial success in Europe and Japan, but it was another two years before the latter gained a US release through the Shanachie label.

Watley returned to the top of the US dance charts in 2005 with a remix of her 1987 hit ‘Looking For A New Love’. Her new album, The Makeover, was released the following year.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.