Robert Owens Biography

17 August 1961, USA. A long time collaborator with Mr. Fingers in Fingers Inc, Owens provided the vocal for early house classics like ‘Washing Machine’ and ‘Music Takes Me Up’. He also sang on classics including Frankie Knuckles’ ‘Tears’ and (uncredited) on the Bobby Konders’ production, Jus’ Friends’ ‘As One’. The UK's Muzik magazine has called his ‘the greatest voice in dance music’ while Mixmag has commented that it is ‘the voice of house music. Owens’ is a rare gift.’ Owens grew up, inspired by Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and others, with a church choir background, going on to sing in several bands. As a youth he travelled between his Los Angeles-based mother and Chicago-stabled father, where he was first introduced to house music. Ironically his first experience of a warehouse party left him overpowered, and he left after 15 minutes. He would later watch the assembled masses through a window, and decided to begin DJing himself, combining deck skills with his own vocals. It was at this point that he was introduced to Larry Heard (aka Mr. Fingers). Owens would select from the tunes presented to him by Fingers and choose the ones he wished to write lyrics for. This paved the ground for Owens’ breakthrough performance on Fingers Inc’s ‘Can You Feel It?’. When his songwriting partnership with Fingers broke up due to financial pressures, he recreated the method with Frankie Knuckles and David Morales (hardly a step down in quality) for his debut solo album. He was eventually dropped from his contract with Island Records in 1992 despite US success with ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ (which came out on Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Records, and was remixed by Morales and Satoshi Tomiie) and the self-produced ‘Gotta Work’.

Owens remains one of house music’s great showmen, offering uplifting live sets with his Freetown posse (which was also the name of the label he helped establish). Earlier he had been the star turn on the first house package tour to London which arrived on English shores in February 1987. In 1994, he started his own label and management company, Musical Directions. He continues to release successful singles and to DJ around the world, sometimes singing from the DJ booth. In 1998, he collaborated with Satoshi Tommiie and Cevin Fisher on ‘Darkness’, which was a number 1 in UK’s Record Mirror dance chart and with Mr C (ex-Shamen) on ‘A Thing Called Love’. In 1999, Owens started work on an album involving more collaborations and encompassing a broad range of influences including soul, funk and gospel.

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

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