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Natalie McIntyre, 9 September 1970, Canton, Ohio, USA. Downplaying the hype surrounding her as the saviour of soul music, Gray often repeated the story about how she was afraid to speak as a child because other kids would tease her about her voice. That voice, an amazing hybrid of Billie Holiday and Tina Turner refreshingly free from the modern clichés of the R&B diva and the rap gangstress, entranced critics and music fans alike when her debut album was released in autumn 1999.
Gray, who received several years formal piano training, was raised on a classic soul diet of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, but was also drawn to hip-hop in the early 80s. She later moved to Los Angeles to enrol in a screen-writing programme at the USC Film School. Here she was cajoled into singing on demo sessions, and began creating a stir at live appearances fronting a covers band. She set up her own after hours club, the We Ours, in Hollywood, where...