Gwen Guthrie Biography

9 July 1950, Newark, New Jersey, USA, d. 3 February 1999, Orange County, New Jersey, USA. Prior to her involvement within the reggae industry, Guthrie was a classically trained pianist while at school and a fine vocalist, culminating in her joining the Ebonettes and the Matchmakers alongside the lead singer from Cameo, Larry Blackmon. After graduating, Guthrie pursued a career in teaching but later returned to the recording studios as a session vocalist. As well as demonstrating her vocal skills she found time to collaborate with Patrick Grant writing songs for Sister Sledge and Ben E. King. In 1976 Guthrie embarked on a US tour with Roberta Flack, which led to a long association, including sessions with Donny Hathaway. In 1978 Guthrie relocated to Jamaica, although she occasionally returned to the USA for session work. Her presence on the island led to soulful vocal contributions behind Peter Tosh for the release of Bush Doctor, Mystic Man and Wanted Dread And Alive. Tosh’s 1981 release Wanted included a duet with Guthrie, ‘Nothing But Love’, but the song failed to make a significant impression, partly due to Tosh’s militant image.

In 1982 Guthrie’s work with Tosh and Word Sound And Power led to sessions for a Sly And Robbie -produced album which was originally intended to showcase the diversity of the Taxi Gang. Her predominant vocals resulted in the album being released as her debut, Gwen Guthrie, which spawned the crossover hits ‘It Should Have Been You’ and ‘For You (With A Melody Too)’. The following year saw the release of ‘Hopscotch’ and ‘You’re The One’, lifted from her second album with the Rhythm Twins. She was obliged to promote her new-found success while pregnant with her second child, which led to a period of recording inactivity. By the mid-80s she reappeared on the reggae scene for a duet with Boris Gardiner, who had enjoyed a phenomenal revival in his career with the 1986 chart-topping hit, ‘I Want To Wake Up With You’. He followed his hit with two less successful releases and in 1987 recruited Guthrie to perform on ‘Friends And Lovers’, produced by Willie Lindo and Sly Dunbar. While maintaining her notoriety as an R&B performer (the classic ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent’ hit number one on the R&B charts in 1986), Guthrie continued to release the occasional reggae single. In 1996 she released ‘Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’, which was produced in Jamaica and topped most of the international reggae charts. Three years later Guthrie succumbed to cancer.

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

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