Jody Watley Biography
All of these words accurately describe the incomparable, multi-talented and Grammy Award-winning artist JODY WATLEY. Her name says it all and her enduring, 20+ year career speaks for itself. For more than two decades, the enchanting sultry-toned diva has pursued her own artistic vision – remaining a relevant and influential innovator in the worlds of urban-fuelled pop, r&b, disco, dance, jazz and fashion (both as a solo artist and as part of the legendary group Shalamar). Her ingenious, stylish videos raised the bar not just for dance music artists, but for women in the business – especially women of color.
While the masses are herded from one trend to another, fans and music lovers should know that Jody Watley hasn't gone anywhere. With 8 solo albums under her belt including Jody Watley (1987), Larger Than Life (1989), Affairs of the Heart (1991), Intimacy (1993), Affection (1995), Flower (1998), Saturday Night Experience Vol. 1 (2000) and Midnight Lounge (2003), the multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter and performer has enjoyed a remarkable enduring career with a devoted worldwide fan base. To date, Jody has sold over 20 million albums and singles worldwide! She’s achieved success in music, dance and modeling, and has donated her time and talent to benefit various charitable causes such as AIDS awareness and famine relief in Africa (Jody was the only African American female artist to participate in Bob Geldof's ground-breaking “all-star” Band Aid benefit project singing alongside such stars as Sting, Boy George, Bono, George Michael, Duran Duran (and more) for the 1984 charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas," which raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia).
Throughout, she has continually persevered, evolved and matured, breaking new ground, boldly taking risks and refusing to limit herself with any restrictive categories or labels. Her success and longevity are a testament to her boundless creativity, musical versatility and ability to think outside of the box to forge her own unique path (both artistically and as a formidable businesswoman) as a sophisticated and inventive trendsetter with substance who willingly shares intimate snapshots of her life through her music. "My music has always reflected more of my life, than my desire to strictly sell mass quantities of records." Jody explains.
In 1995, the original “Queen Of Cool” fearlessly assumed the role of a sister doing for herself when she launched her own Avitone Recordings label (releasing her fifth studio offering Affection). "It's very liberating to work outside of the traditional industry system right now,” she reveals. “There is a music business that's commercial and very sales driven, and there is a music business and audience that thrives simply on the love of music."
The launch of the label marked an exciting new chapter in Watley’s artistic metamorphosis. The self-assured and proudly independent entrepreneur was driven, inspired and determined as ever to share her vast music industry wisdom with a new generation of established and emerging artists. In recent years, she has continually pursued new musical directions broadening her international eclectic fan base with successful releases in the US, Japan, England and Europe, working with such progressive, tastemaking labels as Giant Step, Chillifunk, MAW, AVEX and Handcut Records (in tandem with her own Avitone imprint). She has collaborated with some of the finest forward-thinking trailblazers in the contemporary dance and electronic music landscape including Masters At Work (featuring legendary vibes master Roy Ayers), eclectic nu soul / future jazz visionary King Britt, Blaze, Restless Soul, East West Connection, Ron Trent and accomplished deep house producer/songwriter and remixer Dave Warrin keeping the tireless veteran at the forefront of the global dance music community and returning to her own dance music roots.
“I enjoy working with different people. Each project I’ve recorded has brought out a different side of my writing, and vocal approach. My formula is that I don’t have one! I believe wholeheartedly in growth and moving forward. It may not be the most commercial approach in an era when artists are under enormous pressure to sell big numbers, but it’s the approach that is most appealing to me right now." Jody states emphatically.
"Dance music has a lot of soul, not just the cold techno stereotype. I'm blending the warmth and musicality of jazz, rhythm and soul, with danceable grooves...and as always, my lyrical take on life and love. I'm inclined to present a more "boutique" approach to making music now. I've adopted the notion that I want to appeal to the music fan looking for something more eclectic and unique."
Recently Jody has been revisiting some of her classic hits, reinventing and reworking them for a new generation - offering something for both die-hard fans and newcomers. It’s the next chapter in the artist’s ever-unfolding story that’s as much of a tender reflection and fond look back as it is an unpredictable and exciting move forward.
“I’m always reconstructing some of my songs,” she elaborates. “I’m constantly performing, doing a lot of concerts and dance club performances. Reworking my classic material keeps things fresh and interesting for me, plus its great creative fun!”
The first remix release is “Looking For A New Love” (2005 Remixes). The definitive signature anthem (from Jody’s 1987 Grammy Award-winning, eponymous MCA debut) is back with a sizzling set of 21st Century reconstructions by superstar Iberican progressive house duo Chus & Cebellos, producer / remixer / multi-instrumentalist Lati Kronlund (of Brooklyn Funk Essentials), newcomers Rocasound, Chris Joss and more. Scheduled for a late summer / early fall release through a joint venture between Watley’s Avitone imprint and influential New York-based dance label’s Peace Bisquit and Curvve Recordings, the timeless classic has been re-tooled into a propulsive and contemporary floor-filling club smash with edgy underground credibility and mainstream accessibility.
The song is the first official release from Watley’s eagerly-anticipated collection The Makeover. “’Looking For A New Love”’ is a timeless anthem of independence for anyone who has ever been fed up and empowered on their way out of a relationship” Jody proclaims. “I wrote it from experience! It was the obvious first release.”
On The Makeover, Jody teams up with longtime friend and colleague Bill Coleman. The New York-based music guru has established himself as an important resource for quality innovative music throughout his impressive 18-year career in the music industry. With his successful Peace Bisquit Productions, Management and Media Company, the dynamic and multi-faceted DJ, producer, remixer, music supervisor and recording artist has become renowned for his eclectic taste, acute ear and diverse musical expertise in the worlds of cutting-edge music, independent film and documentaries. Coleman’s extensive (and impressive) roster of groundbreaking artists and projects include: Deee-Lite, Ultra Nate, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Lenny Kravitz, Arthur Baker, The Pretenders, Brandy, Scissor Sisters, The Killers, Sinead O'Connor, Bette Midler, Nellee Hooper, Neneh Cherry, Khaled, David Byrne and Tom Tom Club (among many).
Throughout the years, Bill and Jody have collaborated on several projects sharing a mutual respect and forward-thinking musical vision. "I've worked with Jody on a few of her titles [‘Whenever,’ ‘Don't Give Up’ and ‘Photographs’] as an A&R consultant since her Japan-only release ‘Another Chapter,’ Coleman explains. “When I was approached about with the idea of re-creating her classics, I thought it was timely and long overdue! It's definitely a pleasure to work with such an iconic figure as Jody. She's always been quite inspiring to me as an artist and performer and she continues to evolve exploring new sounds and music. As a fan, I feel her recent releases have undoubtedly contained some of her best songs and performances. And as one of the few artists of color who’s remained a trendsetter with music and visuals, I feel that anyway I can help contribute to that legacy, in today's musical climate, is quite an honor."
Working closely with Coleman, Jody has carefully chosen each song as well as the appropriate remix collaborator to breathe new creative life into her timeless oeuvre giving them a fresh and re-energized twist. “I’ve never really had a proper remix album, although this is beyond a simple remix project, as all of the songs will have new vocals to suit that mix” she reveals. “Back in ’89 MCA released You Wanna Dance With Me, which I didn't like at all! The mixes were all extended versions with all of these weird skipping beats. I’ve always embraced moving forward and enjoying the moment of ‘now,’ but at the same time, its fun revisiting these old songs with a new outlook. It’s almost like having plastic surgery on your songs!!”
Aside from “Looking For A New Love,” The Makeover will include new interpretations of some of Jody’s other classic hits (with newly recorded vocals) alongside overlooked gems from her extensive catalogue (like “I’m The One You Need” from 1991’s Affairs Of The Heart, MCA) and several new recordings, which serve as a bridge to Watley’s next full-length studio album.
With a career spanning decades in the music industry, Jody Watley continues to add fresh new colors to her already vibrant, multi-hued canvas. One of the few African-American female singers to successfully break out of the disco diva mold, Jody has matured into a talented singer, songwriter, producer and label mogul on her own terms – staying true to herself and her own unique musical vision - with no regrets. Her unfaltering determination, confidence, inner-peace and fortitude serve as a continual source of inspiration to us all.
"I'm very comfortable where I am" she states. "I've been the teen sensation, as a part of Shalamar. I've been the Pop Diva...the Fashion Ingénue...I've been very blessed! And whether I'm in or out of the spotlight, I aspire to remain true to myself.”
Our long love affair with Jody Watley has never ended. To quote fellow Soul Train dancer and former Shalamar background singer Jermaine Stewart (who summed it up best in his 1986 underground smash “Jody,” an undying ode to the eternal diva), “everybody wants some of Jody!”
Jody Watley Bio from Discogs
Starting her musical career through the U.S. television show Soul Train, Jody went on to be selected as one of the original members of Shalamar (1977 to 1983).
A Grammy Award Winning singer-songwriter, producer and president/CEO of Avitone Recordings, she has had 6 top ten pop hits, 15 top 40 R&B hits, 13 dance hits. 9 #1 singles. (pop, R&B or dance - 80’s, 90’s 00’s). 9 solo albums, two Greatest Hits and various compilation appearances. Notable singles include; Looking For A New Love, Don't You Want Me, and the groundbreaking R&B/Pop/Hip-Hop collaboration with Eric B. & Rakim on Friends.
Honored by Billboard Magazine with their prestigious 'Lifetime Achievement Award' after scoring her 9th #1 Single in the US and and her first in decades in the UK; I Want Your Love (The Remixes), a cover of the Chic classic.
Jody featured in the historic 'The Black Issue' of Vogue Italia in July 2008.