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With her classy, refined brand of romantic soul, Anita Baker was one of the definitive quiet storm singers of the '80s. Gifted with a strong, supple alto, Baker was influenced not only by R&B, but jazz, gospel, and traditional pop, which gave her music a distinctly adult sophistication. Smooth and mellow, but hardly lifeless, it made her one of the most popular romantic singers of her time.
Baker was born January 26, 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in nearby Detroit, where she grew up listening to female jazz singers like Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and Ella Fitzgerald. At age 12, she began singing in a gospel choir, and by age 16 she was performing with several local bands. In 1975, she successfully auditioned for Chapter 8, one of Detroit's most popular acts at the time; the group eventually signed with Ariola and released an album in 1979, but was immediately dropped when the label was acquired by Arista (which didn't care for Baker's vocals). Chastened, Baker worked low-paying jobs in Detroit and eventually found steady work as a receptionist at a law firm. In 1982, Otis Smith -- an executive who'd worked with Chapter 8 -- contacted Baker about recording for his new label, Beverly Glen. Happy with her employment benefits and skittish over the experience with Arista, Baker was reluctant at first, but eventually flew out to the West Coast to record her debut album, The Songstress, in 1983. Though it didn't gain quite enough exposure to become a hit, it did help Baker build a strong fan base through word-of-mouth, and she was signed by Elektra in 1985.
Working with producer Michael J. Powell (an old Chapter 8 cohort), Baker released her major-label debut, Rapture, in 1986. It was a platinum, Grammy-winning smash, appealing to both urban and adult contemporary listeners and producing two all-time quiet storm classics in "Caught Up in the Rapture" and "Sweet Love." Baker toured the world in 1987 and her guest appearance on the Winans track "Ain't Got No Need to Worry" won a Grammy. Her equally stylish follow-up album, Giving You the Best That I Got, appeared in 1988, spawning more staples in the title track and "Just Because." "Giving You the Best That I Got" also won Baker two more Grammys, for Best Female R&B Vocal and Best R&B Song. For her third Elektra album, Baker decided to handle a greater share of the songwriting, hence the title Compositions, which was released in 1990 and featured even stronger jazz inflections than Baker's previous work (not to mention all live instruments).
Following Compositions, Baker took a break from recording and touring; after having her first son in 1993, she returned to the studio to craft Rhythm of Love, which was released in 1994. In the years that followed, Baker was mostly silent, despite her fans' clamoring for a jazz album; instead, she raised her family and became embroiled in contract disputes with Elektra, which eventually led her to move to Atlantic. She began working on a new album in 2000, but had to start over from scratch due to defective recording equipment that made the original tracks unsalvageable. In 2004 it was announced that she had signed with Blue Note and was still working on her new album. In the meantime, the Atlantic imprint Rhino released Night of Rapture: Live, a 1987 concert originally available on video. Baker finally returned to the studio in 2003 and issued My Everything, her first album in ten years. Two years later she released her first holiday album, Christmas Fantasy. The 2012 return single "Lately," a Tyrese cover, received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Traditional R&B Performance. Its parent album, Only Forever, was prepared for 2013.
Anita Denise Baker (born January 26, 1958) is an American singer-songwriter. Starting her career in the late-1970s with the funk band Chapter 8, Baker eventually released her first solo album, The Songstress, in 1983. In 1986, she rose to stardom following the release of her platinum-selling second album, Rapture, which included the Grammy-winning single "Sweet Love". To date, Baker has won eight Grammy Awards and has five platinum albums and one gold album to her credit. Baker's vocal range is contralto.Steve Huey. "Anita Baker: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-10-20. Hutchings, David (1986-11-24). "Ex-Receptionist Anita Baker's Lp Gets a Rapture-Ous Reception—at Last". People.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. Holden, Stephen (1986-09-03). "The Pop Life - Anita Baker And Her Musical Roots". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. "Anita Baker Has No Regrets". Essence.com. 2009-12-16. Retrieved 2014-06-27. "The Anita Baker Pages". Oreoluwa.com. 1991-07-01. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
Anita Baker was born on January 26, 1958 in Toledo, Ohio. When she was two, her mother abandoned her and Baker was raised by a foster family in Detroit, Michigan. When Baker was twelve, her foster parents died and her foster sister raised her afterwards. By the time Baker was sixteen, she began singing R&B at Detroit nightclubs. After one performance, she was discovered by bandleader David Washington, who gave her a card to audition for the funk band, Chapter 8.Smith 1996, p. 19.
ContentsMusic career1.1 Early success: 1983-841.2 Mainstream success: 1986–19951.3 Hiatus years and return: 1996–present
Baker joined the group in 1975 and the group toured relentlessly until securing a deal with Ariola Records in 1979. The group's first album, Chapter 8, was released that year and featured the singles "Ready for Your Love", a duet between Baker and band mate Gerald Lyles, and the Baker-led "I Just Want to Be Your Girl". After Ariola was bought out Arista Records in 1979, Chapter 8 was dropped by the label who were convinced that Baker, as the group's lead singer, didn't have "star potential".
Early success: 1983-84
Baker returned to Detroit and became a waitress and a receptionist of a law firm. In 1982, Otis Smith, a former associate of Ariola, called Baker and convinced her to start a solo career under his Beverly Glen label. Baker eventually signed with the company, releasing her debut solo album, The Songstress, in 1983. The album produced four singles: "No More Tears" and its B-side, "Will You Be Mine", "Angel" and "You're the Best Thing Yet". "Angel" became Baker's first top ten single, reaching number five on the R&B charts in late 1983. "You're the Best Thing Yet" followed it in the R&B top 40 early the following year. Despite this early success, Baker later complained that she hadn't received any royalties from the work. In addition, the label delayed work on Baker's follow-up of The Songstress. By 1984, Baker sought to leave the label after two years, but was sued by Smith for breach of contract in 1985. After months in court debating the matter, it was concluded that Baker should be allowed to record for other labels, resulting in winning the case against Smith.
Baker eventually signed with the Warner Music Group-associated label, Elektra Records, in 1985 and began working on her next album. Her Elektra contract allowed the singer to have creative control and produce her own music, something she wasn't allowed to do at Beverly Glen. Baker eventually picked her old Chapter 8 band mate, songwriter and producer Michael J. Powell to work with her on her first Elektra album, though label execs were initially unhappy with her choice of Powell over more established producers.
Mainstream success: 1986–1995
In March 1986, Baker released her second album, Rapture. While sales were initially slow following the release of the album's debut single, "Watch Your Step", Elektra released the mid-tempo ballad, "Sweet Love", which became her first pop hit, reaching number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and also reaching the UK Top 20. The album eventually launched three further hit singles, including "Caught Up in the Rapture", "No One in the World" and "Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)". Throughout 1986 and 1987, Baker promoted the album by touring, headlining her first tour, A Night of Rapture Tour, a show from which was later released on home video as A Night of Rapture. By 1988, the album had sold over eight million copies worldwide, five million of which were sold in the United States alone. The album resulted in Baker winning two Grammy Awards at the 1987 ceremony. In 1987, Baker collaborated with The Winans on their song, "Ain't No Need to Worry", which gave Baker a third Grammy, this time in the Best Soul Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group, Choir or Chorus category.
Baker's follow-up, Giving You the Best That I Got, was released in October 1988 and immediately became a success, topping the Billboard 200 and selling five million copies worldwide, three million of which sold alone in the states. The title track reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B and adult contemporary charts, becoming her most successful charted single. The follow-up, "Just Because", reached the top 20 on the pop chart, while a third single, "Lead Me Into Love", became a top ten R&B hit. The album resulted in three more Grammy Awards for the singer. In 1990, Baker released Compositions, which had Baker more involved in the songwriting and production process and the first in which she began incorporating more jazz elements than in previous albums. The album launched the singles "Talk to Me", "Soul Inspiration" and "Fairy Tales", and eventually sold over a million copies. After the end of the album's touring and promotion schedule in 1991, Baker took a break from the business when she settled down with her husband at the time, later having two children together. Also in 1991, Elektra re-issued Baker's first album, The Songstress, after buying rights to the album. It has sold more than 300,000 copies since its release.
After appearing on Frank Sinatra's Duets album, Baker officially returned to the charts with Rhythm of Love in 1994. The album featured the hit "Body and Soul", which became her first top 40 pop hit since 1989; the second single, the mid-tempo "I Apologize", later won Baker an eighth Grammy. The album eventually sold over two million copies, resulting in her fourth consecutive platinum-selling album. Baker undertook the Rhythm of Love Tour from December 14, 1994 to November 14, 1995. Baker was transferred to another label within the Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records, in 1996.
Hiatus years and return: 1996–present
Taking a hiatus after the end of the Rhythm of Love Tour to care for her two sons, Baker did not return to the studio until August 2000. However, the recordings she made during this period were ruined by random popping noises from the rented 24-track tape machine. In May 2001, Baker filed a lawsuit in federal court against Zomba Recording Corp. and its Dreamhire division. Due to a label restructuring, Baker was let go from Atlantic that November without releasing any material with the company. During this hiatus, Rhino Records released the compilation, The Best of Anita Baker (named Sweet Love: The Very Best of Anita Baker in the UK) in June 2002. The album eventually was certified platinum by the RIAA, denoting sales in excess of 1,000,000 units in the US.
That year, Baker returned to live performing which inspired her to seek a new recording deal, eventually signing with Blue Note Records in March 2004. That September, Baker released the album, My Everything. Despite her decade-long absence from the charts, the album peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 and number-one on the R&B charts, eventually being certified gold. In 2005, Baker released the Christmas album, Christmas Fantasy, winning a Grammy nomination for the song, "Christmas Time Is Here". Starting in 2007, Baker embarked on a two-year concert tour titled An Evening with Anita Baker. In June 2010, she sang the national anthem at Game 4 of that year's NBA Finals at the TD Garden, though her performance was roundly criticized by viewers, who discussed the matter on Twitter. Baker has also sung the national anthem at season-opening baseball games at Comerica Park in Detroit and Progressive Field in Cleveland (the former due to being a Detroit-area resident, the latter due to being a native Ohioan), and twice sang the national anthem at World Series hosted by the Detroit Tigers (Game 2 in 2006, Game 3 in 2012). A recording of Baker's rendition of the National Anthem is still used at Comerica Park on occasion. In December 2011, Baker had been scheduled to sing "Sweet Love" during a tribute show for Detroit R&B music. Rumors of friction between Baker and fellow performer Jill Scott were initially seen as a possible cause of Baker leaving the show at the last minute. However, Baker attributed her exit to its producers refusing to allow her to properly rehearse her number with the other performers who would be singing with her, presumably Marsha Ambrosius and Ledisi, who sang "Sweet Love" on the show's broadcast.
In August 2012, Baker released her version of Tyrese's hit, "Lately". The song made headlines for Baker after the song was played on every single hour of the hour throughout the day on urban adult contemporary radio, making her the first artist to make this kind of debut. Baker has been working on the album featuring the single, "Only Forever", since 2010. Though Blue Note set release dates for the album in October and December 2012, Baker decided she still needed to work on the album, causing delays. Currently the album has no release date. In February 2013, Baker returned to the national spotlight, performing "Lately" and "Same Ole Love" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. That same month, she appeared at the Grammys where "Lately" was nominated for a Grammy Award.Smith 1996, p. 20. Cite error: The named reference bio was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications) "Songstress Anita Baker Successfully Orchestrates Unprecedented Record Label Transfer; Leaves Elektra Records for Atlantic Records". PR Newswire. September 6, 1996. Retrieved April 29, 2013. "Anita Baker Sues Over Allegedly Ruined Tracks". Billboard. 2001-05-18. Retrieved 2012-10-13. "Stewart, Baker, O'Connor Latest To Leave Atlantic". Billboard. 2001-05-18. Retrieved 2012-10-13. "National Anthem Hits a Bad Note, Twitter users blast Anita Baker's singing of the Star-Spangled Banner". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2013-12-26. "Anita Baker Explains ‘VH1 Divas’ Drama: 5 Other Famous Show Feuds". Rolling Out. 2011-12-28. Retrieved 2012-05-02. "Anita Baker Hit The Studio With Snoop Dogg". Twanatells.com. 2010-07-18. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
Baker married Walter Bridgeforth, Jr. on December 24, 1988. The couple separated in 2005 and finalized their divorce two years later. They have two sons, Walter Baker Bridgeforth (born January 1993) and Edward Carlton Bridgeforth (born May 1994). Baker currently lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Her son Walter is now attending Berklee College of Music in Boston as a drumming principal.
On March 19, 2014, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest pertaining to a lawsuit that alleges she failed to pay more than $15,000 for work done on her Grosse Pointe home.Mark Jordan. "Baker says she is finalizing her divorce". Commercialappeal.com. Retrieved 2013-12-26. Steve Dougherty (October 10, 1994). "Starting to Recapture the Rapture". People. "Grosse Pointe police: Peeper at Anita Baker's window was mistaken". February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2012. "Arrest warrant issued for singer Anita Baker in civil suit | Detroit Free Press". freep.com. 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2014-06-27.
ContentsSelected awards and accolades1.1 Grammy Awards1.2 American Music Awards1.3 Soul Train Music Awards1.4 Other honors
Selected awards and accolades
The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Baker has received eight awards from seventeen nominations.
American Music Awards
The American Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony created by Dick Clark in 1973. Baker has received four awards from nine nominations.
Soul Train Music Awards
The Soul Train Music Awards is an annual award show aired in national broadcast syndication that honors the best in African American music and entertainment established in 1987.