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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. Baker rose to stardom following the release of her sophomore 1986 album, Rapture, which included the Grammy-winning single, "Sweet Love". To date, Baker has won eight Grammy Awards and has four platinum albums and two gold albums to her credit. Baker has an alto vocal style.
Early life and career 
Anita Baker was born on January 26, 1958 in Toledo, Ohio. At 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.
Baker joined the group in 1975 and the group toured relentlessly until securing a deal with Ariola Records in late 1978. The group's first album, Chapter 8, was released late the following year and featured the charted singles, "Ready for Your Love" and "I Just Want to Be Your Girl". Due to financial issues with the label and Chapter 8's struggles of getting a radio airplay hit, the label dropped the band from its roster, convinced that Baker didn't have "star potential".
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. After considerable persuasion, Baker eventually signed with the company, releasing her debut solo album, The Songstress, in 1983.
Music career 
Early success: 1983-1985 
The Songstress launched 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 ran into issues with Smith. Baker 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 hard at work on her next album. Her Elektra contract allowed the young singer to have creative control, allowing her to 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. Later in 1991, Elektra re-issued The Songstress, on their own label after buying rights to the album. It has sold more than 300,000 copies since its release.
Mainstream success: 1986-1996 
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 hitting the charts successfully in England. 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. The tour sparked the release of the VHS (and later DVD) set, A Night of Rapture. Eventually by 1988, the album had sold over eight million copies worldwide, five million of which was 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". The album eventually sold over a million copies. After the finish of her third straight tour and the end of the album's promotion in 1991, Baker took a break from the business where she settled with her husband at the time, later having two children together.
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 a eighth Grammy. The album eventually sold over two million copies, resulting in her fourth consecutive platinum-selling album. Baker toured relentlessly throughout the album's promotion, touring with the Rhythm of Love Tour from December 14, 1994 and November 14, 1995. However, Baker was unsatisfied with Elektra's promotion of the album and sought to be transferred to another label associated with the Warner Music Group. Baker finally won a new contract with Atlantic Records in 1996.
Hiatus years and return: 1996-present 
Taking a hiatus after the end of the Rhythm of Love Tour to take care of her two sons, Baker didn't return to the studio until August 2000. However, Baker's recordings during this period were ruined by random popping noises from the rented 24-track tape machine, resulting in tracks not being repaired. 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 gold by the RIAA, denoting sales in excess of 500,000 units in the US.
That year, Baker returned to perform at venues to enthusiastic audiences, inspiring her to seek a new recording deal, eventually signing with Blue Note Records, in March of 2004. That September, Baker released the album, My Everything. Despite her decade-long absence from the charts, the album became successful, peaking at number four on the Billboard 200 and number-one on the R&B charts, eventually being certified gold. Baker released the Christmas album, Christmas Fantasy, the following year, 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 that eventually ended in 2009. In June 2010, Baker sang the National Anthem at Game 4 of that year's NBA Finals at the TD Garden. Her performance was roundly criticized by viewers, which discussed the matter on Twitter. In December 2011, Baker had been scheduled to sing "Sweet Love" during a tribute to 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 sung "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 album release dates for the album in October and December of 2012, Baker decided she still needed to work on the album, causing a delay. Currently the album has no release date. In February of 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.
Personal life 
Baker married her only husband, Walter Bridgforth, Jr., on December 24, 1988. After numerous years apart, the couple separated in 2005 and finalized their divorce two years later. They have two sons, Walter Baker (born January 1993) and Edward Carlton Bridgforth (born May 1994). Baker currently lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Both children attended The Grosse Pointe Academy.
Selected awards and accolades 
Grammy Awards 
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.