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=Living Legend

Jody Watley

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Jody Watley is a style forging pioneer, innovative music maker and Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and CEO of Avitone Recordings. To many she is a trendsetting icon who helped define a generation with her stylish videos and pop classics, including ‘Looking For a New Love’ (with its sardonic signature line “Hasta La Vista Baby”),  “Don’t You Want Me” and “Real Love.”

Watley’s vision to go beyond the Melle Melle ‘Intro’ for Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” brought forth the groundbreaking multi-format smash hit single “Friends”, her collaboration with Eric B and Rakim, recognized as the first mainstream Pop crossover hit to incorporate a Pop/R&B singer with a rapper with a 16 bar tailored verse/bridge. Collaborations between Pop/R&B artists and Hip-Hop/Rap became such a mainstay in Pop music that the Grammys created a Rap/Sung Category in 2002.

With a career spanning three decades and an amazing 32 Top Ten Singles (Billboard Pop, R&B and Dance), six Top Ten Pop Hits, fifteen Top 40 R&B Hits, thirteen Dance Hits, thirteen Number One Singles (Pop, R&B or Dance – ‘80s, ‘90s ‘00s), Watley received Billboard’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement award in Fall 2008.

Jody has consistently broken new ground in music, fashion (culminating in being featured in the Historic “The Black Issue of Italian VOGUE” in 2008), being named as one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People and Harper’s Bazaar’s Ten Most Beautiful Women. In music video she remains one of MTV’s most nominated female artists for her stylish video ‘Real Love’ directed by David Fincher which raised the bar for other contemporary women in music (Harpers Bazaar). 

Vanity Fair once proclaimed that Watley’s knack for reinvention “has always complimented her music”. In the late ‘80s into the ‘90s Jody Watley was featured in fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar in multi-page layouts. Watley also appeared in one of the first  ‘celebrity’ ads for GAP in their notable ‘Individuals’ campaign in addition to fashionable optical boutique LA Eyeworks “A Work Of Art”  ads. Jody Watley’s popularity in Japan would lead to her being the first woman of color featured on the cover of a high fashion magazine in Japan, as the face for the launch of SPUR.

Though identified in pop culture for her early signature extra jumbo hoop earrings - Jody Watley evolved her style and the fashion world took notice. Some would argue Jody Watley indeed paved the way for acceptance and cross marketing in music and fashion for the next generation of artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez.

Inspired early on by Diana Ross, the Chicago born Watley has said in interviews she always wanted to be a performer. According to an interview in Rolling Stone in 1987 her first stage appearance was with the legendary singer Jackie Wilson, when he brought her onstage to dance when she was seven or eight years old. Wilson was a family friend and godfather of Watley.

As a teenager Jody Watley found early recognition as documented in1978’s The New Generation Issue of Ebony Magazine as one of the most popular and influential dancers on the show Soul Train.

The popularity from the show led to Watley being asked by Soul Train’s founder and host Don Cornelius to join the R&B trio Shalamar in 1977. As an original member of the group with such R&B hits like “A Night to Remember” and “The Second Time Around”, reported conflicts within the group and the Solar Records label over lack of  statements, royalties and other payments, would lead to Watley’s abrupt departure in 1984.

Post Shalamar Watley was a part of the historic charity single Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas” which raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia.

She has starred on Broadway in the hit musical Grease as the pivotal character Rizzo (the first as an African American) and released a million selling exercise video “Dance To Fitness” (another first for a woman of color).

Jody Watley was also featured in an early project to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS. Singing a jazzy rendition of Cole Porter’s “After You Who” alongside Annie Lennox, David Byrne, U2 and other artists for Red, Hot and Blue - A Benefit For AIDS Research & Relief. Watley has stated it was important to get the word out when so few outlets were covering the disease in the early ‘90s. Watley was also invited to sing at The White House in 1993 after being seen performing her song “It All Begins with You” by The President and First Lady. She took the opportunity encourage support for public education. In 2007 she was invited to appear at “Life Ball” Europe’s largest AIDS charity gala. Other participants have included Former President Bill Clinton, Sir Elton John and Linda Evangelista.

In recent years she “has avoided stale cliches often associated with veteran artists” (Blues and Soul) and continued to broaden her music evolution and growth as an artist working successfully in the jazz influenced ambience of electronic music. A global cast of taste-making global collaborators include Masters At Work, Roy Ayers, 4Hero, King Britt, Mark de-Clive Lowe, Ron Trent , Max Sanna and DJ Spinna Stones Throw Artist and Ambassador of Modern Funk Worldwide  - Dam-Funk.

Watley has said over the years that she is more interested in broadening her creative boundaries and lasting messages over record breaking sales.

One of the first already established female artist to establish herself as an entrepreneur by forming Avitone Recordings in 1995, Jody Watley’s broad range has found a continued presence among the club set as a mainstay on the Billboard Hot Dance Play Charts with Top Five singles well into the new millennium.

Always an outspoken advocate, Jody Watley has also continued to work with various charitable organizations promoting tolerance, HIV and AIDS awareness, famine relief and self esteem for girls and women. Jody Watley also serves on the Los Angeles Chapter of The Recording Academy and has participated with the GRAMMYU program.

The Makeover (2006) is the follow up to 2003’s critically acclaimed Top 20 Electronic release Midnight Lounge. DJ-inspired, ambient pop-tronic soul re-workings of pop classics including:  “Borderline”, “Love Hangover”, “Waiting in Vain”, Chic’s “I Want Your Love” among others, all anchored by stellar new compositions from this singer songwriter producer. Collaborators include King Britt, 4Hero, DJ Spinna, Ron Trent, Mark de Clive Lowe (Verve Remixed), Chris Brann (Wamdue, P’Taah, Ananda Project).


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