Jody Watley enjoys longevity through constant musical evolution » WDET 101.9 FM

Chris Campbell

Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles Jody Watley has always been drawn to the stage, having performed at age 8 with her godfather, the legendary Jackie Wilson. She started dancing on the dance TV show “Soul Train” at the age of 14, becoming one of the show’s most popular dancers with her sense of style and dance moves taking center stage. stage. “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius noticed her and selected her and Jeffrey Daniels, another popular dancer on the show, for a project that evolved into the music group Shalamar. After going through singers Gary Mumford, then later Gerald Brown, Howard Hewett was paired with them as vocalist and Leon Sylvers III as producer. It was at this time that Shalamar was poised to succeed in the industry with its most notable line.


Listen to five must-see tracks from Jody Watley.



1. “Make that move”


“Make That Move” is the extended rework maxi mix from the “Three For Love” album. Watley would remain with Shalamar from 1977 to 1983 as the trio topped the charts with many dance classics such as ‘The Second Time Around’, ‘For The Lover In You’ and ‘A Night To Remember’. However, Watley would leave in 1983 amid disputes over the band’s artistic and financial direction.

She moved to England where she sang on reggae band Musical Youth’s album “Different Style” and released a few UK singles under the mononym “Jody”, while conceptualizing who she would become as an artist – sound, artistically and aesthetically. After living in England for a few years, she returned to the United States, landed a record deal with MCA, and was eager to unleash a new musical identity and artistic statement around the world.

Work ensued on what would be his debut album, with Watley co-writing six of the tracks. Gone are the soulful grooves of Shalimar’s sound, replaced by an infectious mix of hard dance, sophisticated funk and urban pop. The release was lightning in a bottle and took the dance world by storm.

2. “You don’t want me”


Along with “Don’t You Want Me”, other tracks such as “Looking for a New Love”, “Some Kind of Lover”, “Still a Thrill” and others have populated the top of the music and music charts. dance, placing her in rarefied air among artists of the 1980s. Watley would win a Grammy Award for Best New Artist (Solo) and the album would go on to help define the club and dance genres of the mid-1980s. album also re-established Watley as an emerging global fashion icon and dance choreographer with her photogenic and telegenic aesthetic moves that dominated MTV’s video playlists.

She would further galvanize her synthesis of music, art, fashion and dance on later releases such as “Larger Than Life”, “Affairs of the Heart” and “Intimacy”, but with more artistic commentary. personal on mature themes and social issues. But as was telling at the time, her record company didn’t know what to do or how to market an artist who was evolving from a dance diva into a multi-faceted presence. By the time Watley released her fifth studio album “Affection”, she had parted ways with MCA and launched her own label, Avitone Records, to better facilitate her expansion of creativity and artistic expression. The album incorporated mature thematic subjects and more diverse music with jazz, adult contemporary, and R&B textures. His 1998 release “Flower” would continue a similar growth trajectory.

3. “Saturday Night Experience”

Watley’s ear was tuned to the global electronic sounds of deep house as she followed many of its most notable artists and producers. She was particularly inspired by the duo 4Hero and began working on their 1999 release “The Saturday Night Experience”. The album would combine deep house, drums and bass, broken rhythm and atmospheric dance grooves into a completely revamped sound, signaling the next phase of his musical evolution.

Using his Avitone Records label to release the project in Japan, the album’s title track was licensed to pioneering label Giant Step, who included it on their “Giant Sessions Volume 1” compilation, albeit with a remix of the famous Chicago-based deep house. starring Ron Trent.

Watley unveiled what was a new direction for his music career with “Saturday Night Experience.” The release represented a pendulum shift in his growth, but was also a major risk. It was very rare for an artist of her stature to completely recalibrate her sound and do so without incorporating the generic formulas of commercial music. But she pulled it off — transitioning from her clubland diva days to a more mature, adult, sultry, and smoky vocal and production aesthetic.

4. “Midnight Lounge” (mix by Mark De Clive Lowe)

Watley would release what many music experts would cite as perhaps his most comprehensive musical and artistic statement with “Midnight Lounge”. The album saw an initial release in Europe and Japan, and later in the United States. The project blended soul, jazz, R&B and electronics into a beautiful audio mix. It would also continue his penchant for introducing the keepers of the progressive global electronic underground to global audiences. The title track of “Midnight Lounge” received the remix treatment from electronic/deep house artist and producer Mark de Clive Lowe.

5. “Sanctuary” (Soulpersona Raregrooves remix)

“Sanctuary” features a collaborative remix from another of electronic music’s top underground producers, Soulpersona.

Watley has proven to be the prototype and model for how a global songbird can evolve while remaining true to its craft. She would release more albums, most notably “The Makeover”, in addition to various EPs that further explored musical excursions into electronics. She continues to have an impact on music and to be recognized for her works. She received Billboard magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was recognized by Black Music Honors TV as a Crossover Music Icon Honoree for her groundbreaking achievements and influence, and was recently named the first Ambassador of the National Museum of African American Music.

Watley has shown a particular resilience through the ages. When she left Shalamar, she took the opportunity to forge an identity as one of the pioneering artists of the 1980s. When the recording industry didn’t know how to promote her music, Watley took control of her career, creating his own label and thriving in the next phase of his art.

When she changed the direction of her sound, Watley collaborated with and embraced the architects of underground progressive global electronic music, using her platform to introduce their art to a global audience while helping to harness and cultivate her sound. constantly evolving.

In recent years, Watley has toured nonstop with a renowned Shalamar, dubbed Shalamar: Reloaded, an artist group that incorporates classic tunes that she helped popularize with her 1980s and 1990s solo hits, paired with her classics. modern today. As a result, his global fanbase continues to grow as new generations discover his music – past and present.

Watley has enjoyed a particular longevity based on rejecting the narrow definitions of success that often characterize the music industry and bringing a rich history and generational impact to the independent music community – a pioneering legacy in effect.

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  • Chris Campbell has a deep interest in curating Detroit’s rich music scene and showcasing it to the world.

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