There’s an old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and this rings so true, especially when we talk about great singers. Most often in a biography, you will see a singer’s roots bloomed in church. The part that is usually left out is that a lot of great singers also started their professional career in the backlight of someone else’s spotlight. Let’s explore music’s growing examples of “Each One, Teach One.”
Two of the most legendary voices to grace this earth were Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston. Both artists started off their careers as backup singers. Luther Vandross sang background to legendary singers in their own right, Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway in 1972, as well as Chaka Kahn, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie – before he started his walk to solo greatness in the early 1980s. Whitney Houston – under the tutelage of her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston – was a background singer to Chaka Khan, the originator of “I’m Every Woman” in 1978, which Whitney Houston made her own as a mega hit on The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992. Which by the way, Chaka Khan can write a book on background singers she’s worked with that went on to have successful music careers.
Speaking of remakes, Mariah Carey started off as a background singer for Brenda K. Starr, who had the hit song “I Still Believe” in 1988. Mariah Carey then paid homage to Brenda K. Starr by doing a remake of the song in 1999 on her #1’s album. “I Still Believe” was the first song Mariah Carey sang as a professional. Falling from this same magical singing tree, singer/songwriter Kelly Price started her professional career as a background singer of Mariah Carey’s, as well as George Michael, before her 1998 platinum debut album Soul Of A Woman was released.
You see, there is absolutely nothing wrong with “living under your spotlight,” because everything done in the dark will surely be brought to light. But wait, there’s more. Check out the photo gallery below for more singers that emerged from their backup singing past to achieve megastardom.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
Backlight To Spotlight: Famous Backup Singers
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1. Luther Vandross as a background singer on tour in 1974 with David Bowie.
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2. Luther Vandross as a background singer for David Bowie.
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3. Whitney Houston with her first mentor, Cissy Houston.
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4. Whitney Houston was a backup singer for Chaka Khan before she did the remake of "I'm Every Woman."
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5. Brenda K. Starr was the '80s singer to originally sing "I Still Believe."
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6. Brenda K. Starr gave Mariah Carey her first professional job as a backup singer.
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7. The set of the video for Mariah Carey's '90s remake of "I Still Believe" in honor of Brenda K. Starr.
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8. Kelly Price as a background singer for Mariah Carey.
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9. Soon after being a background singer, Kelly Price debuted her platinum-selling first album.
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10. '90s Grammy Award winner Lisa Fischer with hit single "How Can I Ease The Pain."
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11. Lisa Fischer began her road to the Grammys as background singer for Luther Vandross.
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12. Quiet Storm Pied Piper Freddie Jackson started out as a background singer for Melba Moore.
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13. With a voice arguably second to Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox was a background singer for Celine Dion.
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14. R&B Diva herself Chante Moore began as a background singer for Toni Braxton.
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15. The late great Vesta, who sang the hit song "Congratulations," started as a background singer for Chaka Khan.
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16. Vesta started as a background singer for Chaka Khan.
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17. Vivian Green began her "Emotional Roller Coaster" music journey as a background singer for Jill Scott.
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18. Neo soul artist Algebra Blessett began her professional music career as a background singer for R&B artist Monica and neo soul star Bilal.
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19. John Legend began his stellar career singing background for Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys.
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20. Up and coming star songstress L'Renee was a background singer for KEM.
Backlight To The Spotlight: Backup Singers That Went On To Major Fame was originally published on globalgrind.com