Pop / R&B Icon
She’s an innovative music maker, a style-forging pioneer: since the mid-90s, Grammy-winning multi-talented Chicago born Jody Watley has led the way as an entrepreneur working in the independent music world as one of the few already-established female best-selling artists to produce, create and own her recordings.
With an amazing 32 Top Ten Singles and 13 #1 Singles in the Pop and Dance and R&B music genres over the past three decades – including such classics as “Looking For A New Love,” “Don’t You Want Me” and her groundbreaking collaboration with Eric B and Rakim on “Friends”.
One of the defining artists of the 80′s, the singer-songwriter and producer’s “Friends” was the first crossover hit to introduce and pair the custom and specialized 16 bar verse with a rapper and singer. The formula became such a popular and successful formula in music that The Grammy’s added the “Rap/Sung” Category in 2002.
Jody Watley remains one of MTV’s Most Nominated Artists for her video “Real Love” directed by David Fincher.
Consistently breaking new ground in music, video and fashion: her 2006 album “The Makeover” benefited from an exclusive collaboration with the Virgin Megastore Music Chain that debuted as the #1 nationwide store best-seller and #3 debut on iTunes Electronic Albums Chart. “The Makeover” produced 3 Top Ten Billboard Hot Dance Play singles; “Borderline” (#2), “I Want Your Love” (#1) and “A Beautiful Life” (#5). The #1 cover of the CHIC classic “I Want Your Love” returned Watley to the top of the UK charts after two decades at #1 topping young pop star Rhianna; noted by Music Week as not being born when Watley was a member of Shalamar.
After licensing some of her music to renowned taste-making company Giant Step and working with dance music writer/producers Masters At Work, Jody released “Midnight Lounge” also in Japan; making it available for U.S. release through Shanachie Records, with the key dance cut “Photographs” released in the U.K. on renowned indie label Chillifunk. “One of the things that people haven’t realized is that – I’ve been involved with creating, producing and writing songs for all my solo work since the early ‘80s,” says Jody, whose original ingenious, stylish videos raised the standards for female artists around the globe. Jody Watley officially launched her solo career in 1986 after being signed by renowned music executive Jheryl Busby to MCA Records. Her breakout debut featured production from Andre Cymone whom Watley shared co-writing on the bulk of the album, legendary producer of CHIC and Power Station, in addition to Patrick Leonard. The debut album also featured a duet with music superstar George Michael. Jody Watley during this time had the opportunity of a lifetime performing with one of her childhood idols, Stevie Wonder on his MTV Special: Skeletons, also featured were Salt N Pepa and renowned musician Stevie Ray-Vaughn.
Handpicked by Don Cornelius as the popular teen-aged dancing star from the iconic 70′s music television show Soul Train to become an original member of the disco soul trio Shalamar; Ebony Magazine’s “The New Generation” Issue from August 1978 noted Watley as a trendsetter to young girls who watched the show in an article spotlighting “The Outrageous Waack Dancers” of which she was a part of. Also noted was the freestyle dance that was gaining popularity. People tuned in to Soul Train to see what to wear, to learn the latest dance moves, see the funky clothes and to hear the best in soul music.
As a member of Shalamar Watley’s distinctive vocal sound was a major contributor to the success of the group and her style imprint was further made as choreographer and wardrobe designer to the trio as documented in Jet Magazine in 1980.
After 6 memorable years, Watley quit Shalamar abruptly in 1983 while on promotional tour in England due to lack of payments of advances, royalties, disagreements with Solar Records Dick Griffey and prolonged ego clashes within the group which were documented in the British press at the time among other reasons. Shalamar hits include ‘A Night To Remember’, ‘The Second Time Around’ and ‘ (This Is) For The Lover In You’ and ‘Take That To The Bank.’ During her brief tenure Watley co-penned the songs “Full of Fire”, “Help Me”, “Work it Out”, and “Talk To Me” for the group.
Jody made her first stage appearance in a spontaneous moment onstage with her godfather – music legend Jackie Wilson. “I was a bedroom mirror performer as a child and really shy”, Chicago born Watley has said. “I remember my first pair of go-go boots though and pretending like I was Diana Ross – my first music inspiration. I was a little girl who always had big dreams and aspirations. My junior high group was called ‘Black Fuzz’ because we all had giant Afros. I was in talent shows; dance contests and took music class in school. In Chicago, my choir teacher was the sister of Dinah Washington. I entered myself into Miss Black Teenage Illinois, ran for school President, and Queen of my Junior High..” Watley states.
“The Hippest Trip In America: Celebrating 40 Years of Soul Train” on VH-1 featured Jody proudly speaking on her pivotal Soul Train days which opened the door of future opportunities. She appeared with founder and host Don Cornelius along with music legend Smokey Robinson at The Grammy Museum in addition to The Paley Center For Media discussing the impact of the show and the Emmy nominated documentary.
Known for combining beauty and style as integral aspects of her career as a recording artist and dynamic live performer, Jody’s list of accomplishments and achievements is indeed impressive: she’s received Billboard Magazine’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, nominations for the MTV VMA’s (where ‘Real Love’ remains one of the most nominated videos with 7), NAACP Image Awards, American Music Awards and Soul Train Awards. She’s been featured in VOGUE, ITALIAN VOGUE (including the Historic “The Black Issue), Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Essence and has been named one of America’s Most Beautiful People by People Magazine and has received songwriting honors from BMI. Watley’s “Sweet Sixteen” originally featured on her full length ‘Flower’ was covered by mega girls group Destiny’s Child on their “Writings On The Wall’.
Jody Watley also helped usher in a new era in the merge of music, fashion and celebrity appearing in the first celebrity ad campaign for GAP. Jody Watley was the first black woman to appear on the cover of a Japanese high fashion magazine cover. Dubbed “The Face” her appearance on the launch of “SPUR” in Japan was accompanied by television commercials and billboards in major cities in the country.
Another first for the artist was releasing a million selling video “Dance to Fitness”, which had not been achieved by a black woman or musician.
Jody Watley also played the role of Rizzo on Broadway in the hit musical GREASE.
Performing by special invitation at The White House during the first Bush administration and receiving another invitation by former President Jimmy Carter to be a part of Habitat For Humanity and meeting former First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are amongst treasured experiences in her journey.
Jody Watley was a participant in Bob Geldof’s historic “Do They Know It’s Christmas” recording session and video. Force of Nature’s Tsunami Relief in Malaysia welcomed Watley and a host of other international artists including The Black Eyed Peas, Boys II Men, The Backstreet Boys, American Idol’s Paula Abdul and jazz musician Diana Krall and more. The participants subsequently had the honor to meet the King and Queen of the country.
Part of one of the first global HIV/AIDS awareness projects “Red, Hot & Blue” for which she performed the Cole Porter jazz classic “After You Who” the project included a diverse global cast of musicians including Annie Lennox, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, David Byrne and U2.
Watley continues to work with charities promoting tolerance, as well as prevention and care for those living with HIV and AIDS in addition to involvement mentoring young girls and working to inspire underprivileged youth.
As a live performer Jody Watley selectively brings her dynamic and diverse hit packed live show to select destinations around the world.
Recently completing her two-year term as a Governor on The Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy and participant in various events for The GRAMMYU Program.
Currently completing her 10th album “CHAMELEON” which will celebrate her musical journey, Watley remains dedicated to quality music that happens to make people dance.
She’s also penning her first novel in a series, stating enthusiastically; “Writing is a longtime passion dating back to my youth when I wrote poetry, short stories and full novels that I’d rent out to friends to earn lunch money. I’m very excited about this novel and other literary works swirling in my head. They’d all make great films or stage plays as well!”
Jody has also broadened her involvement in fashion, style, health and beauty into maintaining her style blog and will soon launch a line of figure flattering pants and denim for women of all sizes.