One of the most talented singers, songwriters and producers of the past three decades, Angela Winbush never received either the across the board commercial success she deserved, nor sufficient credit for her pioneering work as a top tier female producer in the male dominated R&B music world. But years have been kind to her legacy and to the popular recognition of her contribution to soul music.
St. Louis-born Angela Winbush worked as a backup musician in the 70s, most notably as part Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove, when she met singer/songwriter Rene Moore, a church organist. The two began writing together and soon became an "A-list" songwriting team, providing melodic, lyrically interesting compositions such as Stephanie Mills' hit "I've Learned to Respect the Power of Love" and the wonderful Tavares cut "Love Uprising." They also became a rising singing duo known as Rene and Angela
The two were signed as a singing act by Capitol Records and recorded three moderately successful albums for the label. They had a minor hit with the single "I Love You More" but began amassing more of a following in 1983 with the terrific ballad, "My First Love." The duo's move to Mercury Records in 1985 turned out to be career-changing. Their label debut, Streetcar Named Desire, yielded three chart-topping hits with "Save Your Love (for #1)" and the muscular ballads "Smile" and "You Don't Have to Cry." Then, surprisingly, at the height of their popularity, the duo had a very public falling out, with Winbush leaving the duo after an alleged physical altercation with Moore. While Rene and Angela were no more, the two stayed sadly bound through a series of lawsuits over the next 7 years.
Moore went solo and released Destination Love in 1988, but it went nowhere. He continued to work with other artists as a producer or musician, most notably on Michael Jackson's Dangerous. But he never again achieved a notable level of success after the group's break-up
Around the time of the group's split, Winbush began writing and producing the Isley Brothers, and developed a personal relationship with Ron Isley that led to them becoming husband and wife. She also picked up with a solo career right where her duo career left off. She hit #1 in 1987 with "Angel" and two years later with "It's the Real Thing." Confounding a sexist music establishment that doubted that a woman could be so talented, Winbush became a much sought-after writer/producer, working most notably with Lalah Hathaway and Klymaxx and successfully revamping the sound of the legendary Isley Brothers. In fact, her focus on her husband's career in the 90s was so complete that it left her own performing career on the sidelines. She managed a 1994 solo hit with "Treat You Right," but was largely out of the spotlight for the remainder of the decade.
Winbush's marriage to Isley ended, and she worked to rescusitate her career with the unlikely help of a #1 remake of "My First Love" by Avant and KeKe Wyatt. Her comeback was stalled by ovarian cancer, but she ultimately beat long odds and achieved full remission of the illness. She now tours often, performing for fans around the world and working to raise cancer awareness. She remains both physically beautiful and a fantastic performer well into her fifties, and stands as an inspiration to a new generation of female artists and producers.
by Chris Rizik