Today In Music History (March 20): Anita Baker creates a "Rapture" in us all

March 20, 1986 - Anita Baker releases the iconic album Rapture

A beautiful and an extremely talented singer and songwriter, Anita Baker was a star hidden in plain sight for years. But that all ended on this day in 1986.

Baker was nearly a no show for the world of music. She had been singing in various groups and choirs in her native Detroit since she was a teenager, but while she was loved locally, she had received enough negative reviews from record label execs that, at age 22, she was ready to quit music for good.

March 20, 1986 - Anita Baker releases the iconic album Rapture

A beautiful and an extremely talented singer and songwriter, Anita Baker was a star hidden in plain sight for years. But that all ended on this day in 1986.

Baker was nearly a no show for the world of music. She had been singing in various groups and choirs in her native Detroit since she was a teenager, but while she was loved locally, she had received enough negative reviews from record label execs that, at age 22, she was ready to quit music for good.

Not long after completing high school, Baker joined Chapter 8, a local group that had signed a national record contract with Ariola Records, later a part of Arista. However, the group only recorded one 1979 album and Baker was labeled by Arista as a mediocre lead singer not worth supporting. The humiliated Baker left music, taking an administrative job in a Detroit lawyer's office before she was approached to record a 1983 album for upstart California label Beverly Glen (which also signed Bobby Womack around the same time to record his now classic The Poet).

The resulting album was The Songstress, a roughly arranged album that showed a developing young star with a beautifully smokey, deep voice, still learning her craft. However, she absolutely nailed two songs on the album, the big ballad "No More Tears" and "Angel," a jazzy, mellow cut that became a smash on Black radio and created an immediate buzz for the unheard of singer and record label. It also attracted the attention of Elektra Records, which signed Baker to her first major label deal.

Baker teamed with former Chapter 8 bandmate Michael Powell for her wonderful Elektra debut, Rapture, released on March 20, 1986. It was an instant classic that virtually defined adult soul for the next decade and thrust Baker to the forefront of popular music. The first single, "Watch Your Step," was a moderate Soul hit, but it was the catchy follow up ballad, "Sweet Love," that brought across-the-board attention to the album and resulted in Baker winning 1986 Grammy Awards for best R&B Female Vocalist and best R&B Song.

A legendary career was cemented with Rapture. The album still sounds great all these years later and Anita Baker remains a part of our lives as an all-time singer supreme.

By Chris Rizik

 

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