Freddie Jackson's forte has been sophisticated, romantic soul ballads aimed at adult audiences, but he is also capable of tackling urban contemporary dance numbers and even the occasional jazz tune. Yet, unlike many of his peers, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker and Peabo Bryson included, Jackson never managed to make a major cross over to the pop charts, as none of his R&B smashes even breached the Top Ten. During the 90's, as new trends like hip-hop impacted the urban contemporary landscape, Jackson gradually faded from view.
Jackson was born October 2, 1956, in Harlem. He was trained as a gospel singer and, from an early age, sang at the White Rock Baptist Church. There he met Paul Laurence who later became his producer and songwriting partner. After completing school, Jackson joined Laurence's group, LJE, (Laurence Jones Ensemble), and, in addition, played the New York club scene. By the early '80s, Jackson had moved to the West Coast and, for a time, was lead singer with the R&B band Mystic Merlin. However, he returned to New York to work with Laurence at the Hush Productions company where he sang on demo recordings of Laurence's compositions. Melba Moore happened to see his nightclub act and promptly recruited him as a backup singer.
Freddie had eleven #1 singles on the Billboard charts, a chain of events that started in 1985 when he landed a record deal with Capitol and issued the debut album, "Rock Me Tonight." It sold four million copies, garnered the Laurence composed single of the same name and stayed at #1 for six weeks. Significantly it also set him up for a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
Freddie was quickly back to #1 with the follow up single, "You Are My Lady," a recording that proved to be his highest-charting single on the pop charts, peaking at number 13. Jackson wasted no time in following up on his new found success. "Just Like The First Time" appeared in 1986 hot on the heels of "A Little Bit More," a number one R&B duet with Melba Moore that was taken from her album A Lot Of Love. "Tasty Love," "Have You fEver Loved Somebody" and "Jam Tonight" all hit number one, while "I Don't Want to Lose Your Love" went to number two.
The title track of 1990's 'Do Me Again' took him back to the top of the R & B charts, and 'Main Course' just missed, topping out at number two. Even so, Jackson's early placings in the lower reaches of the pop Top 40 had long since disappeared and some critics commented that his albums were becoming too similar. Perhaps it was this lack of distinctiveness in his material that hurt Jackson's chances for that all-important pop breakthrough. His 1992 release 'Time For Love', that included the hit cover of the Billy Paul classic 'Me and Mrs. Jones', still failed to duplicate the crossover success that Luther Vandross was belatedly enjoying.
Jackson went on to have 30 charted singles, winning an American Music Award in 1988 for 'Nice and Slow', a track lifted from his platinum selling album, 'Don't Let Love Slip Away.'
Seeking a new beginning, Jackson left Capitol in late 1993, and signed with RCA. His label debut, 'Here It Is', appeared the following year, with diminished commercial returns. This, in part, was possibly due to the fact that his straightforwardly romantic ballad style was increasingly out of step with the sexually explicit new breed of R&B. Following a Christmas album, Jackson split with RCA and, in 1995, recorded 'Private Party' for the much smaller Street Life label. Several years of silence ensued, until Orpheus issued 'Life After 30' in late 1999. The equally low-key release 'Live in Concert' followed in 2000.
At the end of 2004, Jackson has reunited with the management team that was responsible for launching his career. Charles and Beau Huggins established Freddie amongst the R&B elite of the '80's. His first release following the reunion was the disappointing Personal Reflections, an album of pop and soul covers that suffered from unimaginative song selection and orchestration. It quickly disappeared from the charts and appeared to indicate that Jackson's recording days were over. So it was surprising when he returned strongly in September 2006 with Transitions, a fine album on which Jackson again appeared as the confident soul crooner, making the kind of music that brought him success in the first place. The initial single, "Until the End of Time," was a gem, and the resulting album was Jackson's finest in years, spelling a new beginning for an old favorite.
In 2010, Jackson signed with E One Music and readied what promised to be his biggest release in more than a decade. In November, 2010, he issued For You to great hype and positive reviews.
Denis Poole (with updates from Chris Rizik)