I'll confess that one of my guilty pleasures in life is watching American Idol, and perhaps my all-time favorite participant was the beautiful, extremely talented singer LaToya London.
Born in San Francisco and raised across the bay in Oakland, LaToya began singing as a child in Allen Temple Baptist Church and continued through young adulthood singing in a number of Gospel choirs. Her clear, strong, controlled voice stood out, and she was soon singing professionally around the Bay area, usually covering popular tunes with her band. Early in this decade she began landing bigger gigs as a warm up act or backing vocalist for bigger stars such as Rachelle Farrell and Goapele. However, that was simply a warm-up for her introduction to the world as one the 12 finalists in 2004's season of American Idol.
London's breathtaking performance during the Idol qualifying show made her the odds on favorite to win the competition, a position that continued for two months until she was surprisingly "voted out" two weeks before the finals. She then spent the Summer of 2004 on the Idols tourbefore disappearing from the national spotlight. And while Fantasia, Diana DeGarmo and George Huff quickly recorded albums to capitalize on their instant fame, London remained publicly quiet for nearly a year, leading to questions as to whether this extremely talented singer would be heard from again.
Happily, London, the oldest and most experienced of the Idol contestants, was simply planning her long-term career her way. Rather than succumbing to the temptation to quickly record an album aimed at a teenage pop audience, she wisely signed with Peak/Concord Records (home of Regina Belle and a slew of other soul and jazz greats), a label that has worked well with adult-oriented artists as well as artists who straddle the lines between smooth jazz, urban and adult contemporary genres. She released her debut, Love & Life, in September 2005. It came and went relatively quickly and became, unfortunately, her only major release to date.
London has continued to sing around the US and has been a guest vocalist on the albums of several artists, particularly in the smooth jazz area.
By Chris Rizik