Louisiana-born singer Nita Whitaker has fashioned a solid career that, to the masses, has largely been "under the radar," but which has provided her the opportunity to contribute her substantial talent to a number of projects, including a solo singing career.
Whitaker was born into a musical family, her father being a member of the Gospel group Spiritual Jubilee. A striking beauty, she was crowned as 1984's Miss Louisiana before attempting to pursue a musical career of her own by entering television's Star Search competition. She became that show's Female Grand Champion, winning each week for three full months.
Whitaker's victory on Star Search did not lead to an instant solo recording contract (as it did for Durell Coleman), but instead took her to a short-lived vocal group and then to roles in a series of musical plays. She ultimately recorded and independently released her debut album in 1994 and followed it eight years later with One Voice, a combination of self-penned cuts and covers of standards that received some attention but failed to chart nationally. However, while her solo singing career was sporadic, Whitaker became a sought-after backing and guest vocalist, working with such artists as Faith Hill, Stevie Wonder and Yolanda Adams. She also began a regular role as the featured vocalist for songwriter/producer David Foster, and was the guest performer at 2005's Freedom Awards honoring Oprah Winfrey.
In early 2007, Whitaker self-released her third album, Life Stories, clearly putting her imprint on the album by writing or co-writing every song. Nita possesses an attractive alto voice with a light, lovely tone, falling somewhere between Yolanda Adams and another beauty queen, Vanessa Williams. But what is more unusual about Life Stories is the musical and lyrical content of the album. The disc is an unadulterated pop album that is musical throwback to the early 80s: Soft arrangements back Whitaker's consciously upbeat, mildly inspirational lyrics that gravitate around relationships, especially familial ones, from the viewpoint of a wife and mother. Life Stories has an almost spiritual aspect to it, though it generally focuses on relationships with those around us. The disc's gentle spirit is reminiscent of Williams' The Sweetest Days and musically fits nicely next to similar modern albums such as Ester Nicholson's Child Above the Sun. In a contemporary musical culture that is relatively heavy on attitude, an album that is so unflinchingly feminine and even traditional is a bit unnerving. But the music, ranging from the partially a cappella "Trying to Get to You" to the Natalie Cole-like "You Are My Friend" to the straight ahead adult contemporary "If I Had Never Known You" and "The Music Within," is consistently melodic and well performed. On Life Stories, Nita Whitaker is clearly aiming to provide a personal, rather sentimental view of love and -- perhaps due to its innocent beauty and perhaps due to its stark contrast to modern radio -- overall it works. Life Stories is a pleasant listen and should find an interested, sizeable female audience.
Tragedy struck Whitaker in 2008 when her husband, legendary announcer Don LaFontaine (often called "The Voice of God" for his thunderous vocals that were often used in movie trailers) died. Whitaker ultimately wrote about her love, her loss and her faith in her 2012 book Finding my Voice: My Journey through Grief to Grace.
By Chris Rizik