Official Biography (courtesy of Rena Scott)
Starting out at 12 in her native Detroit singing for the local Baptist congregation, Rena Scott won her first talent contest at 13-where she performed with The Temptations--and was soon playing two or three gigs a night on the weekends at local R&B clubs, opening up for The Temps, Four Tops, The Originals and many other well known acts. She recorded her first record, "I Just Can't Forget That Boy," while still in high school. When the Queen of Soul, also a native Detroiter, needed a third backup singer for a few gigs, the 18 year old got her million to one shot to sing onstage with her idol at the Pine Knob Ski Resort in Northern Michigan and, more importantly, in front of thousands at Carnegie Hall.
"It was beyond my wildest imagination, the lights, the orchestra, the feeling of singing with her after loving her music for so long," says Scott. "But it wasn't just an amazing opportunity to sing with her, it fueled me musically and spiritually for the rest of my life. My time with Aretha didn't last much longer, just a few more gigs and singing backup on one of her albums, but it was enough. In those days, I patterned my own singing after hers, and people started calling me â€˜Little Aretha.' She then started to work to develop her own style, listening to other artist like Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand .She emerged with a unique sound. I vowed after that one night I would come back to perform at Carnegie Hall."
While Scott was busy over the years pursuing that goal, she wowed many thousands in other places-first nightclubs in Detroit and later Los Angeles, and then crowds of up to 50,000 people touring top R & B and Jazz festivals in the U.S. and Europe, such as the famous Montrose Jazz festival in Montrose Switzerland. She toured in the 80s with The Crusaders, sharing the stage with legends like George Benson and Natalie Cole. She came on board with founding Crusaders members Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper after the departure of Randy Crawford, performing picture perfect renditions of their 1979 pop hit "Street Life" for audiences who sometimes didn't even speak English.
"What an incredible time that was, working with so many beloved legends and some of the best musicians in the world," she says. "It was great having people screaming for more, reaching out to connect emotionally despite the language barrier. They may not have known what the words meant, but they could feel it the music. I love it when it comes together, the music, the lights, the sound, the band, the crowd...Like my new song I wrote â€˜I Know It's Right,' you could just feel the magic.' Everything came together just right."
After a handful of years away from the stage, Scott reunited this past year with R&B singer Michael Henderson, for rousing performance's at the Famed Long Beach Jazz Festival, in Milwaukee for the United We Funk festival and the Lithonia Jazz Festival outside of Atlanta. The two received rousing ovations from audiences who time tripped at the performance of their million selling 1979 duet "Take Me I'm Yours," from Henderson's hit album In The Nighttime. At the Lithonia event, Scott also had a chance to introduce audiences to her new single, "I Know It's Right."
While she's always made her living singing in clubs, singing backup, performing with legendary figures and doing jingles for companies like Levi's 501 Jeans and Sunny Delight, the stop and start nature of her own solo recording career has made for an intense emotional roller coaster. After touring with Henderson on the strength of their hit single in 1980, Michael's record company Buddha Records signed her to a record deal, she recorded the half disco, half R&B ballad album Come On Inside. The album was produced by the powerhouse R&B team Mtume and Reggie Lucas, former jazz musicians who had scored pop hits for Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack & Donnie Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and Lou Rawls.
After the record company folded, she left Detroit for a short pit stop in Las Vegas-where she did shows at Caesar's Palace and the Landmark Hotel-before settling in L.A. to seek new recording opportunities. Before hooking up with The Crusaders, she had started writing songs with veteran Producer and songwriter Skip Scarborough who wrote songs for (LTD, Anita Baker, Earth, Wind & Fire and many other artist). In 1989, Scott re-emerged on Sedona Records with Love Zone, whose first single "Do That To Me One More Time" hit the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. The follow-up "I Could Use A Kiss" also received extensive airplay.
Soon after, she once again fell victim to label traumas-three failed deals in all---before starting a fruitful long term business relationship with songwriter/producer Lloyd Tolbert and emerging with her own independent label, Amor Records. Her label debut, Let Me Love You is distributed by KES Distribution. Its title cut was featured in two key scenes of the HBO Cinemax film Love and Action in Chicago, starring Courtney Vance, Regina King, Kathleen Turner and Ed Asner.
"My husband Curtis has been so supportive through all my ups and downs, and he was the one who pushed me to do this myself and give it everything I have," she says. "Years of rejection had depressed me, but I always knew I'd come back strong and put everything into it. It's an emotional and financial risk, but it's worth it, who better to invest in then yourself, I'm ok with who I am and I back to stay. I can use my story to inspire others whose dreams are as vast as mine are."
Although music and the launch of Amor Records (which will someday include a growing roster of artists) have taken priority in Scott's creative world, she eventually plans to write a book and maybe even make a movie about her life. The musical trials and tribulations--and the presence of God's grace through them all-have been shadowed her whole life by those that marked her early years in Detroit, with her parent's difficult, abusive marriage. As a little girl, music was her outlet, and it continues to be an important part of her emotional and spiritual survival.
"The songs on Let Me Love You reflect my growth through experiences, and those that people I know have been through," Scott says. "All of these songs, ˜A Love Thang,' ˜Good To Me,' ˜Plaything,' ˜I'll Keep Coming Back,' tell the story of life and love, there are good times and bad times. Life is a onetime journey that should be filled with lots of love, these are the things I'm passionate about, and the things I'll continue to write and sing about."
Scott hasn't been back on the stage at Carnegie Hall since she was a wide-eyed teen singing her heart out behind Aretha. God's been testing her patience, but the day is coming. She'll provide the talent and drive. Now all she needs is a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T to get back to the place that the incredible journey began.