Detroit-born singer Tony Rich displayed immense talent when he burst onto the music scene in the mid-90s, but he never reached the sustained commercial success that the music world anticipated.
Known initially as a staff writer at LaFace Records, Rich wrote hits for such artists as Boyz II Men and Toni Braxton, but in 1995 he moved to the front as a solo artist with his debut album, Words. It was an unadulterated smash. The first single, "Nobody Knows" cracked the top ten and the album won for Rich a Grammy Award for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, an amazing feat for a debut album. The album's hidden gem was "Hey Blue," a loping number about a perplexing relationship that simply oozed cool and was arguably one of the year's great album cuts.
In 1998 Rich released his sophomore disc, Birdseye, to great anticipation, but it failed to connect with listeners despite critical acclaim. He had a minor hit with "Silly Man," but the album stiffed commercially.
Rich went back to a principal role as a writer and producer over the next several years, working with both R&B and Gospel artists, before returning on Compendia Records in 2003 with The Resurrected, an album that bore an edgier, rock sound. It found even fewer listeners than its predecessor and became his first album to fail to chart. He then self-released 2006's Pictures and has recorded sporadically since then, most recently with 2017's Encaustic.
By Chris Rizik