Miki Howard

Introduction: After some 25 years, singer and actress Miki Howard continues to resonate passion and soul into music. With many years in the entertainment business, Miki’s latest CD, Private Collection makes the listener think of her and the CD content as similar to a collection of fine, developing wine. Aside from a string of Billboard R&B top rated singles, and success with nominations from Grammies, American Music Awards, Soul Train Music Awards and others, how many singers and actresses could pull off portraying the legendary Billy Holliday? Outside of Diana Ross, Miki Howard did to rave reviews in Spikes Lee’s highly acclaimed, Academy Award nominated 1990 masterpiece, Malcolm X. Unlike the current 'Soul Revival' coming to the forefront from such new artists like, Amy Warehouse, Donnie, Rahassan Paterson, The Brand New Heavies, Gordon Chambers, Anthony Hamilton and others, Miki Howard not only brings a soul element to her vocal depth, but she also embodies jazz, blues and the best of today's R&B, including the music coming singers likes of Alicia Keys and Fantasia, to name a few. This all stems from Miki’s early roots. 1960s: Born Alicia Michelle Howard in Chicago, Illinois, she is the daughter of gospel singer Josephine Howard of the legendary, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group, The Caravans, and Clay Graham of the Pilgrim Jubilees. During her childhood in Chicago and Detroit, Howard met some of the best singers of the day when they visited her family. "It was nothing for me to see James Cleveland, Billy Preston, and Fats Domino in my house," she said. "I was surrounded by music every day, so I knew I wanted to sing professionally someday." Among Howard's earliest influences were family friends Dinah Washington--to whom she would later be compared--and Aretha Franklin. Howard also counted Nina Simone, Shirley Basely, Lena Horne, and Judy Garland among her favorite vocalists. 1970s: Miki's family moved to Los Angeles while she was in her early teens. Already aiming at a career in music, the 15-year-old Howard received her first break when she participated in a teen beauty contest. Augie Johnson, leader of the group Side Effect, happened to be in the audience; impressed with Howard's singing talent, he introduced her to Wayne Henderson, who signed the teenager to a contract with his At Home Productions. Howard also joined the lineup of Side Effect in 1978. For the next couple of years, Howard continued to sing with the group and performed backup vocals as a studio singer for jazz great Stanley Turpentine, Wayne Henderson, Roy Ayers, Grover Washington, Jr., and Philip Bailey. Howard and Johnson also began a personal relationship that produced two children 1980s: Already in demand as a session vocalist, Howard also performed with Side Effect on comic deejay Rick Dees' singles in the early 1980s, which she credits as the catalyst for her solo career. "It was my experience with Rick that made me want to go solo," she recounted on the Peak Records website. "We performed at the L.A. Amphitheater and I saw the dressing room marked 'Star' and I was jealous and wanted my own room." As with so many other solo artist confined to the limitations of being in a group environment, Howard sought a solo recording contract, and around 1985, famed label Atlantic Records gave Miki Howard a life changing opportunity. She recorded her first solo album with Atlantic in 1986, Come Share My Love. Her first hit for Atlantic was the album title track, Billboard R&B top ten single "Come Share My Love, " which peaked at number five. Miki followed that with her second hit, a remake of Glenn Miller's 1940 tune "Imagination," which she had to fight to include in her first album. Howard's second solo album, 1988's Love Confessions, offered two R&B chart hits, the top-five hit "Baby Be Mine," and the top-ten hit, "That's What Love Is." The latter was a duet with Gerald Leveret that reflected a real-life romance between the two singers that lasted until 1990. Howard's third solo album, Miki Howard, was released in 1989 and proved her most commercially successful to date. The single "Aren’t Nothing in the World" became Howard's first number-one hit on the R&B charts, and another song, "Love under New Management," followed it to number two. Although it was not her biggest hit, "Management" became one of Howard's signature tunes. 1990s: Howard continued her successful solo career after switching to Giant Records in 1991. Her first single under her new contract, "Aren’t Nobody like You," became Howard's second number-one R&B hit. The subsequent album, 1992's Femme Fatale, featured Howard's renditions of classic tracks originally performed by Dinah Washington ("This Bitter Earth") and Billie Holiday ("Good Morning Heartache"). A casting director saw Miki perform some Billie Holiday tunes at a New York City concert at Radio City Music Hall, and offered her the above referenced role of Holiday in the nightclub scene of director Spike Lee's 1992 epic film Malcolm X. The following year, Howard recorded an entire album of Holiday songs, titled Miki Sings Billie, including her favorite Billie tune, "Don't Explain." Outside of her acclaimed portrayal of Billie Holiday, other film credits have included working with such directors as John Singleton in his 1993 movie Poetic Justice with pop icon Janet Jackson. After Miki's relationship with Leveret ended, Miki had a brief marriage that produced another child. By 1993, the singer had finally extricated herself from that marriage, a disastrous marriage that had a damaging effect on her career. As she explained "I don’t want to go into details, but let’s just say events that occurred during that relationship left me with challenges in the industry. For instance, I remember I was about to sign with RCA Records and the deal fell through. That was a crushing blow. With all that was going on in my life at the time, I decided to 'retire' for a while to get myself together." During this period, Howard moved to Atlanta with her three children, where friends Chaka Khan, Cherelle, and Patti LaBelle comforted her in the aftermath of the divorce. Miki released Live Plus in 1996, and a comeback album of original material, Can't Count Me Out, in 1997. She also toured in the road company of the Broadway musical Dream girls, playing the role of lead Dream, Deena. By 1999, Howard was ready to revive her recording career in earnest. Miki says she simply contacted her managers and said, "I need to make a record." "One of my co-managers at the time had started Peak Records so it was uncanny." Howard continued, "I got a deal pretty quickly with the new label! Lots of my friends started coming out of the woodwork to give me songs and before we knew it, we had ten ready to go." 2000s: Howard's first album of original material in four years, Three Wishes, was released in 2001 to excellent reviews. The album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional R&B Recording; although she lost out to Gladys Knight in that category, the nomination itself represented an artistic comeback for Howard. After 25 years in the music business, the singer was comfortable with her place in the industry and resigned to the compromises it demanded. In 2001 The Very Best of Miki Howard, including her top R&B hits from the late 1980s and early 1990s, was released on Rhino Records. An album on the Shanachie label, Pillow Talk: Miki Sings the Classics was released in 2006. Discography: Miki Howard, a kid from the 1960's, is a woman that has survived the 70's, 80's, and 90's. She is an artist with a persistent fan base, consistently awaiting new releases. The Discography that created her following includes a long list of hits: Come Share My Love 1986, Love Confessions 1987, Miki Howard 1989, Femme Fatale 1992, Miki Sings Billie 1994, Live Plus 1996, Can't Count Me Out 1997, Three Wishes 2001, The Very Best Of Miki Howard 2001, Pillow Talk: Miki Sings The Classics 2006, and now Private Collection 2008. Private Collection: Miki's latest album, which was released in March 2008 on Branicka Records, is already causing a positive buzz. "Private Collection is the kind of record that you .live. to," says Miki. "You play it in the car, play it while you clean your house, play it at cocktail parties that are the kind of record this is. The five standards that I did on this CD are five of my favorites. The five original co-written songs have a piece of me in them. That's why I called this work Private Collection." Today: Times have changed and so have the opportunities. Recently, Howard signed a contract for a Reality TV show. On April 13th, Miki started a five-month world tour, stretching beyond the US to include Japan and South Africa. These and other changes in her life reflect the evolution of Ms Howard, again, similar to a fine wine, improving with time. Private Collection will not disappoint Miki's fans, old and new, and will continue to build on the unbelievably solid legacy that is Miki Howard. It becomes obviously clear once one hears her .Private Collection that the best of Miki Howard is still to come.