Jennifer Holliday is undeniably one of R&B and Broadway’s greatest voices. Endowed with a commanding and irresistible voice, immeasurable range and artistry that few can rival, Holliday has long stood in a class by herself. The dynamic songstress’ now legendary show-stopping, heart-wrenching performance of the torch ballad “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” in the smash hit Broadway musical, Dreamgirls, made her a household name and introduced her big soulful voice to the world. Her portrayal of Effie “Melody” White, a role she co-created, not only brought theatergoers to their feet for eight performances a week, but also garnered her a Tony-Award for Best Actress in a Musical and her first Grammy-Award for Best R&B Female Vocalist. From Broadway to major TV appearances including (Ellen, Ally McBeal and Touched By An Angel) and half-a-dozen soundtrack credits, Jennifer Holliday is one of the most distinctive, enviable and revered voices in modern music. Through the years, Holliday has collaborated with everyone from Barbra Streisand, Luther Vandross, David Foster and Paul Simon, to Michael Jackson, Maurice White and Foreigner. She has also sung with the Boston Pops and The Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra with Peter Nero, among numerous other esteemed orchestras. She considers herself to be a Broadway Baby and theater continues to be a significant part of her career. Her illustrious resume includes such theatre credits as Sing Mahalia Sing: The Mahalia Jackson Story, Downhearted Blues: The Bessie Smith Story, Harlem Suite (with Aretha Franklin), Chicago (starring as “Mama Morton”), Grease(starring as “Teen Angel”) and Black Nativity (starring as the “Angel of God”). The in-demand star has also been invited to participate in Chaka Khan’s induction into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame ceremony to take place June 10 at the Apollo Theatre and broadcast later on BET. Considering herself a “bi-partisan songbird,” Jennifer is both honored and grateful to have performed at the White House for President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush, President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.
January 21, 2014, Shanachie Entertainment will release Jennifer Holliday’s highly anticipated label debut, The Song Is You, an enchanting collection of R&B and Jazz numbers that showcase Holliday at her best. Shanachie General Manager, Randall Grass says, “Jennifer Holliday is one of the greatest voices of our time; her many fans are hungry for new music from her. This new album may be the most complete fulfillment of her artistry and vision as she recorded it free from any pressure to fit a commercial format.”
The Song Is You is Jennifer’s first secular album in 23 years and it defies expectations. Produced by Daniel Moore and Jennifer, much of it is her take on standards but there are also previously unrecorded songs and lesser-known compositions. The dynamic vocalist draws from jazz, R&B and Broadway but even when the song is well-known, her interpretation transports the songs into fresh territory. When Holliday tackles “At Last,” for instance, a song that has been done countless times, one would think that there is not much new that could be done with this standard but Jennifer builds it into a hurricane of emotion that is ultimately transcendent. Her version of the Kern/Hammerstein chestnut “The Song Is You,” a song associated with Frank Sinatra, follows the template of Sinatra’s classic Nelson Riddle-arranged recordings but Jennifer brings R&B testifying to the big-band swing.
But amidst the standards is a memorable pop ballad Jennifer penned for Whitney Houston called “The One You Used To Be.” She also features a classic-sounding R&B song, “Are You Leaving Me” by an unknown author that has only previously been recorded as a demo by Aretha Franklin and “It’s Not About You,” a new song by neo-soul singer/songwriter Gordon Chambers. Other highlights on The Song Is You include a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch with a stellar version of “Nobody Does It Better.” Also showcases are versions of such lesser-known R&B numbers as “Love Is On The Way” and “Touch.” Even when Jennifer sings the classic “The Look Of Love,” at some point she takes you to church, to the depths of her heart and soul in a way that only the great divas can. The orchestrations on the album equally match the sublime artistry exhibited by Holliday. There are no synthesized string or horn sections; it is all high-end live string and horn players, something you rarely hear nowadays. It is an almost shocking reminder of what an accomplished musicians and a great vocalist can do together. Overall The Song Is You is a great reminder of just how powerful a vehicle for human expression music can be.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Holliday went straight from the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Choir to Broadway. One Sunday, while singing in the church choir, she was discovered by dancer Jamie Patterson who was touring in the national company of A Chorus Line. Jamie not only set up an audition for Jennifer in New York for the show Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God, but he also bought her an airline ticket and made arrangements for her to stay with his aunt. During the audition with the show’s creator and director, Vinnette Carroll, 19-year-old Jennifer sang her favorite hymn, “God Will Take Care Of You.” And that He did. She was hired for the show that same day. She toured with Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With Godfor five months and then made her Broadway debut with the show as Jennifer-Yvette Holliday. While on Broadway, Jennifer came to the attention of many notables and critics, including renowned Broadway director/choreographer and creator of A Chorus Line, Michael Bennett, who invited Holliday to participate in an untitled project that he was producing which turned out to be the now infamous Dreamgirls. The production of Dreamgirls had previews in Boston, opened on Broadway on December 21, 1981 at the Imperial Theatre…and the rest, as they say, is history!
Jennifer’s arrangement and powerful recording of “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” remains her biggest chart-topping success to date. The song was #1 on the R&B Charts for four consecutive weeks and a Top 40 hit on the Pop Charts. From 1985 to 1992 she enjoyed solid public support with five Top 10 singles on the R&B and Dance Charts. Holliday’s last release in the millennium brought her not one, but two “Best of Jennifer Holliday” CD Collections. Savvy moviegoers can hear Jennifer singing on compilation albums for films such as In The Mood: The Sonny Wisecarver Story (1987), I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), Magic Man, The Five Heartbeats (1991) and Amazing Grace (2006). She composed and sang the original songs for the soundtrack to The Rising Place (2001).
In 2000 Jennifer Holliday received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music for her work on behalf of mental health awareness, depression and suicide prevention. Jennifer continues to believe that music has a healing power and she also strongly believes that her music and her story are her gift to her audiences. She strives to bring hope, comfort and love to everyone who may hear her voice. In the summer of 2007, Jennifer founded the Yolanda D. King “Achieving The Dream” Artistic Scholarship Fund in memory of her beloved friend, fellow actor, and eldest daughter of Dr. Martin and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Scholarships will be awarded to college students for books and school supplies who attend a Historically Black College or University in the field of Music, Theater and Film. Some of Jennifer’s other favorite causes and charities include The National MS Society; The Lupus Foundation; Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; Operation Smile; Youth, Inc; The Special Olympics; The Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center; The Iris Alliance Fund; The Suicide Prevention Action Network; The Human Rights Campaign; The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; AID Atlanta; Project AIDS Los Angeles; The Diva Foundation; Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; Odyssey Health Care (National Hospices) and The Dream Foundation.
Although Jennifer Holliday released a Gospel duet album, Goodness & Mercy, in 2011, it has been 15 years since she has released a solo album. The Song Is You promises to be one the THE musical events of the year!