We know there are some singers and musicians out there who have become famous, and shouldn’t have. They’re not that great, or even very good, yet the big music machine of promotion and marketing has magically made them famous in America, and occasionally around the world. It’s a strange phenomenon, and over time it dumbs-down the people’s taste in music to a degree. Somewhat like sheep, if we hear the same mediocre singer on the radio ten times in a week, we subconsciously decide they must be good… hell, they’re on the radio!
Conversely, there are many, many incredibly gifted singers and musicians who are not famous, and will never be. They are respected and adored by their peers (who should know) and loved by a small and discerning audience who knows and appreciates their special talents. Because I’m a musician, and lived my whole life in the music business, I know a lot of them. Fabulous musicians whom you’ve never heard of. Piano players – Will Boulware, Kevin Bales, Dan Wall, Vance Taylor, Oliver Wells, Guy Fasciani… hell, even Bill Charlap. Ever hear of him? He’s Tony Bennett’s piano player, a monster of good taste with a fine jazz heart. He’s even married to a excellent jazz pianist, Renee Rosnes. But you haven’t heard of her either, right?
And there are singers, quite a few of them, who are fantastic, and unknown. But the one who has killed me for years, and continues to kill me to this very day, is Cheryl Wilson. Here is Wikipedia’s take on her. –
Cheryl Wilson is a session singer who has had multiple No. 1 dance songs on the UK Billboard chart and has performed with many notable artists including Celine Dion, R. Kelly, Alice Peacock, Mavis Staples, The Smashing Pumpkins, Bertie Higgins, Michael Bolton, Bill Withers, Peabo Bryson, David Foster, Josh Grobin, Enrique Iglesias, Nick Carter, KMFDM, Cameo, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Mel Torme, Spike Lee, Tony Bennett, Peter Cetera, and Martha Wash. She has also sung in commercials for companies such as McDonald’s and is a member of the Jazz & Contemporary Studies Faculty at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She contributes vocals to Jim Warner’s Chicago musical project, Akalibrio. Her performance on the KMFDM song “Power” was described as “soul-mama vamping”.
I had no idea how many famous musicians Cheryl has worked with over the years. That list blows me away, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. Cheryl is the consummate vocalist. She understands music dynamically, tonally and, best of all, emotionally. Her music comes from her heart, and she has a huge heart! She is a world class singer for sure. Yet if you are not a musician, most likely you’ve never heard of her. And what a shame, for to hear her sing anything is to get your heart lit up and your humanity re-aligned. Hear her in a most unusual, creative setting on www.youtube.com/Cheryl Wilson, The Pythiad – 6. Asclepius
I worked with Cheryl back in the early eighties, in Atlanta. She was the lead vocalist on my second album. She breathed a life and a beauty into several of my songs that I didn’t know were even in them. I want to play one of them for you here. I know it’s a professional courtesy to ask a vocalist or any musician which song they would prefer you to play, but to my ear they’re all good. And if she hears this and disapproves, I would remind her that this tune was recorded about 39-40 years ago.
A stunning singer. Still makes my eyes wet sometimes. I have more, and will save them for another time.
To hear Cheryl sing, especially live, is to be invited into her heart for an intimate visit with the beautiful person she is, and has always been. I’m so proud of her, and of her career in music… and proud to be her friend. She continues to be an inspiration for all who know her or have ever worked with her. Blessings on you, Cheryl. We’re all a little more alive, a little more caring, because of you.