Throwback: Brenda Russell-Way Back When


Brenda Gordon was born in Brooklyn, New York and by the time she turned 12 her parents had relocated to Toronto, Canada. Both of her parents were singers and her father was a member of The Ink Spots. She moved back to New York to start her music career for brief time before returning to Toronto. It was in Canada where she met her future musical partner and husband Brian Russell. They co-hosted the Canadian TV show Music Madness and later moved to Los Angeles in 1973. A deal with Elton John’s Rocket Records after John saw them on a Neil Sedaka TV special produced two albums Word Called Love and Supersonic Lover. Their songs were recorded by Paulette McWilliams who was the first vocalist with Rufus, Tata Vega, Rufus and Jermaine Jackson. Robert Palmer used their vocals on his fourth album Double Fun in 1978. Brian and Brenda separated that same year and Brenda recorded her first self-titled solo album in 1979. The songs “So Good So Right,” “If Only For One Night” magnificently redone later by Luther Vandross, “Way Back When” and “In The Thick Of It” were the showpiece songs of an overall solid collection. She followed her debut with the albums Lovelife and Two Eyes with the latter delivering the singles “Hello People” and “It’s Something.” It would be five years before she record as solo artist again and during this period she resumed her session work with Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler. In 1988 she released the album Get Here which became her biggest market success because of the tune “Piano In The Dark.” Oleta Adams would record her version of “Get Here” two years later and make the song famous. She wouldn’t record her next solo project until 1991 when she teamed with Narada Michael Walden on Kiss Me With The Wind. “Dinner With Gershwin” from that album was another one of her songs that became recognized when it was covered by another artist and this time the singer was Donna Summer. Russell offered Soul Talkin’ two years later and relaxed her solo ambitions to write music for others and score the soundtrack for “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” In 1999 she appeared in the movie “Liberty Heights.” Her next critically acclaimed solo outing was Paris Rain on the Hidden Beach label in 2000. A compilation of her music was released in 2003 on the Dome label called So Good, So Right: The Best Of Brenda Russell and her most recent studio album was 2004’s Between The Sun And The Moon. In 2005 she worked with Allee Willis and Stephan Bray to create the score for the broadway adaptation of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”

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