This is part of The Shadow League’s Women’s History Month In Focus series celebrating excellence in sports, entertainment and culture.
As we kick off Women’s History Month, I’m sitting here jamming to the work of an artist who has inspired me for quite some time. She sits in my beloved category of “Ya’ll don’t know nothin’ ’bout that there!”
By that, I mean that most people on the outside of our cultural brilliance, looking in, have some type of familiarity, on a cursory level, with the usual suspects. They can sit around and talk about folks like Tina Turner, Beyonc, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and some others, but there are deeper chambers that they have absolutely no connection to, and know absolutely nothing about.
With the exception of a rare few musicologists, most folks outside of the African-American experience will draw a blank stare when you ask them about Angela Winbush.
But Man-o-Manischewitz, her contributions to R&B are monstrous.
Winbush is a great example to hold aloft to my oldest daughter, who will soon be off to college. I tell her not to worry about what she wants to major in at this point, that she simply needs to be true to her inner spirit and that her life passions will ultimately reveal themselves.
While studying at Howard University, Winbush, a St. Louis native, was initially immersed in the mastery of architecture. She grew up singing in church, and occasionally rocked the microphone in college as a side gig to augment her bank account.
She opened for a number of acts on the Washington, DC club scene and picked up work here and there singing background.
She eventually switched her major to music, cut a demo and shopped it around, which caught the ears of some music industry vets who introduced her to Stevie Wonder. She sang in his backup vocal group, Wonderlove, and under his tutelage, she received a PH. D. level education in songwriting, musical composition and vocal arrangement.
Soon thereafter, she met Rene Moore, a like-minded musical soul who also, like herself, was a gifted songwriter in addition to having an exceptional voice. They crashed the R&B scene as Rene and Angela, but in addition to their own projects, they wrote and produced for many other artists.
Her pen game was sick like the flu, writing Janet Jackson’s first top ten hit, “Young Love“, along with Stephanie Mills’ smashes “I’ve learned to Respect the Power of Love” and “Something in the Way You Make me Feel.”
After splitting with Rene to do her own thing, she wrote, produced and arranged the Isley Brothers “Smooth Sailing” album.
In ’87, she dropped her debut solo album, “Sharp”, which rocked the Billboard charts for 51 weeks. She absolutely crushed the late ’80s and early ’90s with banger after banger.
If you want to see me lose my ever-loving mind on the dance floor, just let the DJ set it off with Treat U Right! I’m warning you now. That piece sends me off!!!
When she says, “Have I ever dissed you? And if I did, it was because you deserved it!”, maaaaan, looka here. Fellas if you have a ride-or-die in your life that has had your back through thick and thin, this is that joint right there!!!
As Hip Hop took over the music scene, the most prominent figures in the game paid homage to Winbush’s influence on their own individual musical journeys, with Puff, aka Puffy aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy aka Diddy aka whatever he goes by now, getting her into the mix for Biggie and Jay Z’s, “I Love the Dough,” which sampled her banger, “I Love You More,” Foxy Brown sampling “I’ll be Good” to blast off her own top ten hit with Jigga Man, “I’ll be“, and Jay’s phenomenal Imaginary Player piece, which sampled her Imaginary Playmates classic.
How real was that?
So as we pay homage this month to those beautiful, brilliant women that have inspired us in our own walks through life, I’m coming out the gate with the incomparable Angela Winbush, one of my all time favorites and a woman whose talent and impact need to be celebrated and appreciated.