Through out the 1980's and 90's, many talented ladies had emerged onto the music scene, and Soul Legend Angela Winbush was one who became a favorite among Soul Music lovers, and it wasn't only for her voice. In addition to being a great singer, Winbush has wrote and produced classic hits for herself, and other singers, making her one of the few Black female producers to achieve success as a singer, composer and musician, inspiring a legion of females including Chante Moore, and Syleena Johnson, while her classics have been covered and sampled by several R&B, Hip-Hop and Gospel artists. Yet with acomplishments, she had to overcome several obstacles, including fighting for recognition, a public divorce and surviving cancer, but her relationship with God helped her presevere, and this article honors this talented golden lady and her success. Winbush was born on January 18, 1955 in St. Louis to Alfred and Anna Winbush, who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, by taking part in marches and demonstrations, bringing their young daughter along. "I was bused because I came up in the civils right era. At six years old, I was on picket lines" Winbush said on TV One's Unsung. Winbush's parents had sepearated shortly after her third birthday, but she had a strong family connection, by spending time with her mother, and her aunt, uncle and cousin, who lived across the street from Angela and her mother, a former Government worker. "My uncle Elmor and my aunt Mary moved across the street and I used to run from this house back and fourth" Angela said on Unsung. "She's a family girl." her mother added. "Family gave her so much love I don't think she missed much." Like many Blacks in the south and mid-west, Angela spent most of her childhood in her great-grand parents' church which provided a spiritual foundation for her as well as provided an outlet for her to showcase her singing talent, which had the congregation suprised and touched. "Angela suprised people because she has this four-octave range. That was her God-given talent" Winbush's cousin Marytl Webster said on Unsung. Angela's mother enrolled her in vocal and piano lessons, and while she enjoyed taking the courses, she didn't plan on purusing a career in music at the time. Her goal was to be an archetect. "When I was little, I wanted to build buildings and I played with building blocks and I drew blueprints" Winbush said on STL 95. After graduating from high school, Angela enrolled in Howard University, a famous historically Black college that nuturned many talented famous alumni including Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Wendy Raquel Washington, Anthony Anderson and Lance Gross. Originally an archetiture major, Winbush would spend her free time in the music room, singing, playing piano and composing songs, catching the attention of many students, and staff, including Gospel Music composer Richard Norwood. "I was blown away by her talent. For someone to be that young and sing like that was incrediable to me" Norwood said on Unsung. Winbush joined his Gospel choir, and became his featured soloist, where she would have the audience on their feets, clapping and shouting. Angela switched her major to music education where she learned song structure and music theory, which would benefit her in the future. She had also teamed up with Tawatha Agee and Elent Ricks to form the trio Hot Tea, who would performed around the D.C. area, opening for several legendary acts including Al Jareua and others who recruited them for background sessions. After earning her degree in 1977, Angela briefly taught high school, but followed her calling to be an musician. "I enjoyed working with the kids, but my first love was always to be a performer" Winbush told Blues & Soul Magazine. She landed a gig singing background for Jazz/Soul artist Jean Carne, but hit the jackpot, when legendary DJ Gary Byrd sent Winbush's demo to Motown legend Stevie Wonder, who quickly flew her to Los Angelas to audition for his background group Wonderlove, and like Norwood, Wonder, and his musicians were blown away by her vocal talent. The Grammy Award winning icon quickly hired Winbush, and during her tenure with Wonder, she performed background on several Wonder composed hits including Jermaine Jackson's "Let's Get Serious" and Wonder's "Master Blaster (Jammin')" which hit # 1 on the R&B charts in 1980. She also sang background for Dolly Parton and spend time watching Wonder worked in the studio producing hit records. In 1990, Angela told Dionne Warwick how she learned about all the instruments Stevie would play and would take notes and quickly master drum machines, keyboards, synsersizers and the flute. She also spent time singing in the Terry Lynn Community choir, and one day during rehearsal, she met musician Rene Moore, brother of Bobby Watson, a former member of Rufus & Chaka Khan, who had worked as a musican with several artists including The Brothers Johnson. Impressed with Moore's vocal and keyboard skills, Winbush suggested they work together as a duo and Moore agreeded. "We were both pursuing individual interest musically, and she came up with the idea of writing songs together and forming the duo" Moore said in the Billboard Book of # 1 Rhythm & Blues hits. The pair began composing for several acts includng Lenny Williams who recorded their composition "Changes" while Motown legend Lamont Doizer recorded one of their tunes, creating a buzz with recording artist, and label executives, with Dr. Cecil Hale signing the duo to Capitol Records, where they scored two top 20 R&B hits with "Do You Really Love Me" and "I Love You More." In 1982, A&M Records recruited the duo to work on Janet Jackson's self-titled debut album where Jackson scored with the duo's penned hits "Young Love" and "Say You Do" with the former peaking at # 6 on the R&B charts. The following year the duo released their third albm "Rise" which contained the classic ballad "My First Love" a song that was offered to Jackson on her debut, which she passed on and would become Rene & Angela's signature ballad due to the string arrangements that gave the classic an romantic and mysterious feel. "All those strings" singer LalaH Hathaway said on Unsung. "Everybody remembers their first love. Especially nasty little boys because if you were lucky to get a dance to "My First Love" then you might have a good night that night" Legendary DJ Tom Joyner said on Unsung. "The beginning the whole drama of the intro. I never heard anything like that" Watson added. The song was so romantic and passionate that it led fans to wonder if the duo was actually a romantic couple. "We did date the first time we met but we found out we weren't channeled for each other" Angela finally revealed on Unsung. Despite the single's success, the album didn't do well due to Capitol's inability to market and promote Black artists. The duo also had conflicts with the label over their creativity. "We didn't have a great deal of freedome at Captial, espeically when it came to producing our own material" Winbush told Blues & Soul Magazine. The label would always insist on outside producers." Frustrated with the lack of respect., Rene & Angela switched to Mercury/Polygram Records, where the label told the duo to keep on delivering great songs, and they would handle the promotion. The duo delivered with "Street Called Desire" which went gold and spawned several classic hits including "Save Your Love (For # 1) featuring rapper Kurtis Blow, which became their first # 1 R&B hit, but it was their follow up "I'll Be Good" which became a classic that still gets play on radio and made them a household name with many speaking about the bassline in the song. "That was kind of rare for a female artist to have a record that was known in the groove in the bass" legenary bass player Nathan East said on Unsung. "That's one of my favorite songs of all time" Donald Peebles, the author of "Hidden Fires" and the blog "It's A Donald Thing" said. "I'm a big R&B/Soul counsouir. They sound good together." The success of the single got the duo bookings to appear on "American Bandstand" and "Top of The Pops" as well as the opportunties to tour with Whitney Houston and Freddie Jackson on their international tours, expanding their fan base. Making her success sweeter was Broadway star/Singer Stephanie Mills scoring her first # 1 R&B hit with her version of the Angela penned ballad "I Learned To Respect The Power of Love" The duo scored with the ballads, "Your Smile" and "You Don't Have To Cry", with the former hitting # 1 on the R&B charts, and featuring Angela primarly on lead. The album went gold and fans were anticipating a follow up. Sadly that didn't happen; "Street Called Desire" would be Rene & Angela's last album, and for years many had wondered why did the duo break up? In the Billboard Book of # 1 Rhythm & Blues Hits, Moore blamed Ronald Isley for the break up claiming that he felt wasn't going to succeed any further. That was Moore's story. According to Winbush, their partnership began to become strained during the success of "Your Smile." "We had send it in with my vocals because I always did the scratch vocals. They (the executives) said leave it like that." Winbush said on Unsung. The song, which was inspired by her grandmother became a huge hit, with music critics praising Angela's vocal performances and skills, which made Moore become angry. "My ex-partner didn't want it that way and 'you're gonna do the Chaka the way Chaka did to Rufus was all I heard" Winbush said about their arguements. "He didn't expect her to showecase over him" author Donald Peebles said. "She has a God-given talent. To be honest, I really felt that he wanted to keep her in the background. Sometimes when you duos and trios, the one person who the industry wants to keep in the background are the ones who are the most talented. And when she went to showcase who Angela was, it was a how dare you moment." The success of "Your Smile" had prompted The Isley Brothers to recruit the duo to work with them on their upcoming album, and it was at an luncheon, where Angela had told the group's lead vocalist that she had already had songs written for them. "Ron said he wanted to work the people who did "Your Smile" Winbush revealed in the Billboard Book of # 1 Rhythm & Blues Hits. "I had the whole Isley catalog, so when I got together with Ronald, I already had a pocket full of tunes ready" Winbush said in the liner notes of her greatest hits compliation. Ron and his brother Rudolph were eager to work with the duo, and while Winbush was happy to work with her idols, Moore became more angry to the point of lashing out verbally and physically on the road crew, and later Angela herself, who spoke about a fight they had during a rehearsal, where Moore had her in a choke hold, forcing her to scream for help, but the turning point came when they were in the studio working with The Isley where Moore struck Winbush, which resulted in her having a concusion and bruised ribs, and Ron had said that the violence had to stop. Mercury wanted the duo to record another album, and despite the offer to provide bodyguards, Winbush refused, which resulted in Moore filing several lawsuits against her and telling the label that he did most of the work on the album. Angela countersued and in 1993, the judge ruled in her favor, gaining 50 percent of her publishing and full ownership of songs she composed afterwards. "I had to protect my publishing."
With executives doubting her talent, Winbush wrote and co-produced The Isley Brothers' 1987 comeback album "Smooth Sailing" which went gold and received excellent reviews from critics and fans, prompting Mercury to give Angela an solo deal, and she didn't disappoint; her solo debut "Sharp" became a hit while her single "Angel" became a # 1 R&B hit for two weeks and earned her two Soul Train Music Award nominations. "I wasn't suprised that people would like it, but I was supriesed it went to number one" You never know what's going to happen with a record when you put it out" she said in the Billboard book of Rhythm & Blues # 1 hits. The song also became a hit with the Black Gay community as well. "I think that the Gay community can really see that song as one of their own and that song is saying any situation you're going through you can make it" author Pebbles said. Angela had became a hot commodity in the music business. In addition to writing and producing The Isley Brother's "Spend The Night" album, she also produced two tracks on Scottish Pop singer Sheena Easton's platnium album "The Lover In Me" and wrote and produced two songs on Stephanie Mills' gold album "Home" including "Something In The Way (You Make Me Feel) and "So Good, So Right" with the former becoming the Broadway star's fourth # 1 R&B Hit. "I think that Angela is an incredible singer and a gifted songwriter and producer. I don't think she's had her due as a producer" Mills said in the Billboard Book of Rhythm & Blues # 1 Hits. "She's wonderful to work with because she knows her work and knows how to tell you exactly what she wants and she allows you to deliver it in your own style." Angela also released her follow-up album "The Real Thing" which showcased her ablility to compose, arrange and incorporate all forms of genres of music including Soul, Funk, Quiet storm, Jazz and Gospel, becoming a favorite of fans and fellow arists including singer Lalah Hathway, daughter of the late Donny Hathaway, who recruited Winbush to work on her debut album and stills enjoy listening to the title track of Winbush's follow up with peaked at # 2 on the R&B charts. "Back in the day you had to do alot of things. You had to sing somebody under the table with a ballad. You had to know how to be funky and know how to dance" Hathaway said on Unsung. "She's just well wounded."
Winbush followed with "No More Tears" which became a hit with women and Gays. "It's a very empowering song to show women and Gay people that you don't have to be sitting down and crying overstuff" Peebles said. "You live your live. You party. You shake your ass. And no more tears. She was like I'm not gonna feel soryy for myself and she looked good doing it."
The album's third single "Lay Your Troubles Down" was a beautiful duet sung with Ron Isley who had became Angela's manager and boyfriend. The song had peaked at # 10 on the R&B charts and became a favorite among music lovers and romantics. "I loved it. You can see the love and chemistry between them. Lay your troubles has that Gospel orgin, but singing the song together, it was an testament in front of God" Peebles said. "I'm a sucker for a love story."
"It was fun to do with Ron and he added that sound that only he can do on record" Winbush said on Unsung. Many of their peers saw the love the duo had for each other including bassit Watts. "You can see chemistry with people. You can notice little things as time goes by" Wats said on Unsung. In 1991 Winbush produced Hathaway's top 20 hit "Baby Don't Cry" and appeared on the United Negro College Fund Telephon, ran her production company, and spend quality time with Ron, who she married on June 26 1993 in Los Angelas, making them one of Hollywood's famous Black musical couples. "They looked great together" author Donald Peebles said excitedly. "It was a dream come true because I never thought I would never get married because of the career with women is difficult" Winbush said.
After spending a romantic honeymoon in Hawaii, Angela embarked on an internation tour with her husband and brother-in-laws, where she was very popuar and well respected on the charts, but back in America, she was still being played primarly on R&B radio. "I think she didn't make the mainstream because I feel she wasn't gonna sell her self to the highest bidder on the mainstream circut because in order to go mainstream, you have to compromise yourself and I really feel that Angela wasn't gonna do that." Peebles said of why she didn't get the crossover success she deserved. Looking for more success, Anglea left Mercury for Elektra Records and in the spring of 1994, she released her self-titled album, which gained excellent reviews, and showed her ability to adapt with the times without losing her musical idenity. The album's first single "Treat U Rite" was written and produced by singer Chuckii Booker peaked at # 6 on the R&B charts, followed by her rendition of the Marvin Gaye classic "Inner City Blues" which she co-produced with Booker. It seemed that Angela was going to finally get the success that she deserved, but despite an international tour, and appearances on Video Soul and Soul Train, the album didn' do well due to executive changes at Elektra. In 1996, Angela along with ketih Sweat and R. Kelly had produced The Isley Brother's multi-platnium album "Mission To Please" which became a hit and introduced the group to a new generation of fans, who loved the remix single "Floating On Your Love" which featured The Isleys, Winbush, 112 and rapper Lil' Kim. The success of the single earned Angela and The Isleys an invitation to former president and first lady Bill and Hilliary Rodham-Clinton, who's photo appeared in Ebony and Jet Magazine. Angela's music became popular to a new generation, due to many R&B singers and rappers covering and sampling her songs including Adina Howard & Michael Speaks covering "You Don't Have To Cry" and rappers Foxy Brown and Jay-Z sampled "I'll Be Good" for their hit "I'll Be" which became a huge hit in the clubs and on Pop radio, giving Angela her first Top 10 Pop hit. "It was cute. She really didn't destroy it" Peebles said on Foxy Brown doing a great job sampling the classic dance song. Flattered, Angela joined Jigga and The Notorious BIG on the hit "I Love The Dough" re-writing and singing the hook of "I Love The More" furthering her connection with the Hip-Hop heads. "She let people know that you can join Hip-Hop, R&B and Soul together, and I'm glad that Biggie and Jay-Z honor her for "I Love The Dough" author Peebles said about the collabulation between the legends. I'm glad that they went and gave her her due. Biggie and Jay-Z are class acts." Despite the success and interest, Angela would spend time running her company, and spending time singing background for her husband, often performing a brief medley of her hits during a performance of The Isley's classic "Summer Breeze" and while many fans enjoyed her performance, there were many who felt that Winbush should have been out performing instead of being delegated to being a background singer. "I was still recording and producing with Ron so I didn't push my career because I was married and he wanted to be the forefront and that was OK, but it never got back around to me recording" Winbush said on Unsung. "I love The Isley Brothers, but I wanted to see Angela out there by herself" Norwood added. At the beginning of the new millinieum, Angela's career started to reheat, when singer Avant scored with his rendition of the Rene & Angela classic "My First Love." Impressed with the results, Winbush suprised the audience of 106 & Park and joined the young singer on stage to sing her part, which got rave reviews from the audience and television viewers, making it one of the show's most memorable performances. The following year she wrote and produced The Isley's award winning platnium album "Eternal," and despite the success and reviews, it would be the last time the duo would work together professionally and personally. Ron's cheating and issues with the IRS foreced Winbush to file for divorce. "I was hurt" Peebles said. "I was really hurt. I thought they was gonna stay together. They looked good together." Angela returned to performimg
Many had came out to show her love and support including The Isleys and several family members, friends and peers, and making her recovery stronger was singer Chante Moore and her husband Kenny Lattimore scoring with their rendition of "You Don't Have To Cry." After completing chemo, Winbush's cancer has been in remission, and in addition to growing closer to God, she's been an strong advocate of health in the Black community, and raises money for several cancer organizations. Angela has been performing and appeared on the Mo'nique show where she told the audience that she completed ministry academy, and performed her hit "Angel" where she hit her trademark note and said "that ain't no tape." She recently performed in LA, where she told the crowd to be on the look out for her new record soon. "Music right now is in limbo, and people are looking for real music and Angelae brought people through different situations" Donald Peebles said of how important it is for Winbush to be recording new music in a time where quanity rules over quality. "I would really love for her to show these youngings and these slut puppies that you don't have to take off your clothers to sing a hit song. This is how you do it without taking off your clothes. She need to teach that Rhianna alot of stuff." Many music lovers and fans also feels that she needs to be honored for her contributions to music as well. "She needs to be honored, but it takes the R&B lovers, the bloggers, the ones in the music industry to advocate" Peebles said. "All the bloggers, who appreciate good music should be the ones advocating for Angela to be honored."