Pieces of the Jody Watley music history – 35 years have flown by! Celebrating this 35th Anniversary milestone of my breakout Grammy winning solo debut throughout the month of January. Pre-internet and social media I’m sharing some of the highlights of which there were many. It’s significant as well in that no one expected my success but with with, hard work and a great promotional team effort by MCA Records and PR team that included Juanita Stephens and Gloria Boyce at Rogers & Cowan anchored by great music it was a knockout punch. For me, it’s always a way to remind people to always believe in yourself and to not be afraid to make gutsy decisions . Your life and calling is not a conference call. A lesson I’ve learned in recent years as well is to always tell your own story – too many put out false and misleading info or try to erase or marginalize altogether.
Here’s my first feature in US Weekly. My Dad called it for me as a little girl – I wish he had lived to see my success and his prophecy but I feel he’s always watching over me and know how much I always want to make him proud.
It touches upon the fact it was said women couldn’t sell records, that always struck me as odd since I grew up with Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Nancy Wilson, Donna Summer, Karen Carpenter.. and so many greats. True – men have it easier however women have also been viable despite the obvious sexism, ageism, etc. I confidently made plan for myself while living in London, worked with Musical Youth (uncredited guest vocal on 16) and was a part of the historic Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” My daughter always kept my perspective grounded as to what’s important. It wasn’t easy balancing motherhood with Pop stardom but I tried my best and all turned out well.
Working on a screenplay – yes, fast forward some things take a lot longer, and all things in time!!
“Looking For A New Love” and the debut album as a whole was an international success as well here in the United States – Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and beyond. Here’s one of many international Jody Watley Solo debut features:
Celebrating Jody Watley Solo Debut throughout January.
Jody Watley. Record Mirror Magazine UK Solo Debut feature.
“I’d met with other labels. Jheryl Busby of MCA got me right away. He’d worked with Donna Summer at Casablanca Records another woman with a strong artistic vision, a songwriter and force of nature. I ultimately I chose MCA over labels like Warner Brothers, A&M, CBS – because the vibe was right knowing Jheryl understood and respected my artistic vision and sense of self from the first meeting.
I’m eternally grateful, he galvanized the entire label and promotional team
35th Anniversary solo debut vibes all month of January.
New York City. Radio City Music Hall, March 2, 1988.
Jody Watley – Best New Artist 1987.
That same night, U2 won Album of The Year for Joshua Tree, Somewhere Out There won Song of The Year.
Little Richard made it one of TV’s most iconic moments in Grammy history – in an impromptu rant (a fun but true one) in that he’d never been recognized nor received any awards as The Architect of Rock & Roll. It lasted nearly 5 minutes – while all of the nominees waited in angst to hopefully hear their name.
Michael Jackson performed a rousing ‘The Way You Make Me Feel/Man In The Mirror’ and was the first person to greet me as I exited the stage in tears – he emerged with a big smile, hug and kiss saying “I’m so happy for you.” That made the night even more special..especially since there was a time in my youth I was writing him fan mail!
I shocked everyone – including me – by winning Best New Artist and have said I could have retired that night on that album in terms of a statement debut that no one predicted and to everyone who told me I’d never succeed and would regret leaving Shalamar — That day has never and will never come. I’m full of gratitude and know that regardless of the outcome of the awards ceremony I’d already won by choosing to live the life I wanted – happy no matter the obstacles.
Continuing to do the best work with as much joy and integrity possible in a challenging industry, always fearless, changing and growing as I vowed to do decades ago and to get better with time.. not to be the most popular, just to be the best I can be for me as an artist, writer, producer and human being. That year – I kicked ass, set some style trends and kept it moving on to the next and still doing the damn thing – my way.
Lesson learned: To be fearless, have faith and always believe in yourself. Be yourself – no matter who doubts you, doesn’t agree, doesn’t understand, wants to discourage you or your l choices. I didn’t quit Shalamar to go solo – I quit to be happy. The sudden passing of my father forever changed my view on living life. It’s best to the life you choose towards love, peace, respect with joy – inspiring others to do the same in the process, God blessed me for my choice and continues to in so many ways.
An ongoing career is not a curse to those who have implied “Best New Artist” is curses because a few in the category have faltered. I’ve always found that narrative insulting not to mention ridiculous. It’s a blessing.
The same is never said of recipients of Album, Song or Record of the Year, some never reach those pinnacles again but continue to work and be creative without the fanfare or accolades.
What I know is to date I have great success with an ongoing discography full of hit singles in various genres over many albums, have watched things I’ve done or worn become trends and open the door bridging music and style open for a new generation of female artists regardless of the lack of acknowledgement. “Friends” ft. Eric B and Rakim, as an example, and a hit from my second album is the first collaboration like that to become a Top 10 Crossover Hit Hot 100, R&B/Hip Hop and Dance – a formula that eventually had to be recognized with its own category and continues to dominate. “Friends” was not nominated however it’s significance in music and pop culture influence is indelible. In 2018 Billboard Magazine ranked me in the Greatest Dance Artists of All Time and in the Top 60 Female Artists of All Time for further clarity.
In my ongoing catalog songs that aren’t hits all represent an artist, songwriter, producer who happens to be a woman and black (the first to be marginalized generally) continues to write, record and release quality music on my own terms outside of the “machine” or conventional methods nor the assist of big time producers or executives using their clout to keep me afloat. Survived though a certain executive for a time was trying to have me ‘blackballed’ at black radio – my debut happened anyway despite his attempts because a higher power is always on my side, rather than a publicist on year round retainer to keep my name in the news, as some do. Thriving despite obstacles, traveling the world and better than ever with time is what’s real. It is frustrating at times to still not get the respect, however going to why I do what I do and always counting my blessings not woes or detractors. There are those who are still angered at my win for various reasons.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the meaning of success isn’t often what others see or view…status and big money, headlines, quantity of awards and so on are not it and aren’t what has driven or inspired me. Never thirsted for those things though of course though mad at any of those things, never about ‘playing the game’ to achieve any of it. Some of my music heroes and heroines never received a Grammy including Diana Ross with the exception of an honorary one. Ask Little Richard as well – the architect of Rock n Roll.
True success is maintaining your own self worth on your personal life journey which is unique to all of us – authenticity and living a life that brings you joy and joy to those you love is the greatest award and reward ..and to hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Presenting to MJ the night I won Best New Artist – surreal because I was such a fan and used to write him fan mail when he was in The Jackson 5.
2019 – Continuing to shine. Wattage!
“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”