Mary J. Blige

  • Singer, songwriter, R&B artist born Mary Jane Blige in New York City in 1971.
  • She sang in her church choir, and dropped out of high school, hoping to break into music somehow. At 16, she recorded a cover of Anita Baker’s Caught Up in the Rapture at a recording booth at a shopping mall. Her mother’s boyfriend played the tape for a scout at a record label, who liked it and sent it to the head of the label. At 17, Blige was signed by the label as a backing vocalist.
  • For her first album, she worked with P. Diddy as her producer. In 1992, What’s the 411 was released. Her powerful, soulful vocals and hip-hop attitude connected with listeners, and the album sold over 3 million copies, hitting #6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and #1 on the R&B chart.  Two singles hit #1 on the R&B singles chart – You Remind Me and Real Love. 
  • Her second album in 1994, My Life, was an artistic breakthrough for Blige, earning a Grammy nomination. Rolling Stone placed it at #279 on the list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • In 1995, she collaborated with Method Man on his single I’ll Be There For You, winning her first Grammy award. In 1996, she released Not Gon’ Cry from the soundtrack to the film Waiting to Exhale. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • Her third studio album, Share My World, was released in 1997. The album is more upbeat and happy, as Blige was trying to get her life together, quitting drugs and alcohol and ending abusive relationships. The album became her biggest selling record, with 4 singles in the top 5 on the R&B chart, including Love is All We Need and I Can Love You, both reaching #2 on the chart.
  • She continued her string of platinum albums with Mary, released in 1999. The album was less hip-hop, more of an adult contemporary sound.
  • Four albums released from 2001 through 2007 all sold over a million copies – Blige’s first 8 albums all went platinum, making her one of only a handful of artists with such success. Three of the albums in the 00s hit #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and the fourth hit #2. Her first #1 song on the Hot 100 chart was Family Affair from 2001. Her 2006 song Be Without You was chosen by Billboard magazine as the most successful R&B song of all time, based on the fact that it was #1 on the R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart for 15 weeks, and it remained on the chart for 75 weeks, the most ever in the 75 year history of the chart.
  • Blige has released 5 additional studio albums, including a Christmas album. These albums did not go platinum, but still sold well. Her albums have evolved to R&B soul, with electronic remixes that are popular at dance clubs. Her most recent album, Strength of a Woman, was released in April this year. The lead single, Thick of It, was released in 2016, and it hit #1 on the Adult R&B songs chart for 16 weeks.
  • She has been a featured artist on 26 singles by other artists, collaborating in a wide variety of genres. Some of the artists include Jay-Z, Patti LaBelle, Maroon 5, Andrea Bocelli and The Black Eyed Peas. There have been 125 other collaborations or soundtrack performances that were not released as singles.
  • Her combination of vocals over a hip-hop beat was innovative and influential to the sound of R&B in the 90s.
  • Blige has won 9 Grammy awards, in categories of Rap, R&B, Pop and Gospel.
  • She began an acting career in 1995. She has appeared in 5 films, and her performance in the 2017 film Mudbound has garnered several awards. She has appeared in 13 television shows, with several award nominations.
  • Blige’s story is amazing – from making an impromptu tape at a shopping mall to becoming The Queen of Hip Hop Soul. Obviously talented, and obviously very fortunate. Here’s the video to the most successful R&B song of all time, Be Without You. 

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