You can reach her by railway, by trail way, in a big balloon…but where did Oleta Adams go when she got there?
Truly great voices are few and far between, but in 1989 one turned up singing vocals on a Tears For Fears record before opening the 1990’s with a string of hit singles and albums. Her name is Oleta Adams and this is her story.
Oleta was born in Seattle in 1953 and started performing at the end of the 1970’s, mostly as a gospel singer, but found it difficult to get any recognition or attract a record company. She released her debut album in 1982 and a follow up, “Going On Record”, in 1983, both were released independently and hardly sold any copies. In 1985, however, the British group Tears For Fears caught a performance while they were touring the US and fell in love with her voice, telling her that they wanted to work with her and help with her promotion. This they did and in 1989 Oleta performed vocals along with Roland Orzabal on the track “Woman In Chains” for the duo’s album “The Seeds Of Love”
“Woman In Chains” was released as the second single in November 1989 and made No.26 in the UK and No.36 in the US. The album topped the UK charts and reached No.8 in America. Oleta joined the boys on their 1990 world tour whilst at the same time promoting her own material being written and recorded for her third album that was released at the end of the year. The first single “Rhythm Of Life” preceded it, making No.9 on the US R&B chart and crawling to No.52 in the UK. “Circle Of One” was released in June 1990 and was followed by the title track which made No.95 in the UK. For some reason “Rhythm Of Life” was re-released in the UK next, perhaps in the hope that a second hearing would propell the track further. In the event, it didn’t. It stalled at No.56, four places lower than before!
“Circle Of One” did feature a ‘cover version’, Oleta recorded the song “Get Here”, written and recorded by Brenda “Piano In The Dark” Russell for her 1988 album. It was released as the fourth single and this time the world took notice. “Get Here” in so many respects was the perfect vehicle for Oleta’s voice to gain recognition. The song took off and quickly established a following all over the place, reaching No.5 in The States and No.4 in the UK, in early 1991 as well as charting high across Europe, Canada and the Far East.
The success of “Get Here” propelled “Circle Of One” up the album charts the world over, particularly in the UK where it went all the way to the top gaining a Gold certification for sales of over 100,000 copies. It eventually reached No.20 in the US and again was certified Gold for sales of 500,000 copies. Oleta followed the success of “Get Here” with “You’ve Got To Give Me Room” which climbed up to No.49 in the UK and a second release of the title track, this time hitting No.73 in the UK, marginally better than its first outing. She closed 1991 off with her version of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” which was featured on “Two Rooms”, an album celebrating the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The track was released as a single and reached No.33 in the UK.
Oleta returned in 1993 with the album “Evolution” and the singles “I Just Had To Hear Your Voice”, which just stopped short of the UK top 40, and the gospel number “Window Of Hope”, which made No.76 in the UK and No.13 in The Netherlands. “Evolution” entered the UK album chart at No.10 and reached No.67 in America. Its greatest success was again in The Netherlands, where it peaked at No.6.
She returned two years later with the album “Moving On” that included the singles “Never Knew Love” (UK No.22) and “We Will Meet Again” (UK No.51). “Moving On” made No.59 in the UK and managed to get to No.194 in the US. That same year Oleta tried a THIRD time with “Rhythm Of Life” in the UK! This time, success! The song broke into the top 40, albeit at No.38!
Since then, Oleta has continued to record and release albums “Come Walk With Me” in 1997, “All The Love” (2001), “Let’s Stay Here” (2009) and “Third Set” in 2017. She continues to perform live and is on tour across America this April!