“Round And Around”, “Set Me Free”, “Step Right Up”, all hits for Jaki Graham. So, could it be we’re falling in love or breaking away?
Jacqueline ‘Jaki’ Graham turned up late in the music business. The Birmingham, UK born singer was 30 when she joined the band Medium Heat Wave on stage and it wasn’t long before she was talent hunted and signed by EMI Records as an artist on her own. She released three singles in 1984, “What’s The Name Of Your Game?”, “Heaven Knows (Feels So Good)” and “Once More With The Feeling”, but they did nothing chart or sales wise. It was in early 1985 that she paired with singer David Grant (“Watching You, Watching Me” and “Love Will Find A Way”) for a cover of the Detroit Spinners 1972 hit “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love?”, that Jaki broke out as the song climbed its way to No.5 on the singles chart.
It also broke the US R&B chart and was a hit from Ireland to New Zealand. Jaki and EMI quickly followed this with another top ten hit, “Round And Around” (UK No.9) before she released her debut album, “Heaven Knows”, in September. She closed 1985 with David Grant for a second duet, this time an original number, “Mated”, which peaked at No.20. The song was the first to come from her second album that followed fairly quickly in 1986 but not before she was back in the UK top ten with the storming smash hit, “Set Me Free”, which also got to No.15 on the US dance chart. Her album, “Breaking Away”, was also a commercial success, much more than her first had been and spawned two more UK chart hits with “Breaking Away” (No.16) and “Step Right Up” (No.15), both of which charted in Ireland and Sweden.
Jaki spent 1987 and 1988 touring with American singer Michael McDonald where she notably performed his smash hit duet with Patti LaBelle, “On My Own”, in the absence of the latter being able to make the trip. Jaki made her own return in 1989 with the album “From Now On”, but it, the title track and the single “The Better Part Of Me” all flopped and they would become Jaki’s final releases for EMI. In the early 90’s she joined Paul “19” Hardcastle for his new band, Kiss The Sky. They toured America and Japan while simultaneously Jaki released the singles “Touch Me (When We’re Dancing)” and her cover of Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold”. Jaki went back into the studio on her own in 1993 and in 1994 released her version of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody“, and a very credible one at that, which just stopped short of the UK singles chart but did top the US dance chart!
Jaki continued her new found Dance chart success with “You Can Count On Me” and “Absolute E-Sensual” in 1995, both of which just scrapped into the UK top 75. That same year, Jaki released her first hits album, “Best Shots” and continued to release albums independently throughout the rest of the decade. Jaki disappeared out of sight for a few years until she popped up in 2009 to perform a concert of George Gershwin songs in her home town of Birmingham which were transmitted on BBC Radio 2. The show received rave reviews and praise and Jaki suddenly found herself ‘in demand’ once more. She took to the road with the onset of 80’s music festivals for the next decade, rekindling her love of her previous hits to the delight of many thousands of 80’s music fans, which coincided with a new best of album, “Absolute Essential – The Very Best of Jaki Graham” in 2010.
Twenty years after her last studio album, Jaki Graham released brand new material in 2018 with the single “When A Woman Loves” and the album of the same name, which she promoted whilst at the same time as presenting her own show on BBC Radio London, Soul On Sunday. You can’t keep a great performer down so keep a look out for Jaki at an 80’s show in a city or town near you very soon, and having seen her myself more than once, she is not to be missed!
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