In the 80’s, she recorded original versions of some later, big hits in the 90’s, but can you stop loving Siedah Garrett?
Deborah “Siedah” Garrett (b.1960) has spent nearly forty years as a singer, backing vocalist and songwriter with multiple artists, but it is for her 1987 duet with Michael Jackson on the smash hit “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” that we will always remember her. Debbie, Dee-Dee or Debs, how most of her family addressed her as a child, changed her name to “Siedah” – meaning shining like a star – when she hit her teens and began appearing on TV in talent contests. She made her music debut with the group, Plush, in 1982. Their album of the same name did not reach any big audiences, but Siedah did and in 1984, she was paired with soul singer Dennis Edwards (1943-2018) for the song, “Don’t Look Any Further”. The song made No.2 on the US R&B chart and No.72 on the singles chart as well as a brief appearance on the UK chart at No.45.
“Don’t Look Any Further” would later become a bigger hit for UK band Mpeople when it hit No.9 in 1993. Siedah, now signed to Qwest Records, released her first solo single, “Curves”, the following year. But this did not register commercially. Neither did the follow up, “Do You Want It Right Now?“, which would later become something of a dance anthem, first for Degrees Of Motion in 1992 and later under the titles of “Passion” for Gat Decor in 1996. Siedah spent the next two years gathering work as a backing vocalist for the likes of Donna Summer, Starship and even Madonna on her “True Blue” album. Her big break came when she carried on with this new avenue on Michael Jackson’s 1987 album, “Bad”. Not only that, Jackson was so impressed with her, he asked her to record one of the songs as a duet, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. It was released as the lead single in the Summer of 1987 and topped both the US and UK charts, selling many millions of copies around the world.
Siedah was now set to really launch her own career and did so with “Everchanging Times”, which charted low on the R&B chart and did nothing else. The follow up, “K.I.S.S.I.N.G.”, was a very minor hit on both sides of the Atlantic, while her debut album, “Kiss Of Life”, sank without trace. Generally, Siedah was restricted to R&B chart placings, her highest when working with composer Quincy Jones on “I Don’t Go For That” in 1989 (No.15). Her backing career did, however, keep her fruitful and in demand, with Barbra Streisand, Glenn Medeiros, Thelma Houston and Natalie Cole all queuing up to use her voice for their albums. In the 1990’s, she came to London and joined the soul-funk band The Brand New Heavies as front vocalist for their 1997 album, “Shelter”. The album was a Platinum success and produced three chart hit singles with “Sometimes”, “You Are The Universe” and a cover of Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”.
Siedah left the group to pursue her own ventures soon after and released her second, and so far to date, her last studio album, “Siedah”, in 2003. Backing vocal work with Anastacia and Jessica Simpson followed this as well as supporting Madonna on her world tours in the early 2000’s. Siedah had an all too brief career as a dance diva towards the end of the decade when she provided vocals on British producers Freemasons’s single, “Rain Down Love”. The song was massive on the club and dance charts and broke the UK singles chart at No.12, her first and highest charting single there since “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, twenty years earlier. Siedah repeated this success with another noted producer, Armand Van Helden on the song “I Want Your Soul”, another dance chart topper and a singles chart No.19 hit. Her career as a songwriter was also in full flight at this time. She composed “Love You I Do”, performed by Jennifer Hudson, for the film, ‘Dreamgirls’.
The song would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best original song in 2007 and achieved greater success when it won the Grammy Award in the same category only a few weeks later. Siedah wrote four songs for the 2011 film, ‘Rio’ and was back at the Academy Awards the following year, up for Best original song once more for “Real In Rio”. Three years after Michael Jackson’s death, Siedah recorded “Keep On Lovin’ You”, a new, original song, in tribute to her friend and fellow recording artist and in 2018, she joined forces with Korean singer BoA for a new interpretation of “Man In The Mirror”, a song she had recorded backing vocals on for the album. Siedah had made an appearance with American Idol hopeful Jacob Lusk in 2011, when they performed “Man In The Mirror” as a duet. In 2017, Siedah was given a lifetime achievement award by the National R&B Music Society. The award was presented by Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge.
Siedah revealed that same year that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and has only made rare appearances since then into the spotlight. She returned to London in 2019 to attend a Michael Jackson convention and spoke about recording with Jackson. Once again, she performed “Man In The Mirror”, this time as a solo artist. Siedah is prolific on social media, so make sure you keep in touch with her…
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