A Rapturous Return; It's Been a Rocky 10 Years since Anita Baker's Last CD-And a Rocky Few Years before It. Where's She Been So Long?

By Samuels, Allison | Newsweek, September 13, 2004 | Go to article overview

A Rapturous Return; It's Been a Rocky 10 Years since Anita Baker's Last CD-And a Rocky Few Years before It. Where's She Been So Long?


Samuels, Allison, Newsweek


Byline: Allison Samuels

When Anita Baker vanished from the music charts and the public's view a decade ago, the sound of R&B was already changing from the lush love ballads that made her 1986 album "Rapture" a multiplatinum hit to what we know today: more and more graphic expressions of lust laid over more and more thunderous beats. (Think R. Kelly.) Baker may or may not have seen that coming, but she knew something was out of whack. Her early-'90s tour with Luther Vandross was reportedly fraught with contention, and she was butting heads with the new CEO of Elektra Records, Sylvia Rhone. One ex-Elektra employee recalls regular screaming episodes, and a durable rumor has it that Baker once slapped her boss. Baker dismisses this story and says she and Rhone had "different agendas and different visions, but we were always professional, no matter what the rumors say." (Rhone could not be reached for comment.) After the release of her last album, in 1994, she battled her way out of her Elektra contract and retreated to her 15-room mansion in Detroit to take a rest from the drama.

She didn't get it. While Baker got to see her two sons (now 10 and 11) grow, she had to watch both her parents die after long illnesses and suffered strain in her 12-year marriage. She signed a deal with Atlantic in 1995 but couldn't write a new album. "The music wasn't there, the words weren't coming, and that was because I was spending most of my time at the nursing home doing what every child must do at some point in their life--caring for an ailing parent or, in my case, parents. I lost the Atlantic deal, and that's the first time I've ever lost a job in my life. I was devastated." But Baker, a onetime legal secretary from Toledo, Ohio, knew all along she'd get back to music, and the results are here this week: "My Everything," an Anita Baker album in her classic mode, with arrangements by jazz master George Duke, a duet with Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds and that unmistakable throaty voice. In sound and style, it picks up just where she left off 10 years ago. "I just do what I do," says Baker, 46. "The music was coming to me, and it wouldn't stop. It had been a long time since that happened. I know the industry has changed, but that doesn't bother me. I've never been one to do what everybody else was doing. I do what works for me. …

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