Ledisi

Ledisi. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Early Life:

Ledisi was born March 28, 1972 in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to Oakland, California while still a child. She grew up in a musical family; her mother, Nyra Dynese, sang in a local band called Coronava, and her stepfather, Joseph Pierce III, was a drummer. Her biological father is Larry Saunders, a soul singer and musician who was most active in the 1970s. She's also the granddaughter of the late blues singer Johnny Ace.

Ledisi began performing at a very young age, and wrote her first song at the age of 4. As a teenager, she became president of her high school gospel choir.

Early Career:

Ledisi started a six-member band in the 1990s, with the group's title, Anibade, originating from her middle name. The group played mostly in the San Francisco Bay area as a regional act. Ultimately, Ledisi pursued a solo career and released a heavily jazz-influenced independent album, Soulsinger: The Revival, in 2000 on her own label, LeSun Records. Her second studio album, Feeling Orange but Sometimes Blue, was also independently released in 2002. Ledisi eventually signed with the Verve Forecast label which released her third album, Lost & Found, in 2007.

R&B Success:

Since beginning her solo career in 2000, Ledisi has become one of the most critically acclaimed R&B female vocalists and has earned nine Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist in 2008.

She has performed seven times at The White House at the request of President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama has proclaimed that Ledisi is her favorite artist. On September 4, 2012, Ledisi performed at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina when President Obama was officially nominated to run for re-election.

 Ledisi's admirers also include Stevie WonderPrince, and Patti LaBelle, and she has performed with each of them several times. She joined Wonder in performing at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on October 16, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Her 2009 album, Turn Me Loose, hit number one on the Billboard R&B chart. Her following CD, Pieces of Me in 2011, peaked at number two on the R&B chart and number eight on the Billboard 200. In 2012, she published her first book, Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power, a collection of her personal photos, quotes, lyrics, and the story of her path to success.

Ledisi portrayed the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the movie Selma which received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture in 2015. Previously, she sang in George Clooney's football comedy film, Leatherheads, in 2008.

The nine-time Grammy nominee received rave reviews for her performances on BET's Black Girls Rock specials in 2010 and 2013. She also performed a tribute to Whitney Houston with  Jordin Sparks and Melanie Fiona on VH1 Divas 2012 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. 

Notable Quote:

"Ledisi means to come here, to bring forth.

It’s a Nigerian word and it’s from the Yorubu culture, I believe, and my parents named me, my dad and my mom, and really my dad, and I had no choice in that. That’s my real name and that’s what it means." -- Ledisi, to JazzMonthly.com, November 2007.

Discography:

2014: The Truth                                                                                                                                    2011: Pieces of Me
2009: Turn Me Loose
2008: It's Christmas
2007: Lost & Found
2002: Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue
2000: Soulsinger: The Revival

Edited by Ken Simmons