Maxwell Biography

A biography of the talented neo soul artist

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Gerald Maxwell Rivera, known by his stage name Maxwell, was born on May 23, 1973 in Brooklyn, New York. He is of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent. His father died in a plane crash when Maxwell was 3 years old. The incident unquestionably affected him and he became deeply religious as a result.

As a child he sang in his Baptist church's choir, but he didn't become serious about music until he was about 17.

He started writing his own songs using a cheap Casio keyboard he received from a friend and was inspired by '80s R&B acts like Patrice Rushen, The S.O.S. Band and Rose Boyce.

Early Career:

By 1991 Maxwell was performing on the New York City club circuit. He waited tables and saved up enough money to record a demo. Over the next few years he wrote and recorded more than 300 songs and continued playing at venues around the city. He had created enough of a buzz that he was signed by Columbia Records in 1994 and immediately began working on his debut.

He adopted the stage name Maxwell, his middle name, out of concern for his family's privacy. He has since been known to keep his identity a closely-guarded secret.

After a year-long delay thanks to management issues at Columbia, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite was finally released in 1996. The concept album follows a romance from first encounter to last, and it debuted at No.

38 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Interest gradually built up over time and it peaked at No. 8. It also peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for a whopping 78 weeks. Time, Rolling Stone and USA Today ranked it one of the year's best albums, and it also earned Maxwell a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album.


With one very successful album under his belt, Maxwell was asked to tape a concert for an episode of "MTV Unplugged," something that was usually reserved for established musicians. The show was recorded in June 1997. Maxwell performed his own songs, as well as covers of the Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work." A seven song EP was issued.


Maxwell issued his sophomore effort, Embrya, in 1998. The album was heavily criticized, but showed that Maxwell was not afraid of experimenting with his sound and producing a more challenging work. It also furthered the R&B subgenre "neo soul." Still, it sold more than 1 million copies. He followed up with Now in 2001, which became his first No. 1 album. Reviews were generally positive.

After the release of Now, Maxwell embarked on a nearly seven year hiatus during which he spent no time making music.


After seven years off the grid, Maxwell made a surprise reappearance when he performed at the 2008 BET Awards, singing "Simply Beautiful" as a tribute to soul legend Al Green. The singer's signature dreadlocks and sideburns were gone, and he had adopted a more mature look.

Maxwell released BLACKsummers'night in 2009.

The album was lauded by critics and it was a commercial success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It was bolstered by the singles "Pretty Wings" and "Bad Habits." BLACKsummers'night earned Maxwell his first Grammy Awards: one for Best R&B Album and one for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Pretty Wings."

He later revealed that BLACKsummers'night would evolve into a trilogy. In 2014 he announced he had already begun working on the trilogy's second installment and the finished product was expected to be released in late 2015.

Neo Soul:

Maxwell has been credited with helping to spearhead the "neo soul" movement with fellow soul artists Erykah Badu and D'Angelo. The artist's first release, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, is a prime example of neo soul that introduced listeners to the genre and garnered commercial appeal.

Personal Life:

For years rumors have circulated about Maxwell's sexuality and whether he is gay or bisexual. He's neither confirmed or denied the rumors, but was last known to be dating Lithuanian model Deimante Guobyte in 2014.


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