Imagine if your musical résumé included the following: performed with Duke Ellington; sang lead vocals for Earth Wind & Fire and Norman Connors; signed by Motown; sang a duet with Glenn Jones; produced by Gamble and Huff. It's no understatement to say that Jean Carne deserves to be ranked up there with the greatest female soul singers of all time.
And she continues to share her glorious voice with a devoted following, recently appearing in a short sell-out spell at London's Jazz cafe, along with fellow soul superstars Shirley Jones and Alyson Williams. Quite some combination!
Jean Carne's distinctive voice is simply timeless. UK soul devotees will undoubtedly recall many of her fantastic ballads, such as "Don't Let It Go To Your Head" and "Closer Than Close". Purists are catered for too, her recordings with the legendary Norman Connors are warm yet powerful and an example of how to produce a love song. Standards? How about her sensational version of the now infamous "If You Don't Know Me By Now" or of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Dindi"? And for those of you who like to get up and dance, not much beats the feel-good factor that is there in bucketfuls in her 1981 duet with the fantastic Glenn Jones, "Sweet and Wonderful". In fact, this song title is a perfect description of her voice and the person that she is.
The 1980s were a fantastic era for music, and it's during the first part of this era that some of our favourite Jean Carne albums were made. The 1982 album "Trust Me" featured a "who's who" of musicians: the vibes were played by Roy Ayers; on bass was "Ready" Freddie Washington; drums Leon "Ndugu" Chancler; Paul Jackson on guitars; oh, and the percussionists too - Paulinho Da Costa, Norman Connors AND Harvey Mason. And that's without listing the horns section, which also featured among other leading players Fred Wesley. Wow! Backing vocals came courtesy of The Jones Girls
and The Temptations, among others. Few artists have ever commanded such respect and admiration from their peers to be able to draw upon this level of talent.
We also love the 1986 album Closer Than Close, the title track which has become a soul ballad anthem. It should also be noted that she features on not one, but TWO StreetSounds "The Artists" collections - she is far too special to appear just the once.
Therefore, you should feel rightly ashamed if you consider yourself a fan of soul music and you do not have any of Jean Carne's albums in your collection. The good news is that much of her fantastic material is now available on CD and, from the right source, some are still available for not much more than a fiver. Take a look at the selections to the right and listen for yourself.
So next time you hear someone talk about the leading ladies of soul, such as Aretha, Chaka and Gladys, if Jean isn't mentioned alongside the others it is the duty of any soul aficionado to correct this omission!
Jean Carne, you are one of the greatest singers to have lived, and we thank you for your fantastic contribution to the world of Real Music.
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Jean Carne was born on 15th March 1947, Sarah Jean Perkins in Columbus, Georgia, U.S.A.
Jean was raised in Atlanta.
Her parents supported her singing at the age of four in the church choir.
They also encouraged her to take piano lessons.
Jean is an accomplished performer on piano, clarinet and bassoon.
Whilst attending Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, she learned to speak Russian fluently.
After winning a music scholarship to Morris Brown College in 1965, Jean learned to play many of the orchestral instruments.
Her recording career began in 1969 with her husband Doug.
Her musical skills became apparent as a teenager on a morning radio talk show, 'Today In Georgia', when she sang 'Misty' to the accompaniment of Errol Garner's piano.
Together they made three albums for Ovation Records that saw a building success, via touring engagements across the U.S.A.
Jean was often praised for being one of the first Afro-American women to control her musical stylings and not be controlled by the industry moguls.
Jean performed with Duke Ellington, the last vocalist to do so before his death.
She then teamed up with Norman Connors for four highly regarded sets, contributed 'Reach For it' to George Duke's Gold album and sang lead vocals on the first two albums by Earth, Wind And Fire.
The four albums she recorded for Philadelphia International are considered her finest and introduced Jean to pop and R & B audiences for the first time.
Jean then relocated to Motown Records for 'Trust Me', which provided her first major singles success with 'If You Don't Know Me By Now', which was recorded with The Temptations.
The album also contained the highly underrated track 'Completeness' and the popular title song.
She later found time to contribute to records by Dexter Wansel / Kenny Gamble's 'Universe' project ('Love is Beautiful (When it's Right') and the late Stanley Turrentine ('Night Breeze', penned by Bobby Lyle), and recorded for Omni Atlantic Records and Expansion Records in the U.K.
She continues to tour for six months every year, spending the rest of her time at home in Atlanta with her three children.
In 2002, Jean toured the U.K. with her Musical Director Nathan Heathman with appearances at the London Jazz Cafe in March of that year.
2003 saw the release of 'Collaborations', an album for the Expansion label, that featured Jean's various musical 'collaborations' over the years.
This profile and the discography below were kindly supplied by the incredible Soul Walking site, the leading resource on soul music on the web.
Infant Eyes - with Doug Carne (Ovation1971)
Spirit Of The New Land - with Doug Carne (Ovation 1972)
Revelation - with Doug Carn (Ovation 1973)
Slewfoot - with Norman Connors (Buddah 1974)
Saturday Night Special - with Norman Connors (Buddah 1975)
This Is Your Life - with Norman Connors (Buddah 1978)
Invitation - with Norman Connors (Buddah 1979)
Earth, Wind And Fire - with Earth Wind and Fire (Warners 1971)
The Need Of Love - with Earth Wind and Fire(Warners 1972)
Jean Came (Philadelphia International 1977)
Happy To Be With You (Philadelphia International 1979)
Sweet And Wonderful (Philadelphia International 1981)
When I Find Your Love (Philadelphia International 1982)
Closer Than Close (Omni 1986)
You're A Part Of Me (Omni 1988)
Love Lessons (Expansion 1996)
Collaborations (Expansion 2003)