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Jenny Burton: “Singing is the Best of Who I Am”

RETOUCHED JENNY

Back in 1996, our tradition began. My husband and I spent Christmas with his family in Massachusetts, then we went down to New York for a second holiday with mine—plus, of course, New Year’s Eve. Although the insanity of Times Square was not an allure, we—rightly—expected Manhattan to offer more glamorous options for us, and we appointed my actress sister to plan the whole thing. She took us to a famous midtown cabaret, Don’t Tell Mama, to see The Jenny Burton Experience.

 JENNY BURTON EXPERIENCEThe Jenny Burton Experience (Jenny is wearing white). All photos courtesy of Watchfire Music.

And what an experience it was! Michael Musto of The Village Voice described it this way: “How lucky to come across the beautifully sung Jenny Burton Experience. A superslick, pop-gospely entertainment, the Experience stars the sleek but fiery Burton. The nine-voice choir behind her is so pristine it sounds like it’s been remixed and mastered in advance.” Close to midnight, when the show would naturally be over, Burton had us stay for a couple of extra songs so that we could ring in the New Year together. In between numbers, she went around the audience, asking about people’s resolutions. (My favorite from the rather urban crowd? “Not to wear black all the time.”)

In the years since, my sister (and brother) have put together some extraordinary New Year’s Eves for us—from a South American aerial performance troupe to a Golden Age of Hollywood ball; from soul food in Harlem to a midnight visit to Central Park’s Belvedere Castle. No matter how exotic—or how uniquely New York—any subsequent event is, my husband invariably says, “It’s cool, but it’s not Jenny Burton.”

By any measure, Burton is one of a kind, a powerful vocalist whose career has spanned multiple decades and diverse styles. In the late 1980s, she had four national Number 1 R&B/Dance hits. “One More Shot,” which rose to number 5 on the Billboard chart, led to her first major-label deal with Atlantic Records. Her first albums there included the hit singles “Remember What You Like” and “Bad Habits.” In addition, Burton was featured on two gold records from films: Harry Belafonte’s Beat Street and White Nights, starring Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

In the 1990s, Burton regrouped and refocused as an inspirational artist. Collaborating with her then-husband, songwriter and producer Peter Link, she created The Jenny Burton Experience, which ran to sold-out crowds for an unprecedented seven years. The Daily News called it “A roller-coaster ride through R&B, pop and gospel,” and Bill Ervolino of The Record advised, “If you can’t put aside a Thursday night to catch The Jenny Burton Experience at midtown’s Don’t Tell Mama, you can always toss 10 sticks of dynamite into your tool shed and watch the roof take off for the stratosphere.” In addition to becoming a luminary in Manhattan’s cabaret scene, Burton and her group also opened at Trump Marina for Al Green, and for Stevie Wonder at Lincoln Center, and headlined at Resorts International in Atlantic City. Other gigs included the Gospel Music Awards in Nashville and a recurring role on ABC’s All My Children.

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  • B. Elliott February 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Inspiring post. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply