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

When Burton and I spoke recently, she had just returned from a Pilates class. “It was a gift from my son and his girlfriend,” she explained. “I’m very pleased about where I’ll be in 20 sessions. Reconnecting with myself physically, which is what any exercise gives you— it puts you back in your body.” Burton is training to go back onstage, after several years in the corporate world, to promote her new album The Best of Jenny Burton.


The Best of Jenny Burton includes 16 tracks, ranging from rousing numbers like “I Want My Life Back” and “Tear Down the House” to the soulful “Safe Inside the Rain,” an original, extended version of “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and my favorite—“Love Runs Deeper Than Pride.” The album was produced and arranged by Peter Link (most of the songs were written by him as well), and released on Watchfire Music, the inspirational on-line music company he runs with his current wife and partner, singer Julia Wade.

Producing the new CD with Link and Wade has been a profoundly moving experience for Burton. “It meant going back about 20 years,” she told me. “We wanted to get to the very best of what I’d done. The process pieced together a career for me, which you lose sight of when you’re not doing it as much as you used to. From my time with Atlantic Records, when I did the disco stuff, when Peter and I were doing industrials, when we did The Jenny Burton Experience . . . it helped me get back in touch with and appreciate what I had been able to do and be a part of all those years.”

The pride and joy Burton finds in her music wasn’t always easy to tap into. In her childhood, she was shuttled through a series of foster homes, feeling unwanted and unworthy. As a teenager, she finally found a spiritual mother in the Reverend Josephine Richards. Under her guidance, Burton stayed in school (eventually graduating as valedictorian) and dedicated herself to singing in the choir of the reverend’s Universal Church of Truth in the South Bronx. In reinventing herself after her pop career, Burton was actually coming home. She returned to the music that had touched her spirit: gospel. Her new album includes soaring inspirational anthems that seamlessly blend the spiritual with R&B, Motown, and musical theater. It’s a deftly curated collection and a triumphant affirmation of Burton’s roots as well as how far she’s come.

JTTY_LUTHER_VANDROSSJenny with Luther Vandross, in Black Teen Magazine.

“When you get up to a certain age, life is different; you look at it differently, you hold it differently. And you appreciate it more,” Burton explained. “I appreciate things more now than I did when I was 40. I’m proud of this. As an artist, I know everyone has an opinion. But I value my own opinion about things more than I used to—not in an egotistical way, I just value it more. I can be all right if it’s not your cup of tea.”

“When you’re younger, your whole thing is to try to make it, to try to be accepted, to try to meet the right people, make the right connections. ‘How do I look?’ ‘How do I sound?’ Whitney Houston sang the song “Greatest Love of All,” but I don’t think I understood it until now. The greatest love you will have in your lifetime—well, one of them—is when you fall in love with yourself. So much power resides in that—the power to have the authority to speak about your life. It’s in your grasp, not someone else’s. When you’re younger, you think you just have to show up and be in the right place and sound the right way and look the right way. When you get over on this side, you say ‘All right, I want to do this and I have all this experience behind me. Here’s how I’m going to put this together. I’m going to make it happen.’ The power is within you, not on the outside.”

“Singing is the best of who and what I am,” Burton affirms. “I want to stand up with all my life experiences and put it into songs and put it on that stage. I want to let it go out and help heal, give clarity and joy. It’s what my goals are as an artist.”

You can listen to sample tracks from The Best of Jenny Burton and purchase or download the album here. To explore other Watchfire Music artists, click here.

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

    Inspiring post. Thanks for sharing!