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Billy Valentine

Idioma disponible: inglés
Billy Valentine is a veteran R&B singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. His edgeless, emotive tenor boasts a multi-octave range that slots directly between Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. His multivalent approach weds classic soul with jazz, blues, funk, and pop. He and brother John created the Valentine Brothers, who from 1978 to 1987 issued four albums and three charting singles. Valentine's solo debut, Travelin' Light, appeared in 2006 and was followed a year later by the soul set No Better Than This. 2017's Brit Eyed Soul offered R&B covers of U.K. acts, and in 2023, he released the soul covers set, Billy Valentine & the Universal Truth. Billy Valentine was born William Denham in West Virginia but raised in Columbus, Ohio. His parents owned a nightclub where his 12 siblings all worked. While his seven sisters took turns helming the cash register and ticket booth, his five brothers acted as stagehands, roadies, and the house band led by his oldest brother, Alvin, a Hammond B-3 master. He, in particular, exposed the youngster to the best soul, R&B, rock, pop, and jazz tunes from the 1960s and 1970s. Deeply influenced by Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, and Carmen McCrae, Valentine was drawn to story and message songs; he absorbed them all and began learning to sing with discipline. Still a teen, Billy's first professional tour was serving as frontman for Young-Holt Unlimited. In 1976, he and older brother John moved to Los Angeles to pursue careers in music. In 1977, he toured with the first national touring company of The Wiz as one of its main orchestra voices and stayed with the show for three years. Billy and John formed the Valentine Brothers while he was still with the show. They issued their debut single, "The Sound of Music," on Source in 1978 and followed it with a self-titled debut album in 1979. Their second LP, First Take for Bridge, boasted the Top 40 R&B singles "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)" and "Let Me Be Close to You." (Simply Red covered the former in 1987 and took it into the Top Ten.) 1984's Have a Good Time for A&M boasted the charting single "Lonely Nights," which landed inside the Top 30. Their final offering, Picture This, appeared on EMI in 1987. During 1980s, he also sang lead vocals in the score for Champions Forever, a documentary film about Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman. Further, he produced the single "Crazay" for Jesse Johnson and Sly Stone. During the decade, he also became an in-demand demo recording artist for high-profile producers and writers that included Gerry Goffin, Mark Isham, and the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the early 1990s, Valentine contributed the singing voice for the lead vocalist character in Robert Townsend's feature film The Five Heartbeats. He formed a songwriting partnership with Bob Thiele Jr. and Phil Roy and co-wrote "My World" for Ray Charles. With Will Jennings, he co-wrote three songs on the Neville Bros.' Family Groove album. In addition to studio work and songwriting, Valentine was a constant on L.A.'s club scene, holding stages at historic, now extinct clubs such as Café Cordiale, Spazio, and the Vic. The 21st century saw him claim headline status at esteemed venues such as the Baked Potato, Casa Del Mar Hotel, Shutters Hotel, and Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz, where he appeared monthly for more than eight years. In 2004, Valentine recorded the hit theme song for the network TV series Boston Legal, starring William Shatner and James Spader. In 2006, after more than 30 years in the music business, Valentine released Travelin' Light, his debut solo offering. Co-produced by pianist Stuart Elster, the set featured the singer with a piano trio running through jazz and Great American Songbook standards. In 2007, he revealed his stylistic reach with No Better Than This, a set of uptown and modern soul tunes comprised of originals and select covers. Though the independently released albums sold only marginally, Valentine was already a household name among musicians, producers, songwriters, agents, and L.A. night life denizens. In 2014, he sang Bob Dylan's "All along the Watchtower" in an episode of Kurt Sutter's Sons of Anarchy series, one of the most popular selections in the entire series. In 2017, the singer issued the provocative Brit Eyed Soul, covering a dozen songs that originated in the U.K. The track list included wonderfully stylized revisionings of hits from U.K. acts including the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bee Gees, Culture Club, the Clash, and more. Produced by Thomas Campbell, the Cleopatra label album won airplay on the West Coast and in Europe. Later that year, he cut the Celtic-tinged single "A Place to Find You" with pianist/keyboardist/producer Jonathan Udell. He issued a deep-soul cover of Jimmy McHugh's 1935 pop hit "In the Mood for Love" in 2021. In September 2022, Valentine delivered the digital demo of "Hope in a Hopeless World," co-written with Roy and Thiele, Jr. for Pops Staples. That October, Valentine issued a truly iconic cover of Curtis Mayfield's "We Are the People Who Are Darker Than Blue." Thiele released it as the opening salvo from the reactivated Flying Dutchman, the label begun by Theile's father more than 40 years earlier that was responsible for seminal recordings by Gil Scott-Heron, Gato Barbieri, Leon Thomas, and Ornette Coleman, among others. Thiele, Jr. handpicked Valentine to relaunch it. The track got airplay in select U.S. markets as well as from Gilles Peterson and other U.K. DJs. In March 2023, it appeared on the track list of Billy Valentine & the Universal Truth. The album offered a diverse collection of eight classic "protest" soul and R&B tunes from Stevie Wonder, Gaye, Scott-Heron, Prince, and others, offered in Valentine's inimitable emotive style and backed by a cast of first-call session players, including Pino Palladino, Immanuel Wilkins, Theo Croker, Jeff Parker, Linda May Han Oh, and Abe Rounds, to name a few.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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