Ive been up and Ive been down….Ive had my feet swept off the ground
Ms. Alicia Michelle Howard a.k.a Billie (not to be confused with Billie Jean…), a Chicago legend that has given us numerous tracks and moments over her long lasting career. Of course most notably Love Under New Management (written by the wonderful Ms. Annette Harderman and her late husband Gabriel Harderman), Come Share My Love, Baby Be Mine, Ain’t Nobody Like You and other tunes. All her staple hits and everything you want to hear her perform at a live show. But of course at the Factory we don’t focus on just the hits. The B cuts and the album cuts are just as important and lowkey sometimes better than the singles.
Lets slide on back to 1980, yall know Miki was in a R&B group right? Yall heard of Side Effect?
She was a part of the group for a years, they craned out a funky rendition of Georgy Porgy which is still a part of Miki’s live shows today.
Another popular tune from the group during Miki’s tenure was
I Can’t Play
Ok lets jump to her solo career, the MEAT of it all! Lets share her love for a bit with her first solo album Come Share My Love. We all know about the title track Come Share My Love….
Theres a peak on every mountain…
A shore for every sea….
Its hard to understand were you meant for me…
Theres an answer to a question, but theres no guarantee…
AND I WANNA GIVE IT TO YA GIVE IT TO YA GIVE IT TO YA…..
But have you paid attention to the smooth track titled
Love Will Find A Way
A simple plea for love to find the answer after doing all you can. Nowadays people say love isnt enough in relationships and that love isnt the answer. But without love what do you have? Yeah you need trust and communication and all that but at the center of it all you need love. Thats all we really need anyway…but moving onto the next track that needed more shine and my personal favorite of Miki
Before I got into hardcore researching and investigating I thought this was an original song. But nope, its an old Glen Miller tune that was written and composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke.The tune is what one would call a “Standard”, everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra has their own rendition. But theres something about Miki’s version that gives the song power! I believe this was the beginning of Miki revealing that she was a bonafide Jazz artist. Her nickname is Billie…after the late and great legendary Mother of us all Billie Holiday. Miki even played Billie in the biopic Malcom X. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Lets slide onto 1987 (sidebar Im still not even born yet at this point) I know I was trying to not highlight her singles and hits buuuuuuuut this song right here…..THIS SONG RIGHT HERE!!!! We all know about the Miki Howard and Gerald Levert love affair it was leeeggggeeennddddaaarrrryy!
That’s What Love Is
Their first duet together was something magical. Hence why I included on my Duets post, go check it out if you missed it. Written by both Howard and Levert and included on her Love Confession album.
This song is just that…..a love confession! In the song they compare themselves to Romeo and Juliet and if you think about it…….thats very fitting. They both come from legendary families, Gerald is the son of the legendary Eddie Levert from the group The O’Jays and Miki’s mother, Josephine Howard, sang with The Caravans. They both deeply loved and adored one another but Miki and I quote is a “Woman of The World” and that didn’t fly in the Levert camp. But they always remained close until his passing. He even wrote on another track on the album
Love Confession was filled with love letters between the two,
I been looking for a new love….
Didnt know where it was…
All the time there you were…..
I must have been CRAZY….
Gerald aint slick not one bit! See what happens when artists get involved with one another, they start telling secrets through the music. It’s lowkey sweet and almost like a marriage. It sticks with both parties throughout their entire careers and it’ll always make them think back to that moment when the love was the strongest…..or when whatever emotion was the strongest because there are plenty musical couples that sing songs written by the other party that are break up songs and torch songs sooooooo yeah!
Anyway lets jump to 89 (Im finally born woot woot) and visit her album Miki Howard.
There were some good cuts on there and also her first number one hit! Guess what Im going to talk about first yall….
I’ll Be Your Shoulder
Yeeeessss another Howard/Levert duo, written partially by Gerald (he has writing credits on Mister as well). This track may have solidified the two’s feelings for another. Yes they were deeply in love but here they confess….I’m here for ya baby, when you’re down and out you know you can come to me. Simply put, I’ll Be Your Shoulder! Which eventually is what happened between them, Gerald helped Miki kick drugs or at least played a major role. So these lyrics are true to life, cant say that too much about songs that are out nowadays. Come to think about it the Levert clan were all over this album. Listen to some of the tracks and see if you can hear Eddie and the crew jamming in the back. Also sidebar and honorable mention to Miki’s vocals on the tail end of a song that SHE wrote
Who Ever Said It Was Love
Listen to the veeeeerrrrrryyyy end to hear just how high Auntie Miki can go!
Onto to 1992!! Femme Fatale POW!!
A collection of work with her second number one hit Aint Nobody Like You and a myriad of gems. Miki was always had a classic duet on her albums but this time…instead of Gerald…..she had Christopher Williams on the track.
Hope That We Can Be Together Soon
Yall remember Christopher Williams right? The light skin brotha that was on New Jack City? Had the song Dreamin’ from the soundtrack? And Every Little Thing U Do? Ella Fitzgerald’s nephew? Yeah him and Miki did a cover of a Gamble and Huff tune that was first recorded by Sharon Paige and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes back in ’75. Christopher was a good choice vocally, veeerrrryyy reminiscent of the original.
Femme Fatale also saw Miki’s “Billie” side come out once more before the big shebang! Her cover of Billie Holiday’s Good Morning Heartache was a perfectly haunting tribute.
Good Morning Heartache
Again it was another Jazz standard and another Jazz tune perfectly shaped to her voice. Of course as before everybody recorded the tune but again Miki holds the crown with her cover. She was definitely hinting towards her recording future with this one.
Last track I want yall to listen to from the album is
Cigarette Ashes On The Floor
Im not even going to go into it, please please please just listen to the lyrics. We’ve ALL been there and who the hell says things like this? You make me feel like cigarette ashes on the floor?!?!?! It’s the truth but dam!!
A year later Miki said you know what….I need to sing me some Billie. And thats just what she did. In ’93 Miki Howard released Miki Sings Billie: A Tribute To Billie Holiday.
A tribute to her hero and biggest inspiration. Who has the courage to do an album like that? Now personally I think it should be done more often. Chante Moore should do a tribute album to Minnie Riperton, she already recorded a few of her tunes and who else is fitted to cover a Minnie song? Lowkey…come closer yall lemme whisper this in yall ear….I think Monica should do something for Stephanie Mills. Both of their voices are similar….in a way, so why not?!? Back to Miki though, remember I told yall she was in Malcom X portraying Billie? Well that was a year before this was released so in a way it was a major heads up!
There’s Billie Holiday classics on there like Solitude and My Man and What A Little Moonlight Can Do. But MY favorite is
Just listen…’Nuff said!
Jumping over some years and some issues and some scandals and whatever to 1997’s Cant Count Me Out.
Two of my favorite Miki tracks are nestled in the bosom of this body of work. The first being a song that has her longtime friend Chaka Khan and Terence Trent D’Arby (yall know Wishing Well! Dont act like you dont!) and a Stevie Wonder cover.
I Love Every Little Thing About You
The next being
Something I Never Had
Peep the backing vocals on that track! Know who it is? Well…..SAY IT!!! Miki wrote the majority of songs on this album besides the covers. She penned this along with Lemel Humes.
Miki had about three more albums after this: Three Wishes (2001), Pillow Talk (2006) and Private Collection (2008) and numerous tour dates and appearances and hey even a movie about her life!!
Special mention to the tracks
You Made Me Love You
I remember I first heard that song after I got dumped by my first boyfriend. It immediately made me think of one of the first things he told me”…..Im going to make you love me…..” He did and then he broke my heart seven months later….oh well!
Miki loved to do a cover, she has an album full of them (Pillow Talk). She redid one of my favorite songs
Go Away Little Boy
Now I always got the Marlena Shaw version mixed up with Nancy Wilson’s version. Who can blame me though? Their voices and delivery are almost identical to the T! Miki came through and slapped her own funk on it as she usually does.
She also took on the Ann Peebles classic
I Cant Stand The Rain
She stayed true to the “twang” of the tune whereas Tina made it more current for the times. Both lovely version in their own right!
Last song and I’ll let yall go, some of yall overstayed your welcome and its time for yall to go back to ya mammy house.
Shes a PANTHAAAAH! Miki described a Panther as the black version of a “Cougar”. She said it sounded more sexy and it fits black women better than being called a Cougar. C’est La Vie on that one…..
Look out for Part 2 of Aint Nobody Like Miki Howard! I got lots more to talk about, we aint done yet!!