Born: January 30, 1957 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Award-winning vocalist Janiva Magness is among the premier blues and R&B singers in the world today. Her voice possesses an earthy, raw honesty and beauty born from her life experience. A charismatic performer known for her electrifying live shows, Magness is a gutsy and dynamic musical powerhouse. She received the coveted 2009 Blues Music Awards for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year and for Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, an honor she also received in 2006 and 2007. She has received eleven previous Blues Music Award nominations. Magness has been performing for almost three decades, logging thousands of miles on the road and appearing 150 nights a year at clubs, theatres and festivals all over the world.
Her rise to the top was far from easy. Born in Detroit, Magness was inspired by the blues and country she heard listening to her father’s record collection, and by the vibrant music of the city’s classic Motown sound. By her teenage years, though, her life was in chaos. She lost both parents to suicide by the age of 16 and lived on the streets, bouncing from one foster home to another. At 17, she became a teenage mother who gave up her baby daughter for adoption. One night in Minneapolis, an underage Magness sneaked into a club to see blues great Otis Rush, and it was there that she found her salvation and decided that the blues were her calling. Magness recalls, “Otis played as if his life depended on it. There was a completely desperate, absolute intensity. I knew, whatever it was, I needed more of it.” She began going to as many blues shows as possible, soaking up the sounds of her favorite artists, including Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins. She immersed herself in records by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and all the other R&B greats.
Listening to these blues and soul artists and watching them live, sparked Janiva and gave her life direction. Her first break came several years later, while working as an intern at a recording studio. She was approached by her boss to sing some supporting vocals on a track. Finding her voice, she soon began working regularly as a background singer.
By the early 1980s, Magness made her way to Phoenix and befriended Bob Tate, the musical director for the great Sam Cooke. With Tate’s mentoring, she formed her first band, Janiva Magness and the Mojomatics, in 1985 and before long the influential Phoenix New Times named her group the city’s Best Blues Band. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and slowly began finding work. She recorded her second studio album, “It Takes One To Know One,” in 1997. After three more independent releases, Janiva signed with Northern Blues and recorded “Bury Him At The Crossroads” in 2004 and “Do I Move You?” in 2006.
Magness signed with Alligator in 2008 and released her stunning label debut, “What Love Will Do,” to massive critical acclaim, putting her in front of an audience of millions and expanding her ever-growing fan base. Her 2010 CD, “The Devil Is An Angel Too,” is where she cuts to the heart and soul of each song with grit, heart and fierce passion, making it her most compelling release yet.
Janiva Magness’ deeply emotional music, sung with passion, conviction and soul, and her ability to connect with an audience, assures her place among the blues elite. With “The Devil Is An Angel Too” and her explosive live shows hitting cities across North America and Europe, Janiva Magness continues to spread her empowering message of hope through music.