Photo design: Lauryn Alvarez
(L-R) Dua Lipa, Donna Summer, Loleatta Holloway & Aluna
Love To Love Them, Baby: From Donna Summer To Dua Lipa, Meet The Women Singers Who Shaped (And Continue to Shape) Dance Music
Decades before Dua Lipa was born, disco began as a musical movement led by iconic divas like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston to create a sound for spaces in which Black, Latinx and queer audiences sought refuge and escape
Earlier this month, on Music’s Biggest Night, Dua Lipa teleported us from our living rooms and yearlong quarantine to Studio 2054, her homage to New York City’s legendary Studio 54 nightclub where disco thrived from 1977–1980. In a stunning visual display entailing costume changes and dramatic dance interludes, Lipa performed two songs (“Levitating,” “Don’t Start Now”) from her GRAMMY-winning album, Future Nostalgia.
“I wanted to do something that felt fresh and new,” Lipa told GRAMMY.com last year, “something that touched on a memory, something that always rings so true to me, especially in my childhood.” Her dancefloor inspiration was integral to the perfect storm that was a 2020 disco-pop revival, with artists like Doja Cat and Victoria Monet also trying on the groove for size and dancefloor veterans Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy and Kylie Minogue showing us how it’s done.
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The success of these recent releases is validation for strong women vocalists who make dance hits spanning multiple decades, sounds and perspectives. Though the genre has evolved over the years, women singers remain a constant. And while they’re not always given their due, it’s their voices we remember, their lyrics we sing and their legacies we celebrate.
Decades before Lipa was born, disco began as a musical movement of four-on-the-floor rhythms, deep synthesizers and lush melodies combining to create a sound for spaces in which Black, Latinx and queer audiences sought refuge and escape. What started underground made its way to the top of the charts and radio airwaves, thanks in large part to disco divas and their soul-stirring hooks.
The indisputable queen of them all was Donna Summer, who catapulted to international superstardom in the ‘70s with classics including the erotic epic “Love to Love You, Baby,” siren-like “I Feel Love” and the aptly steamy “Hot Stuff.” Together with GRAMMY-winning Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, she brought the sound of urban counterculture to middle America and beyond by simple musical seduction; her voice was warm and sensual, disguising disco’s radical message of liberation to unsuspecting listeners.
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“This is it, look no further,” Brian Eno reportedly declared to David Bowie after hearing “I Feel Love” for the first time. “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” It was an accurate prediction of Summer’s impact. A bona fide hit machine, she charted 32 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (including four No. 1s) over the course of her career and nabbed 18 GRAMMY nominations, winning five.
While “I Feel Love” radiated euphoria, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”—the first (and only) winner of the Best Disco Recording GRAMMY—was a timeless anthem for hard times. Its message transcended the era and also spoke to the moment. "The problems that we shared during the day,” Gaynor said, “we came together in the evening, to overcome together, or to get away together, and one of the ways we came together was on the disco dancefloor."
Sister Sledge, Anita Ward, Thelma Houston and Cheryl Lynn each had disco hits of their own, cooing in sultry tones across mirrorball-lit dancefloors. But being a disco diva was about more than being a singer: they were powerful, fabulous and aspirational. Long after disco’s heyday, the legacy of their artistry lives on through new-school chanteuses like Lipa, Ware, Minogue and Murphy.
The party eventually came to an end, as disco’s ubiquity in the ‘70s prompted a racist backlash in 1979 that abruptly led to its mainstream downfall. After some time in obscurity, club hits came back with a vengeance in the ‘90s as dance music’s next evolution: house music.
Martha Wash was the powerhouse voice behind two of the decade’s biggest hits, Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now (Gonna Make You Sweat).” Both songs, released in 1990, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and charted in the Top 10 internationally. While these achievements should have boosted Wash’s profile as an artist, the tracks’ producers had used her vocal recorded from studio demos without crediting her. Adding insult to injury, they cast other women to dance and lip-sync in Wash’s place for their music videos and live performances.
Loleatta Holloway, a vocalist best known from her ‘70s disco hits (including “Hit and Run” and “Runaway” with The Salsoul Orchestra), had faced a similar situation the previous year when Black Box sampled her 1980 single “Love Sensation” without permission on their U.K. No. 1, “Ride on Time.” Believing they were entitled to both compensation and credit for their work, regardless of it being a sample or a demo, Wash and Holloway each successfully sued the artists and their respective labels, winning both credit and financial settlement. Wash’s victory was bigger than herself; it set a precedent enshrining that record labels are responsible for assigning proper vocal credit for all releases, regardless of how the vocal recording was made.
As Holloway and Wash were writing new rules for vocalists, a singer/songwriter named Crystal Waters was working a government job by day while writing her own club hits on the side. Her second single, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” a socially conscious house track based on a true story, has a deceptively simple hook that burrows itself in your brain. Released in 1991, it was the first of Waters’ twelve No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, including “100% Pure Love” and “What I Need.” Like fellow dance music singers Ultra Naté and CeCe Peniston, Waters took four-on-the-floor tracks to the next level with pop-structured lyrics that were cathartic, catchy and universally relatable.
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During this time, Madonna and Janet Jackson approached the dance charts from a pop perspective. Both known for their theatrical performance style and vocal prowess as much as for their versatility, they could drop a ballad one moment and a club-ready track the next, from Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” to Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and “Throb.” These expert shapeshifters paved the way for future chameleons like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Beyoncé, pop artists who stepped onto the dancefloor with tracks like “Born This Way,” “Till the World Ends” and “Run the World (Girls),” respectively.
Beyoncé dabbled in dance music, but her Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland opted for a fully immersive experience, reinventing herself as a solo artist with a fresh, pioneering sound. In 2008, producer David Guetta, a well-established club DJ in his native France, had recently cracked the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with “Love is Gone” and was looking for a bigger and better sequel.
That summer, Rowland went clubbing in Cannes, France at the club where Guetta was DJing. She became particularly enamored with a track he played during his set, the instrumental version of what would become their 2009 collaboration “When Love Takes Over.” She asked to write and record vocals for it, the final result being a big-room serenade sweetened with his piano melody but commanded by her euphoric, heart-swelling chorus.
“When I finished producing it, we were like, ‘Wow, we have a monster hit,’” Guetta said in a 2009 interview. “We could feel that it was really, really big.” More than an anthem, “When Love Takes Over” was the launchpad for America’s EDM boom, a neon era of radio-friendly dance-pop that could also bang on club dancefloors and festival stages. The song topped 15 charts across 12 countries, including Billboard’s US Dance Club Songs, and was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards show.
Rihanna was also looking to take her music up a few BPMs after her 2009 album Rated R. Her first venture into EDM, 2010’s “Only Girl (In the World),” produced by Stargate and Sandy Vee, was a success, eventually winning Best Dance Recording at the 2011 GRAMMY Awards show. For her 2011 album Talk That Talk, Rihanna recruited Calvin Harris, a Scottish producer who had achieved critical acclaim and A-list studio sessions but who had yet to break through with a global hit. Harris produced two singles on the album: the winding, acid-electro house track “Where Have You Been” and “We Found Love,” on which Rihanna bares her vulnerable falsetto. They reunited for Harris’ massive summer hit (penned by Taylor Swift), “This Is What You Came For” in 2016.
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Rowland’s relationship with Guetta, and Rihanna’s with Harris, was symbiotic. Rowland and Rihanna each became early adopters of a fire-blazing dance-pop phenomenon while Guetta and Harris got to increase their profiles with a new, large and lucrative American audience hungry for more. Hoping to find similar success, pop artists like Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and Kelis paired with Guetta, Harris, Zedd, Skrillex and more in the early 2010s. As dance music became more popular, the dynamic between producer and popstar shifted and producers became the popstars themselves, though a vocalist was usually not far behind.
In the current second-wave EDM era, where white men still sit at the top, Aluna has made it her mission to change how dance music perceives and treats women artists, especially Black women artists, asserting their importance even when it isn't obvious. “She’s there in the lyrics, she’s there in the voice, sometimes you see her in a video, but you don’t see her right there in the middle,” she told Billboard last year. “That’s really the shift we need to make.”
Aluna was best known to the world as one-half of electronic-pop outfit AlunaGeorge. Her cherubic vocals are instantly recognizable whether she’s singing on their own songs, such as “You Know You Like It” and “Attracting Flies,” or appearing on Disclosure’s “White Noise.”
In 2020, she made a huge statement by embarking on her solo career and releasing her debut album, Renaissance, that October. Tired of fielding daily requests from people who “wanted [her] voice, not [her] face. Not [her] Blackness,” Aluna made herself the record’s focal point as the main artist and producer rather than simply feature on different producers’ songs.
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Whereas Aluna has beamed across radio airwaves worldwide, Anabel Englund has long been the voice of dance music’s underground. As a member of tech house supergroups Hot Natured and Pleasure State, the singer/songwriter’s smoldering tone and earworm melodies are the centerpiece of songs like “Electricity” and “Reverse Skydiving,” both of which she co-wrote.
Englund released her debut album, Messing With Magic, last October, and landed her first Billboard No. 1 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart that same month with syrupy house chiller “Picture Us.” “Working with a group, I have to share my energy as part of a whole,” she said. “Being on my own, I’m able to harness my energy into what I have to say.” Like Aluna, Englund assumed co-production duties on the album in addition to singing and songwriting. Her former bandmates make appearances throughout while she remains the marquee name, never being overshadowed.
A more recent arrival to the scene, Lipa dabbled in dance music before diving headlong into Future Nostalgia’s disco-inspired sounds, including on her 2017 self-titled debut album (“Hotter Than Hell,” “New Rules”). In 2018, she collaborated with Harris and Silk City (Diplo and Mark Ronson), respectively, on the ‘90s-house-influenced hits “One Kiss” and “Electricity.” The latter song won Best Dance Recording at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards show and in a big look for dance music, Lipa performed “One Kiss” during the main ceremony. To cap the night, she also won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist. Between house and disco, Lipa has provided two of dance music’s foundational genres a massive revitalized platform in the pop world.
Long after disco’s prime, Summer’s captivating artistry lives on in chanteuses like Lipa. Meanwhile, the voices and lyrics of Aluna and Englund pick up where Crystal Waters left off, and Wash and Holloway’s legacy can be heard in a new generation of house music divas like Karen Harding, Alex Mills and Kaleena Zanders. Just like Lipa showed on the GRAMMYs stage, each of these singers proves that the women on dance records are capable and deserving of the spotlight, hopefully always getting brighter than the ones that shone on the many women before them.
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Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
A History Of Casablanca Records In 10 Songs, From Kiss To Donna Summer To Lindsay Lohan
As the Casablanca Records story hits the big screen with ‘Spinning Gold’ on March 31, revisit some of the hits that have defined the now-reinvented label’s legacy.
Over the past five years, some of the most famous (and infamous) stories of the music industry have hit movie theaters, from Freddie Mercury’s meteoric arrival in Bohemian Rhapsody to Elton John’s breakthrough years in Rocketman, and most recently Whitney Houston’s remarkable rise in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Now it’s time for the big-screen debut of a name that might not be as familiar: trailblazing record executive Neil Bogart.
Bogart is the outsized personality at the center of a new biopic, Spinning Gold, which hits theaters March 31. The film tracks the monumental first decade of Casablanca Records, the larger-than-life label that Bogart dreamed up in the summer of 1973.
The industry upstart defied the odds to become one of the definitive labels of the 1970s, with a highly eclectic roster that included KISS, Donna Summer, Village People and George Clinton’s Parliament. At the same time, Casablanca Records typified 1970s excess, with infamous stories of drug-fuelled parties, flagrant spending and unchecked egos — all rich material for a big-screen treatment.
Written and directed by Bogart’s eldest son Tim, Spinning Gold stars Jeremy Jordan as Bogart alongside a cast of current music luminaries in key roles, including Wiz Khalifa as George Clinton, Tayla Parx as Donna Summer, Ledisi as Gladys Knight and Jason Derulo as Ron Isley. (The hit-filled soundtrack is just as star-studded.)
After he was pushed out at Casablanca, Bogart went on to found Boardwalk Records (signing a young Joan Jett) before his tragic death in 1982, at the age of 39. In the decades since, Casablanca has had several lives, including its reinvention as a dance music label in 2012.
To celebrate the release of Spinning Gold, we’re taking a trip back through 10 of the label’s hallmark releases from the 1970s to the 2010s.
KISS, "Rock and Roll All Nite" (1975)
Neil Bogart’s first gamble as a label boss was on New York shock rockers KISS. Bogart signed the band to Casablanca Records on the strength of their demo tape, recorded with DIY grit alongside former Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer. While initially dubious of the group’s garish makeup, he backed their lean and mean 1974 debut album, KISS, even as it failed to ignite the charts.
As detailed in Classic Rock Magazine, KISS played Casablanca’s launch party at Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel, bemusing the glamorous crowd to a flurry of smoke bombs and a levitating drum kit. Bogart stuck by his hard rockers, and in 1975 they released Dressed to Kill, featuring the undeniable anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite," one of KISS’ setlist staples to this day.
As the story goes, Bogart, who is a credited producer on "Rock N Roll All Nite," challenged songwriters Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to write the definitive KISS song. Later in 1975, the band hit No. 9 on the Billboard 200 with the live album, Alive!, and their fire-breathing, fake-blood-spitting path was set.
Parliament, "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)" (1976)
If KISS represented one extreme of Casablanca’s early catalog, George Clinton’s Parliament confirmed there was no rulebook. Bogart recognised Clinton’s shambolic genius early on, signing the bandleader and his funk disciples to Casablanca in 1973. After a pair of slow-burning albums, in 1975 Parliament released Mothership Connection, an outlandish concept record exploring afrofuturism in outer space.
On an album that sounded like nothing else out there, "Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)" was a supremely funky standout. It became Parliament’s first certified million-selling single and gave the group the cachet to build their signature stage prop, The Mothership, which landed theatrically mid-show in a swirl of smoke.
Donna Summer, "I Feel Love" (1977)
Bogart’s circle of gifted friends included Giorgio Moroder, the Italian producer behind the hallowed Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. In 1975, Moroder played Bogart a song he’d produced for an up-and-coming American singer named Donna Summer, who was living as an expat in Munich after appearing in the musical Hair.
That song was "Love To Love You Baby," a slow, slinky disco number that, on Bogart’s insistence, morphed into a 17-minute version. In its extended form, "Love To Love You Baby" seduced dance floors and took disco into a new realm of slow-burning sexuality.
In 1976, Summer returned to Musicland Studios with Moroder and his studio partner Pete Bellotte to record "I Feel Love," released on Casablanca the next year. Still exhilarating and influential to this day, the record’s futuristic synth sound cemented Casablanca as the go-to disco label.
Village People, "Y.M.C.A." (1978)
With Donna Summer now a certified star, Bogart found his next disco hitmakers in Village People. Founded in 1977 by French dance producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, and fronted by vocalist Victor Willis, the group emerged from and celebrated New York’s gay club culture, with each member adopting a "macho man" persona and costume.
Village People’s third album on Casablanca, 1978’s Cruisin’, featured the instant earworm "Y.M.C.A.," which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. A winking advertisement for the fraternal pleasures of the Y.M.C.A., the song became a gay anthem and paved the way for future hits "In The Navy,” "Go West" and an actual song called “Macho Man.”
"[Casablanca] was a very trendy label," Belolo recalled to DJHistory in 2004. "Neil Bogart was known as an entrepreneur who had the guts to take risks, and he was a very good promoter."
KISS, "I Was Made For Lovin’ You" (1979)
Released on their 1979 album, Dynasty, "I Was Made for Lovin’ You" proved even KISS weren’t immune to disco fever. Coming two years after the hard rocking Love Gun album, this glam, light-on-its-feet return had some fans reeling.
Co-written by Paul Stanley with pop songwriters Desmond Child and Vini Poncia, the single sold over 1 million copies and remains a favorite sing-along at KISS shows. To this day, its detractors include none other than Gene Simmons, who never liked his pop-tinged vocal part.
Cher, "Take Me Home" (1979)
While Casablanca was founded on new talent, by the late 1970s, the label was courting already established stars. With 14 albums to her name by 1977, Cher met Neil Bogart through her then-boyfriend Gene Simmons. After a run of underperforming releases, Cher came around to trying disco.
"Take Me Home," Cher’s shimmering foray into the still-hot genre, unleashed her inner disco diva, which she explored further on two Casablanca albums, Take Me Home and Prisoner. While the legendary singer later strayed from disco, the lush, Studio 54-soaked sound of "Take Me Home" is testament to Casablanca’s gravitational pull.
Lipps Inc., "Funkytown" (1980)
As the 1970s ticked over into the ‘80s, Casablanca went looking for the next sound. Behind the scenes, the label was in turmoil. With Polygram now overseeing Casablanca, co-founder Larry Harris quit and Bogart was pushed out. Disco’s popularity was also waning in the wake of the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.
If times were tough, you couldn’t hear it in "Funkytown," a party-starting track by Minnesotan funk/disco band Lipps, Inc. Featuring Cynthia Johnson’s peppy vocals over a perfect marriage of synths, strings and cowbell, the song was a surprise hit for Casablanca and a gentle clapback to the disco doomsayers.
Irene Cara, "Flashdance…What A Feeling" (1983)
Throughout its first decade, Casablanca was closely aligned with Hollywood — after all, the label took its name from the Golden Age classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the mid-’70s, the label even merged with a film production company to make Casablanca Record And Filmworks, Inc.
Following Bogart’s exit from Casablanca, the label struck gold with Irene Cara’s "Flashdance…What A Feeling" from the 1983 dance drama Flashdance. Produced by label mainstay Giorgio Moroder, the song is a pure hit of 1980s nostalgia, elevated by Moroder’s synth and Cara’s roof-raising vocals.
"Flashdance…What A Feeling" won the GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, giving Casablanca Records one last victory lap before it folded in 1986.
Lindsay Lohan, "Rumors" (2004)
Two decades after Jennifer Beals spun and vaulted through the music video for "Flashdance…What A Feeling," Casablanca was relaunched under Universal by veteran music exec Tommy Mottola.
One of Mottola’s early signings was "it-girl" Lindsay Lohan, who was coming off star-making roles in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Lohan’s 2004 debut album, Speak, featured the bonus track "Rumors," a club banger with spiky lyrics aimed at paparazzi and rumor-mongers hounding her every move. A long way from the halcyon days of KISS and Donna Summer, "Rumors" is still a time capsule to a quainter era before Instagram and iPhones.
Mottola’s other mid-aughts signings included singer and actress Brie Larson (long before she was Captain Marvel) and pop artist Mika, whose 2007 album, Life in Cartoon Motion — and particularly its infectious lead single, “Grace Kelly” — was a breakthrough success.
Tiesto, "Red Lights" (2013)
After its brief mid-2000s run, Casablanca Records went quiet again — that is, until its next relaunch in 2012 as a dance/electronic imprint under Republic Records. Capitalizing on the EDM boom at the time, Casablanca snapped up Dutch superstar Tiesto and his label Musical Freedom.
In December 2013, Tiesto dropped "Red Lights," the lead single from his fifth studio album, A Town Called Paradise, released on Casablanca the following year. A surging dance-pop confection built for Tiesto’s then-residency at Hakkasan Las Vegas, "Red Lights" endures today as a three-minute flashback to EDM’s heyday.
While Tiesto is no longer with Casablanca, the label has been a steady home for both veteran and rising dance acts over the past decade, including Martin Solveig, Chase & Status, Nicky Romero, Felix Jaehn and James Hype. Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan has remained with the label, releasing her club-ready comeback single, "Back to Me,” in 2020.
Bringing the story full circle, a resurgent Giorgio Moroder also landed back on Casablanca Records in 2016. As the story of Casablanca's glory days hits the big screen, the label's latest chapter is still being written.
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Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month this March, take a look at how teachers made a heartwarming impact on superstars like Katy Perry and John Legend.
Before Rihanna, Billy Joel and Jay-Z became some of the biggest names in music, they were students just like the rest of us. Without some particularly special teachers, they might not be the superstars they are today, and they all remember who first encouraged them.
Within the past few years, Rihanna made a special trip to a cricket match in England to reunite with her old P.E. teacher from Barbados, who she calls her "MVP"; Joel traveled back to his New York hometown to honor the teacher who said he should be a professional musician; and Jay-Z told David Letterman that his sixth grade English teacher made him fall in love with words.
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month — which raises awareness for supporting and cultivating worthwhile music programs in K-12 — GRAMMY.com highlights eight artists who have praised their teachers for making a lifelong impact.
After watching Joel tackle Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, his high school music appreciation teacher Chuck Arnold suggested that he consider music as a career.
"He said to me, you should be a professional musician," Joel recalled of his Hicksville High School mentor during a 1996 event at C.W. Post College. "Now, for a teacher to say that, it's like condemning someone to a life of poverty, drug taking, alcoholism and failure.
"A teacher is telling me this," he added seriously. "It had a huge influence on me."
In 2022, Joel was on hand to congratulate Arnold during the dedication of the Charles "Chuck" Arnold Theatre at the school. "This is for the coolest teacher there ever was," he praised.
.@CBSSunday surprised Lizzo with her high school band director, who encouraged her to apply herself when she was learning to play the flute — and her reaction was priceless: “Wow, I did it, didn't I?” https://t.co/dwffNvYzpb pic.twitter.com/xp5kDK5pWB— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 6, 2019
In 2019, CBS Sunday arranged a surprise visit with the singer and Manny Gonzales, the former band director at her alma mater, Elsik High School in Houston. She told the network that Gonzales helped her get a scholarship to study classical flute at University of Houston.
"You told my ass!" Lizzo exclaimed as she squeezed him. "You were like, 'Get it together, girl, 'cause you are special. Apply yourself!' Those moments meant so much to me."
The Atlanta DJ/producer and king of crunk has done more than take parties to the next level — he has invested in the educational future of children in Africa by building two schools in Ghana with the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise. He credits a mentor at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta for sparking his brain when he was a teenager.
"It was my music teacher [who inspired me to dream bigger]," he said in a 2019 interview with Yahoo! "I wanted to play drums, and if I didn't play drums, I wouldn't make music, and drums are the foundation for what I do."
Roddy Estwick was Rihanna's P.E. teacher in Barbados and is now the assistant coach of the West Indies cricket team. The two had an emotional reunion at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
"He made a lasting impact on my life and he really offered great advice to me and many others when we were at school at Combermere," she told Barbados Today amid their reunion. "I just wanted to let everyone know what he meant to me in my development and what he did for us back at school in Barbados." Essence reported that Rihanna described him as, "My mentor, my champ, my MVP" on her Instagram stories.
The Ohio native credits his English teacher Mrs. Bodey at North High School in Springfield for setting him on the path that culminated in his music career.
"Until her class, I hadn't believed in my ability as a writer," Legend shared in a 2017 op-ed for Huffington Post. "She recognized my potential and showed me that I could write with creativity, with clarity, with passion."
He continued, "Mrs. Bodey, along with a few other teachers, helped me gain confidence in my skills and pushed me to challenge myself. They pushed me to graduate second in my class. They pushed me to deliver the speech at our graduation. They pushed me to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, to hone my writing as an English Major and, ultimately, toward a successful career as a songwriter."
The singer was reunited with the most pivotal teacher in her life during her "An Audience with Adele" concert special in 2021. While the singer took questions from the crowd, actress Emma Thompson asked Adele if she had a supporter or protector in the past.
"I had a teacher at [south London high school] Chestnut Grove, who taught me English. That was Miss McDonald," Adele said. "She got me really into English literature. Like, I've always been obsessed with English and obviously now I write lyrics… She really made us care, and we knew that she cared about us."
Miss McDonald then surprised Adele on stage, and the singer was brought to tears — a touching highlight of the special. She even told her former teacher that she still has the books from her class!
While Perry has admitted that she wishes she had a better overall education, her former music school teacher gave her confidence to pursue singing seriously.
"I'm kind of bummed at this stage that I didn't have a great education because I could really use that these days," she said in a 2014 interview with Yahoo! "There was a teacher named Agatha Danoff who was my vocal teacher and music teacher at the Music Academy of the West. It was very fancy and I didn't come from any money… and she always used to give me a break on my lessons. I owe her a lot of credit and I appreciate that she looked out for me when I didn't have enough money to pay."
Picture a young Shawn Carter — now better known as Jay-Z — with his head stuck in a dictionary.
"I had a sixth grade teacher, her name was Ms. Lowden and I just loved the class so much," Jay-Z said during his appearance on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman in 2018.
He later realized how much Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, who taught him at Intermediate School 318 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, had an influence on his passion for language. "Like, reading the dictionary and just my love of words," he explained. "I just connected with her."
"I knew he was extremely bright, but he was quiet," Rosenblum-Lowden told Brut in 2019, sharing that he scored at the 12th-grade level on a sixth-grade reading test.
"He's been very kind," she added. "Every famous person has a teacher who probably influenced them, and I wish they would all shout out the way Jay-Z did."
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Rihanna Offers Inspiring Performance Of 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' Song "Lift Me Up" At 2023 Oscars
Following her Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show, Rihanna continues her 2023 comeback with another televised performance — this time, of "Lift Me Up" from 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' at the 2023 Oscars.
Rihanna shone with soft glory at the 2023 Oscars tonight with her lustrous performance of "Lift Me Up," the Oscar-nominated song from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
"Lift Me Up" is Rihanna's first Oscar nomination, and other collaborators on the track include Tems, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson. Göransson composed the original film's score alongside Kendrick Lamar.
Other nominees in the Best Original Song category are “Applause” from Tell It like a Woman (Diane Warren), “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick (Lady Gaga, BloodPop), “Naatu Naatu” from RRR (M.M. Keeravaani, Chandrabose), and “This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once (Ryan Lott, David Byrne, Mitski).
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also received nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Ruth E. Carter made history as the first Black woman to win two Oscars, winning for Best Costume Design this year and in 2019 (for the original Black Panther).
The performance comes after the nine-time GRAMMY winner's spectacular Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show, which marked her first live performance in seven years (and made for one iconic baby bump reveal).
GRAMMY Rewind: Witness Rihanna Accept Her First-Ever GRAMMY Win With JAY-Z For "Umbrella"
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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More
Who run the world? Harness positive energy during Women's History Month with this immersive playlist honoring Beyoncé, Rina Sawayama, Kim Petras, and more female musicians.
In the words of recent GRAMMY winner Lizzo, it's bad b— o'clock. To kick off Women's History Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating with an extensive playlist spotlighting women's divine musical artistry. Perpetually shaping, reinvigorating, and expanding genres, women's creative passion drives the music industry forward.
This March, get ready to unlock self-love with Miley Cyrus' candid "Flowers," or hit the dancefloor with the rapturous Beyoncé's "I'm That Girl." Whether you're searching for the charisma of Doja Cat's "Woman" or confidence of Rihanna's "B— Better Have My Money," this playlist stuns with diverse songs honoring women's fearlessness and innovation.
Women dominate the music charts throughout the year, but this month, dive into their glorious energy by pressing play on our curated Women's History Month playlist, featuring everyone from Dua Lipa to Missy Elliott to Madonna to Kali Uchis.
Listen below on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.