Brenda Russell (born April 8, 1949 in Brooklyn, New York) is an African American singer-songwriter and keyboardist. Known for her eclectic musical style, her recordings have encompassed several different genres, including pop, soul, jazz and adult contemporary. As well as composing her own material, Brenda's songwriting talents are often in demand by many other artists who, over the years, have included Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Sting.
Born Brenda Gordon to musical parents (her father Gus was a one-time member of The Ink Spots), she spent her formative years in Canada after moving to Ontario, aged twelve. As a teenager she began performing in local bands and in her late teens joined the Toronto production of Hair, during which time she had begun to play the piano. In the early seventies she married musician Brian Russell and (as Brian & Brenda) they went on to release two albums on Elton John's Rocket label, World Called Love (1976) and Supersonic Lover (1977). The couple had divorced by the late 70s, and Brenda, now living in Los Angeles, had set out on a solo career.
Signed to Tommy LiPuma's Horizon Records, Brenda's debut single "So Good, So Right" became a hit in 1979. After the quick demise of the Horizon label, Brenda was picked up by A&M who released her self-titled debut album, which featured the tracks "If Only For One Night" (later a hit for Luther Vandross) and "In the Thick of It". This was followed in 1981 by her second album Love Life. Signed to the Warner label, she released Two Eyes in 1983. Brenda soon relocated to Sweden and began writing songs for her next album.
Released in 1988, Get Here became her greatest commercial success, spawning her biggest hit "Piano In the Dark" and garnering 3 Grammy Award nominations. The title track went on to become a worldwide hit when covered by Oleta Adams in 1991. After releasing two further albums in the early 90s Brenda took time off from recording her own music. During this period she composed songs for other artists and wrote the score for the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back. She also appeard in the 1999 film Liberty Heights in which she performed two songs written especially for the movie.
Brenda resumed her solo career in 2000 with the critically acclaimed album Paris Rain, released on Hidden Beach records. The album (which includes collaborations with Carole King, Dave Koz and Sheila E.) saw Brenda move completely away from the pop market and toward a more adult oriented sound. In 2003 she signed to the new UK label Dome Records and released the compilation album So Good, So Right: The Best of Brenda Russell. Her 8th studio album Between the Sun and the Moon was released by Dome the following year.
2005 saw the Broadway release of a musical stage verson of Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, the show's score is written by Russell and lyricists-composers Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.