Heather Headley might not have the instant recognition of some artists, but she is perhaps more talented than many of her fellow celebrity musicians. An accomplished artiste with four albums to her credit, she is also a Tony Award winning actress on Broadway.
Musicians often gravitate towards the major markets in the world as their career gains traction and their popularity increases. Some of the world’s well-known musical artists may call the United States, Canada, or Europe home, but their heart often lies in a land far removed from where they currently rest their head. Heather Headley is a perfect example of an artist whose heart lies in her Caribbean home.
Headley may reside in the United States today, but she was born on the beautiful Caribbean island of Trinidad on October 5, 1974. She was born and raised in the town of Barataria. The town is a quiet residential area located just outside of Port of Spain, offering the standard suburban mixture of churches, shopping, and bars. It was in her native Barataria that Headley’s music career began. At the age of four she began playing music that was a part of her native creole culture. She performed calypso and soca tunes, establishing a base for her future career as a successful R&B and soul singer, songwriter, and record producer. The daughter of Hannah and Eric Headley, her father’s career brought her to the United States in 1989. Her father, a pastor, was offered the position of pastor at McKee Street Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. The family relocated to Fort Wayne, Indiana that same year.
Headley’s music career began in October 2002 when her debut album, This Is Who I Am, was released through RCA Records. The album achieved moderate success, hitting #38 on US Billboard charts and #14 on the R&B charts. She was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards for her debut album, but did not win either award. Her second album was her most successful by far. The album peaked at #5 on the US Billboard charts and #1 on the R&B charts. She would not win a Grammy Award until her third album was released. This was, Audience of One, helped Headley nab a Grammy Award in 2010 for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album.
More impressive than her musical career has been her acting career. Unlike so many musicians who believe they can succeed in feature films, Headley not only succeeded as an actress, but did so, away from the glamour of Hollywood on stage on Broadway. Long before her musical career even took off, she landed the role of Nala in the original Broadway cast of The Lion King. The play, with music and lyrics written by Elton John and Tim Rice, respectively, would help launch greater success for Headley as an actress on the big stage. Following her performance in The Lion King, John and Rice asked Headley to audition for the lead role in the play Aida. Headley landed that role too, and received critical acclaim for her portrayal of the Nubian princess. Her performance also garnered major accolades as she won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Aida. That same year, she would win the Sara Siddons Award for her work in the Chicago theatre scene. Over the course of her brilliant acting career, she also appear ed at London’ s Adelphi Theatre in the musical adaptation of the 1992 Whitney Houston film The Body guard. In the play, Headley took on the role of Rachel Marron, earning nominations for an Olivier Award and a What’s On Stage Award for her performance. Headley’s performance was so strong that she is expected to reprise the role of Marron in an upcoming Br oadway pr oduction of The Bodyguard, slated to open during the 2014-2015 Broadway theater season.
Collaborations and Appearances
Headley’s impressive list of achievements includes a number of collaborative performances over the years. In 2006, she performed the song “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, for the PBS broadcast of “The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2006 Mark Twain Prize”. The event honoured playwright Neil Simon. The following year, she appeared alongside Andrea Bocelli in Lajatico, Italy, in his Vivere Live in Tuscany concert. The pair performed duets of two songs at the concert event. In 2009, she sang with Josh Groban during We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. More recently, she has partnered with Bocelli again, performing with him on his UK T our at Glasgow Hydro and the Leeds First Direct Arena. Today, Headley is recognised as one of the most talented singer-songwriters and actresses in the US. Her soulful rhythms and powerful voice have been acclaimed and appreciated in R&B and soul circles, and aided in her evolution as an inspirational gospel singer. Her talents as a musician have helped her build an equally impressive resume as an award winning actress on stage in the US, as well as the UK.