Born in 1967 in Severn, Maryland, USA, Toni Braxton is known worldwide for her R&B singing and songwriting career, but this talented lady is also an accomplished producer and even acts. The eldest of six, Braxton has a string of music hits to her credit including the number one hit “Unbreak My Heart”. It sold over 66 million records. Braxton has joked that she was “discovered” at an Annapolis gas station. That chance encounter while filling up her car has fueled a stunning career evidenced by Grammy Awards and chart-topping hits.
The Braxtons: A Childhood Devoted to Song
Along with her siblings, Braxton grew up singing in choir. Born to a Methodist clergyman and opera-singing mother, the Braxton children imbibed in a musical household. They also toured the East Coast with their parents singing at religious gatherings. Although Toni Braxton entered Bowie State University to earn her teaching degree, she “took a chance”, as she stated, and left her studies when she encountered a producer at an Annapolis gas station who remembered hearing her sing and wanted to produce her. Along with her sisters, Braxton recorded the song “The Good Life”, which was released by Arista Records. The song did not launch the group to stardom (and Arista wound up dropping the Braxtons), but it did gain some attention from industry heavyweights like Babyface. Toni was tapped by Babyface to record a song originally written for Anita Baker. Braxton recorded the song and it helped her obtain a record contract in her own name. In 1993, she released Toni Braxton, her self-titled debut that would hit the top spot on the Billboard 200.
Braxton Takes Center Stage
Though her sisters continued recording as The Braxtons, Toni enjoyed an illustrious debut as a solo artist. Braxton’s debut, produced by Babyface, Antonio Reid, and Daryl Simmons, spawned such hits as “Another Sad Love Song” and “Breathe Again”. Four more singles were released from the album demonstrating Braxton’s incredible vocal range and versatility as a singer. The album’ s tremendous success resulted in three Grammy Awards including the Grammy for Best New Artist. The album reached platinum status eight times, cementing Braxton as an R&B sensation and a new force in the music industry.
Braxton’s Star Shines Worldwide
After the success of her first album, Braxton released Secrets, a sophomore effort that would even outshine her debut. To date, Secrets is Braxton’s best-selling album, containing such mega-hits as “Unbreak My Heart”, and “You’re Makin Me High”. The album transformed Braxton from a sensation to a superstar. Braxton also picked up two more Grammy Awards for her work on Secrets and simultaneously became a household name. By the mid-1990s, Braxton had sold more than twenty million records, in literally just a few years from the time of her debut in 1993!
In spite of Braxton’s incredible success, bankruptcy loomed for the artist. Braxton was forced to sue her record company because it was not paying her the proceeds she was owed. The bankruptcy was public.
Marriage and Recording
Braxton released The Heat in 2000, and it debuted at number two in the U.S. With her career back on track, Braxton also married musician Keri Lewis and gave birth to their son in 2001. The Heat didn’t achieve the same success as Braxton’s earlier recordings; however, it did reach double platinum status. While working on her fourth album, Braxton became pregnant with the pair’s second son. The fourth album was difficult as Braxton’s record company did little to promote the offering since Braxton was consigned to bed rest during her pregnancy. Although Braxton’s fourth offering didn’t achieve the success of the others, she continued to perform worldwide to critical acclaim. Performance aside, the decade was a difficult one for Braxton. Her youngest son was diagnosed with autism, and Braxton separated from her husband in 2009. In 2011, the singer was diagnosed with Lupus, a condition she has been successfully contending with, but one that requires considerable attention to her health. Braxton, again, had to entertain legal battles with her label before moving on to Atlantic Records.
The Braxton Legacy
With appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and a recent collaboration on Broadway with Babyface, Braxton has continued to entertain her fans by singing and acting. Her latest album Love, Marriage & Divorce is a collaboration with Babyface and proof that Braxton still has that spark. Particularly that voice which is a vehicle for powerful emotion and which continues to hit home with her fans. Fans whom Braxton still inspires in so many ways. Her music touches many as does the grace with which she deals with life’s trials. As the preacher’s daughter, her inspirational gifts are many, and it’s not surprising that Braxton’s career is flourishing once again.