February is Black History Month and our history has been built in many ways. Music is a major factor in our history.
I was speaking with Grammy nominated artist Miki Howard recently and realized that there are so many great musical artists that have influenced our history in one way or another. Miki has created and sung wonderful love songs that just make us feel good. Miki is Chicago born came about her talent honestly.
MH - My mom and dad were both gospel singers. Clay Graham is my dad and Josephine Howard, my mom. And they've both since passed on, but they were very popular people along with being great singers. So, I got to be raised with so many, many talented people. My dad always said, "She's a thoroughbred. She was raised to be", but this is true. Everybody thought that I was going to be a major musical influence when I grew up. They groomed me. Everybody around taught me how to sing or taught me how to dress or just that there are ups and downs in show business and never expect everything to be roses.
With songs like “Come Share My Love,” “Baby Be Mine,” and “Love Under New Management,” when you think of love songs Miki Howard is one of the first names to come to mind.
MH - Love is fabulous. God says, “God is love”. So, it's a feeling we all have sooner or later and with it comes vulnerability. And the best thing is to share your vulnerability with someone. You know what I mean? And in song, I get to relate and to you and others and my feelings of what's going on and how it hurt, or it feels great and we all communicate in that way. So, it's good. I love, love songs.
When we spoke of her children, she told me that a couple of them also inherited the music gene.
MH - I hate it, but they are. My daughter's got her records and Instagram and everything. Kaitlyn Howard, and Brandon is producing and writing. He's been doing that a long time. And then my other son Nicholas is a chef, a cordon bleu chef.
She wasn’t fooling me. Her smile spoke on how proud and supportive she is of them.
Our conversation began with her residency that has been going on at the City Winery for several months and the people she has had as her guests on the stage.
MH - It's been a good thing. I enjoy the City Winery, in fact they have them all over the country and we tour the winery and they've been very kind and very good, and they've brought a lot of artists back to the stage. So we said, in the winter months we're going to be here in Chicago, let's do a residency. It's great. I'm enjoying it. I have had the best guests. First, Cherrelle. Yeah, she came as a special guest. Then Glenn Jones. He's so fabulous. And he sung his face off. And then February 11th will be Alyson Williams and myself and we are doing Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae along with our regular stuff. And on the 18th we have Donna Allen and Suzanne Christie.
It isn’t a stretch that Miki is singing Billie Holiday in her concerts. She played the role in the Spike Lee film Malcolm X.
MH - I have been inspired by Billie Holiday since I was a small child. My mother played all the music, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson. I can go on and on So, yeah, I was very interested, and I loved her life. The more I grew up, I was like, "Ooh." I loved it. I don't know what about that was intriguing, the fighting, the drugs. It was so exciting. It seems exciting to me. I come from church, so it wasn't a pimp and all that. And then there were a lot of gay influences in my life as a child. So, I ain't never seen, what they were talking about pimp and drugs and everybody, the gospel people got down now. They did. They did their thing. But not pimps and hoes, and on and on. I mean, Billie Holiday stood out. Her voice was quite unique. And at first, I was like, "What kind of voice is that?" Coming from gospel, I never heard anything like that. So, it looked so fun and I didn't think of it as detrimental and I didn't even think of her life as bad or miserable. I thought of it is exciting and she did some amazing things. At one time she was the highest paid artist over Frank Sinatra.
It was time for Miki to get back to rehearsal with the band for the February 11th show with Alyson Williams. I asked her about advice for young artist who will be the musical history influencers.
MH - Well, I think it's important that you don't neglect your life. You must have a life. You have no life to put into your music. I see so many of the young ones achieve success and then they go into this life of success and then they don't have any life to put in their music because they're constantly trying to keep up with the Jones's and where the, all these things and not giving time to the family, your spiritual growth, perhaps some other interests like hobbies. And what I really see that is alarming is how people neglect the older ones. They neglect their grandparents and they always say, "It's not like it used to be." You don't come over, you don't. Those things are important not to neglect. And they give you stuff to put into your music.
In parting I asked her what she'd like her legacy to be.
MH- That I was a very loving person and I really did all that I could for anybody that I knew.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!