Jaki Graham

Jaki Graham

Jaki originally sang in a band called Ferrari, and then went on to sing with the band Medium Wave, before becoming a backing vocalist for UB40. She appeared as a featured vocalist on the UB40’s 1986 album, Rat in the Kitchen. Jaki was soon discovered and went on to achieve notable chart success, including two singles in which she duetted with the former Linx member, and future Fame Academy vocal coach, David Grant.

Among her chart entries were Top Ten placings for “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” (UK #5), “Round and Around” (UK #9) and “Set Me Free” (UK #7). She also hit the Top Twenty with “Breaking Away” (UK #16), “Step Right Up” (UK #15), and her second Grant duet, “Mated” (UK #20).

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Jaki was honoured on the Birmingham ‘Walk of Stars’ and her autobiography ‘Heaven Knows’ was also published in 2013, detailing her turbulent upbringing and some of the many trials and tribulations she’s faced throughout her years, ‘For Sentimental Reasons’ is one of her most personal albums to date.

As you are aware, Jaki puts on a great performance whether it be live to backing track or with a band, and if your someone who has either enquired or booked Jaki in the past, you will know she never fails to deliver!

Jaki, who continues to perform across the globe, and included joining Sir Cliff Richard as a special guest on his ‘Soulicious Tour’, ‘1985’ is the start of many things to come, shaping an amazing 2012! February saw the launch of a limited edition collection of Jaki’s own chocolate range ‘Jaki Graham Indulgence’’ created by world leading Artisan and bespoke chocolatier, Paul Wayne Gregory. The range of chocolates were specially released in time for Valentine’s Day.

Jaki commences work on her brand new studio album in March (the first since her 1998 release ‘My Life’) and will contain Jaki’s own unique interpretation on some of the classic soul and jazz standards on which she was raised. Filming is also underway for her documentary which should be commissioned to air in October to tie in with Black History Month and the release of her Autobiography ‘Heaven Knows’, detailing her personal struggles alongside her ongoing successes to date, that have helped to shape the people’s champion she has become.

Born in Birmingham on the 15th September 1956, Jaki Graham can be rightfully noted as one of Britain’s foremost and successful black female artist. Jaki has successfully combined family and career without ever losing sight of her integrity or values with which she was raised.

Jaki’s childhood however was far from easy. Her parents came from Jamaica and moved to England in the 1950s. However, at the age of 5, Jaki’s mother left and disappeared without explanation. Jaki, and her siblings were raised by her father and grandmother. Her grandmother taught her respect, manners and high moral standards which shaped the person the world has come to love so much today.

The Grahams had very little money to live on and all they could afford at that time was a small rented bed sit with a communal kitchen in Birmingham. When Jaki was 10, tragedy struck the Graham household again. Her father died at the young age of 48 of cancer. Upon hearing the devastating news, a stranger from the past returned unexpectedly. It was their mother. In the time that she had disappeared, she had remarried and had two children that they knew nothing about.

During the time that Jaki had become reacquainted with her mother, she found out what a great singer she was and would recollect her mother singing to the songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. At 15, Jaki then met her future husband, John Anthony Ormsby. Considered in school to be a popular “streetwise” rebel with lots of Irish charm, Tony, as he preferred to be called, was immediately smitten by Jaki. She was a school prefect and would often “bend the rules” on many occasions to prevent Tony from being punished for being late. To many people, Tony and Jaki had nothing in common. She was black, he was white. She was naive, he was “streetwise”.

At 18, Tony took Jaki to the beach, and it is here that 17 year old Tony proposed.
They married in 1976 and there were many who showed their prejudice and intolerance towards the mixed race couple. Stones instead of confetti were thrown at their wedding car as they drove off. Happily, thirty years later, they are still together and as much in love.

At the beginning of their marriage, Jaki found herself doing gigs to earn extra money. The first band she joined was “One Night Affair”, then followed by SRO “Standing Room Only” Band and then “Ferrari” all of whom did cover versions of popular music. One day, Jaki recorded a session for a jazz funk group called “Medium Wave Band” she was spotted by talent scout, Brian Freshwater.

Many fans often think Jaki’s first single was “Could it Be I’m Falling In Love”. This was actually her fourth!

She signed with EMI in 1983 and “Heaven Knows” became the title track of her debut album. Sadly her mother was dying as her career was starting. However, in hospital in her final hours she was conscious enough to be able to listen to a tape of Jaki’s debut album and died proud of her daughter’s achievements and that she had finally made it to the top. It was not long after in 1987 that her beloved grandmother too passed away.

However, Jaki was destined not to be alone in the world. The tremendous loss she had experienced was aided not only by her loving husband and her daughter Natalie born in 1981 but by the whole world having fallen in love with her. “Could it Be I’m Falling In Love ?” could not have been more apt a title at that point in Jaki’s life. The song marked a significant collaboration in Jaki’s career, and is one song that remains a timeless eighties classic. It reached number 5 in the British charts in March 1985.

“Round and Around” was Jaki’s first successful solo hit and reached number 9 in the charts of June 1985. When Jaki finally had the confidence to take centre stage, she rocketed and “Set Me Free” was exactly what happened to her.

Once Jaki was set free, there were no holds barred. Her powerful voice, positive energy and radiance were injected to the max in everyone of her performances. Jackie had finally become “Jaki Graham”. “Step Right Up” brought Jaki back to her trademark high energy, up tempo pop hits and gave her another top 20 hit in November 1986.

Jaki achieved a Guinness World Record for being the first black British female singer to have 6 consecutive Top 10 / 20 hits which she still retains today. In the same year, Michael McDonald came into Jaki’s life looking for a female singer to accompany him on the track “On My Own”
(originally sung by Patti Labelle). Michael personally chose Jaki and he was quoted as saying that she was “one of the best singers Britain has ever produced”.

Towards the end of the eighties, sales and figures provided by Billboard magazine had established Jaki as Britain’s most successful black female artist ever. She had surpassed total sales of any other female artist in the mid eighties. Watch out Whitney!

People of every culture and language from every corner of the globe loved Jaki and her vocal perfection and powerful delivery coupled with her warm and compassionate ease with everyone seemed to melt the barriers of language, colour and creed.

Denmark, Germany, Japan, Australia, South Africa loved her and her fan base grew over the world. “Ain’t Nobody” was one track which did exceptionally well in the United States reaching number 1 on the Billboard dance charts for 5, weeks with its impressive video also rocketing to the top 5 in the American Black Entertainment Charts (BET).

Jaki effortlessly slipped into the nineties era of music and as a result, had won over a new legion of eager fans worldwide. Sales of “Ain’t Nobody” reached gold in Australia, Japan and the USA and her next album “Best Shots” released only in Japan responded quickly to her popularity with a greatest hits album.

Again, in Jaki’s life, alongside glory came heartache. In 1991, she suffered two
miscarriages but eventually was rewarded in 1992 when she gave birth to a baby boy called Ryan.
Her daughter Natalie inherited her mum’s voice and has become a successful pop manager for her, and is currently completing her 1st album.

Her resilience and strength of character in conquering prejudice and ignorance in her mixed race marriage gives hope and strength to people worldwide in facing similar struggles.

Jaki has amassed a fan base from all different walks of life. Her ability to become the conqueror rather than the victim of struggles and heartaches makes her an attractive role model to many people in difficult times. Of all the people, Jaki would be the one who would least see these special gifts in herself. “I’m nothing special. I’m nothing unique” is what she would typically say.

2008 marked a hectic year for Jaki with the completion of her Greatest Hits album Jaki spent time in LA to commence her first long awaited studio Jazz album, where she will be working alongside the legendary Patrice Rushen, “Forget Me Knots”! Finally, for those of you who can’t wait that long, Sunset Strippers who had one of the fastest selling singles of 2005 with “Falling Stars”, have remixed Jaki’s all time classic “Step Right Up”, which is already in the clubs and due for imminent release through Ministry of Sound.

On the live TV talent show, “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, Jaki summed up her philosophy
of life in one sentence, “ I’ve had a lot of pains and struggles in my life but I’m still here, darlin’ and I am still enjoying every minute of it!