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Robert Owens

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Though electronica has always been a producer's medium (and the few vocalists keeping their head above water are usually woman), Robert Owens became one of the figures most associated with the late-'80s golden era of Chicago house. Born in Ohio in 1961, he grew up singing in church, but was working as a DJ when he met pioneering Chicago producer Larry Heard in 1985. The pair formed Fingers Inc. with Ron Wilson, and released a few excellent singles ("You're Mine," "It's Over") and the 1988 full-length Another Side. The group dissolved soon after, though, as Heard's burgeoning solo production career (as Mr. Fingers) took over. Owens had already released tracks on his own -- "Bring Down the Walls" and "I'm Strong" for Alleviated, with production from Heard -- and he signed a solo contract with 4th & Broadway. His 1990 LP Rhythms in Me was a solid effort, though it soon disappeared within the quickly disintegrating Chicago house scene. (One of his best-known features of the late '80s, the epic house moment "Tears," appeared under the names of Frankie Knuckles and producer Satoshi Tomiie.) Following a move to London in 1993, Owens set up a personal studio and started his own label, Musical Directions, initiating it with the 1994 six-track EP The Statement and concluding it with 1997's "Love Will Find Its Way." He teamed up with Tomiie and Cevin Fisher for a track from Tomiie's Full Lick LP in 1999, and one year later he appeared on the Photek smash "Mine to Give," which topped the Billboard U.S. club chart. While the 2002 double-disc anthology Love Will Find Its Way: The Best of Robert Owens neatly capped 18 years of house classics, Owens continued to collaborate and release the occasional solo 12" throughout the decade. The full-length Night-Time Stories, released on Germany's Compost label in 2008, was a pleasant surprise, with Owens' typically impassioned vocals featured over a stylistically broad range of productions from indebted artists like Kirk Degiorgio, Ian Pooley, Charles Webster, and Wahoo. Two years later, he issued the double-disc album Art. Another Compost release, it featured productions from Larry Heard, Atjazz, and Beanfield. ~ John Bush

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17 August 1961 in Warren, OH

Years Active:

'90s, '00s, '10s