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Toni Childs

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Having had a pretty dark childhood, Toni Childs, born in Orange, California, faced one of two options: a descent into violence, or a journey of self-discovery. Thankfully, she opted for the latter and an extraordinary talent was born. The voyage saw Childs live in London, for a while writing lyrics for a Nigerian band. Returning to L.A., she fronted Berlin before backing David + David on their 1986 masterpiece, Boomtown. Together with producer David Tickle, she began work on what became her debut, Union, which in turn took her to Paris and Swaziland during its production. Issued to critical acclaim in 1988, Union's nine tracks are nothing less than articulated craftsmanship, fusing drum programs, synth layers, ethnic percussion, dashes of guitar, and even cellos. Somehow, the overall sound was viable enough for radio, with "Don't Walk Away" becoming a minor hit in America and the U.K. But it was Australia that immediately picked on the sumptuous world-cum-mainstream music; the African rhythms translating well for an Oceanic audience. For her next album, Childs kept the ingredients almost identical. Even so, House of Hope fell short of the expectations set by Union. The best tracks are the first three: "I've Got to Go Now," "Next to You," and the title song, which ended up on the soundtrack for Thelma & Louise. As a predominately "album artist," Childs attracted many respected musicians with her big and tortured voice. In 1994, Peter Gabriel invited her to his Real World community in England, where much of The Woman's Boat was laid down. This work also included performances from Robert Fripp and Karl Wallinger. The Woman's Boat is a concept album based on the cycle of life; thus beginning with "WOMB" and ending with "DEATH." A fourth album was due in 1996 but has never materialized. After a 14-year wait, her next album, the aptly titled Keep the Faith, was released in 2008. ~ Kelvin Hayes

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October 29, 1957 in Orange, CA

Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s, '10s