SENTIMENTS FROM LISA FISCHER
I have the honor of knowing Tawatha for over 30 years.
( phew... Did I just say that? Yup! And proud of it!)
I met her at a recording session for Luther Vandross and I was so nervous about meeting her. Everyone knows who Tawatha Agee is. She is the voice that sold a million certified copies of the hit single "Juicy fruit", as the lead singer for the amazing Mtume and you could hear her voice everywhere...on the radio, on tv, even in elevators singing background for so many other artists and projects (too many to note here) and I was about to meet the voice for the very first time after feebly trying to fill her shoes for Luther's tour? Yeah, I was nervous!
Luther knew it too, so he told me beautiful and funny stories about her to calm me down. He was kind and patient because he knew no one could ever ever take her place or come close to sounding like her. My only hope was to be able to blend with her. He knew her every nuance and her voice was the golden thread that knitted his vocal sound together. He could never imagine doing a session without her. And after studying his music and her sound, I understood why. Tawatha has the most exciting, unique, warm, honest, and powerful sound that breathes life and strength into every project she graces. Her voice has this inner spinning movement that wraps around itself like cotton candy. I know it sounds crazy but if you really listen to her, I think you'll hear it too! While truthfully grounded in her own vocal persona, she also blends with precision and heart and she's gorgeous to boot! She just glows on every level. That's her magic, and no one weaves it better than her and it's a combination that few singers possess.
Tawatha is also a delight to work with. She's no nonsense, amazing sense of humor, intelligent, wise, trustworthy, on time, and kind. And every time I have the opportunity to sing with her I try desperately to shadow her voice in the hopes I would learn some new secret that you could only find while walking closely behind her through new fallen snow. I always walk away with a full heart after singing with Tawatha because she always leaves bread crumbs of her soul behind.
SENTIMENTS FROM MTUME
SENTIMENTS FROM MARLON SAUNDERS
Tawatha Agee is one of my all time favorite singers!
She is definitely in my top 5 of female singers! Her voice has warmth, depth, soul, sensuality and fire! She can sing anything!! An incredible musician. It is always a pleasure to work with Tawatha.
Not only is she a great friend, she is a beautiful sister of the soul to me.
Tawatha Agee is a legend! You cannot claim to be a lover of soul and R&B music and not know Tawatha Agee.
SENTIMENTS FROM FONZI THORTON
I first met Tawatha Agee at a backup session for actress Betty Buckley (probably 1979), contracted by Luther Vandross, who besides his singing prowess was a terrific arranger and connoisseur of vocal talents. (He and I grew up together as teenagers at 14 years old, had been singing in groups, then doing sessions.)
Before Tawatha came to the studio that first day, LV said "Fonzi have I got somebody for you today. This girl is bad. She's from New Jersey, and sings soprano."
Luther knew T because she had previously contracted him to sing on some projects for the group Mtume for which she was lead singer.
Tawatha arrived I think, in a trenchcoat, matching hat and with a briefcase. (I later learned she was a graduate of Howard University and had also been teaching during that period.) She seemed a bit quiet but pleasant.
She took off her coat and removed her hat and we moved near the Studio console where Luther started teaching us the parts. Irene Cara from“Fame”and "What A Feelin”was the other female singer and would sing 2nd. When Tawatha opened her mouth it was like a ray of sun and a bolt of lightning came out at the same time. Her range and beauty of tone floored me. She could belt in high full bodied chest voice or switch into a light willowy tone I had never heard before. In fact, she didn't sound like ANYBODY I’d ever heard before!! Luther looked at me like,“I told you.”
That's where Tawatha and I began our singing comradeship and tight friendship. From then on I called her for every session or show I was contracting if she was available. One thing I discovered from the first is she is a bonafide team player and serious about the rehearsal and the performance.
As Luther's vocal contractor, I can say he considered Tawatha's elegant yet so soulful first soprano, an essential component on every album he did. He regarded her as one of his core singers for record, stage and TV when she was available, throughout his career.
Today, Tawatha is considered one of the most outstanding voices in the music industry and amongst her peers. Besides Luther, she has recorded and toured with Aretha Franklin, Dave Matthews, Bryan Ferry, Lenny Kravitz, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder as well as been lead voice of the band Mtume. She is also well known (with Gwen Guthrie and Brenda White-King) for her vocals on hits for Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman and Teddy Pendergrass.
Tawatha and I sang together on all Luther's platinum albums from Never Too Much to Dance with My Father, as well as his demos for Sugar and Spice, I Been Workin and Never too Much which landed him his deal with Epic Records. She and I sang together on Luther produced albums for Aretha Franklin which yielded her hits Jump to it and Get it Right, for Dionne Warwick's album - How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye, and songs he produced for Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Diana Ross and Whitney Houston.
Luther was always meticulous in the studio and being one of his core singers was like belonging to an exclusive club to which there was no outside access. He and I often discussed how impressed we were with Tawatha's vocal ability and her degree of professionalism.
LV wouldn't do a record without T because she understood what he wanted, followed direction and was dependable. She and Cissy Houston were always the first ones he told me to call for his sessions. Luther knew what everyone did well and always knew what worked for him. He created the vocal parts and gave us the nuances he wanted: fall off here, whispery tone there, lay back the rythm here. We had fun but he was very efficient in capturing those outstanding vocal moments you hear in his music.
On most Luther recordings, Tawatha sang second under Cissy Houston but sometimes sang top, as well. She was that diverse. Luther was a visionary and translated his recorded music into amazing stage shows, also meticulous in every detail.Besides the musical and vocal arrangements, every movement, every outfit - fringe or beaded dress or jacket, matching shoes, hair, makeup were flawless under his watchful eye. On LV’s first tour opening for the Commodores, Tawatha and I sang side by side stage left with Phil Ballou and Brenda White on stage right. Luther was always generous sharing his stage and proudly featuring his singers, a rarity in the music business.
A highlight of his earliest shows was his duet with Tawatha on“Two Hearts Are Always Better,” a hit she had written for Teddy Pendergrass and Stephanie Mills. In later tours, Luther featured Tawatha bringing down the house singing her Mtume hit, Juicyfruit. Singing with Tawatha on that first Luther tour was also the beginning of thousands of record, stage and TV performances we've sung together with mega artists since then. The reason Tawatha is still called for the top records, concerts and TV shows besides her amazing vocal skills is that chameleon ability to do what the job requires in any genre of music.
In 1982, I contracted Tawatha to join me on Roxy Music's Avalon tour. Clips of our performance in Frejus called the High Road can be seen on Youtube. She sings the obligato in Avalon to my ear, better than the original. Tawatha often reminisces that the Roxy tour was her first time out of the country. We always laugh at how we were treated so well that she called me in my room in France and said“Fonzi, this room is so large - I think they gave me Bryan's room by mistake.”
Going forward we sang together on several of Bryan Ferry’s solo albums, appeared w him on Saturday Nite Live, then years later with him on David Letterman and on his 2011 US Tour.
In 1989 - 90 , we toured Japan and Osaka with Jazz trumpeter, Teramasa Hino.
Tawatha and I sang On David Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise album and appeared with Bowie on the Tonight Show and in several of the Videos for that Nile Rodgers produced album.
Since 2008 to the present, I proudly contracted Tawatha for TV, record and tour dates for Aretha Franklin. Many times in Aretha's concerts, T brought the house down singing the famed obligato in “Ain’t No Way” originally recorded by Cissy Houston. In August 2014, Tawatha joined me in studio for Aretha's most recent, Aretha Sings the Diva Classics. Amongst countless David Letterman performances together, memorable are Florence and the Machine, Al Green, Darlene Love - every Christmas Holiday Season and with Aretha for her performance of Adele's“Rollin in the Deep”which got a standing ovation.
Thousands of performances later before the curtain goes up or the Record button is pressed, Tawatha and I say to each other, "Here we go again.”