Meshell Ndegeocello (born Michelle Lynn Johnson on August 29, 1968 in Berlin, Germany) is an American singer, rapper, bassist, and multi-instrumentalist. She was born to Army lieutenant (and saxophonist) father Jacques Johnson and her mother, Helen. In early press releases from Maverick Records (her record company at that time) mistakenly listed her birth year as 1969. It is in fact 1968. This has been confirmed through a previous manager/lifelong friend.
Early Life and Music Style[edit | edit source]
Raised in Washington, D.C., Meshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur (as she became known) adopted the surname Ndegeocello, which means "free like a bird", while still in her teens. She has been hailed in the music press as a redeemer of soul music. Her music incorporates funk, soul, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, rock and jazz. She has been nominated for 9 Grammys. In the late 90s she toured with Lilith Fair.
Career Rise[edit | edit source]
Ndegeocello honed her skills on the D.C. Go go circuit in the late 1980s. Ndegeocello unsuccessfully tried out for the bassist position vacated in 1992 by Muzz Skillings of the hard rock band Living Colour before venturing out as a solo artist. She emerged as a recording artist in 1993 on Maverick Records/Sire Records with her debut, Plantation Lullabies. This recording presented a distinctly androgynous persona.
Her music has been featured in a number of film soundtracks including How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Batman and Robin. She has also appeared on recordings by Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls and The Blind Boys of Alabama, among others. Her biggest hit is a duet with John Cougar Mellencamp, a cover version of Van Morrison's "Wild Night", which reached #3 on the Billboard charts. She appeared on The Rolling Stones' 1997 album Bridges to Babylon, playing bass on the song "Saint Of Me."
Her only other Billboard Hot 100 hit besides "Wild Night" has been "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)", which peaked at #73 in 1994. She also had a Dance #1 in 1996 called "Who Is He (and What Is He To You?)" as well as Dance top 20's with "Earth", "Leviticus: Faggot", "Stay" and the aforementioned "...Boyfriend".
Ndegeocello is bisexual, and was a former long time lover of writer Rebecca Walker, with whom she is raising a son, although the relationship has ended. She sang background vocals on the song "I'd Rather be Your Lover" by Madonna, on her album Bedtime Stories.
She can also be seen in the documentary movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown, singing The Miracles' "You've Really Got A Hold On Me".
Discography[edit | edit source]
- Plantation Lullabies (Maverick) – 1993
- Peace Beyond Passion (Maverick) – 1996
- Bitter (Maverick) – 1999
- Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape (Maverick) – 2002
- Comfort Woman (Maverick) – 2003
- The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel (Shanachie) – 2005
- The Article 3 EP (EmArcy) – 2006
- The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams (Kuzcek Records) – 2007
Name-Related Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Although named Michelle Lynn Johnson at birth, Ndegeocello has had numerous name changes. For a while in the late 1990s, she was known as Bashir Shakur. Some outlets also state her birth name as "Mary Johnson".
- Meshell Ndegeocello is pronounced MEE-shell n-duh-GAY-o-chel-o. Early pressings of Plantation Lullabies were stickered with the instructions.
- The correct spelling of her stage name at this time is Meshell Ndegeocello, without apostrophes or any abnormal capitalizations.
References[edit | edit source]
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