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Mariah Carey receives star on the Walk of Fame

There’s an old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and this rings so true, especially when we talk about great singers. Most often in a biography, you will see a singer’s roots bloomed in church. The part that is usually left out is that a lot of great singers also started their professional career in the backlight of someone else’s spotlight. Let’s explore music’s growing examples of “Each One, Teach One.”

Two of the most legendary voices to grace this earth were Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston. Both artists started off their careers as backup singers. Luther Vandross sang background to legendary singers in their own right, Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway in 1972, as well as Chaka Kahn, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie – before he started his walk to solo greatness in the early 1980s. Whitney Houston – under the tutelage of her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston – was a background singer to Chaka Khan, the originator of “I’m Every Woman” in 1978, which Whitney Houston made her own as a mega hit on The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992. Which by the way, Chaka Khan can write a book on background singers she’s worked with that went on to have successful music careers.

Speaking of remakes, Mariah Carey started off as a background singer for Brenda K. Starr, who had the hit song “I Still Believe” in 1988. Mariah Carey then paid homage to Brenda K. Starr by doing a remake of the song in 1999 on her #1’s album. “I Still Believe” was the first song Mariah Carey sang as a professional. Falling from this same magical singing tree, singer/songwriter Kelly Price started her professional career as a background singer of Mariah Carey’s, as well as George Michael, before her 1998 platinum debut album Soul Of A Woman was released.

You see, there is absolutely nothing wrong with “living under your spotlight,” because everything done in the dark will surely be brought to light. But wait, there’s more. Check out the photo gallery below for more singers that emerged from their backup singing past to achieve megastardom.


Backlight To The Spotlight: Backup Singers That Went On To Major Fame  was originally published on