Angela Bofill is “hard headed” and will be the first one to tell you. It is that determined spirit that enabled her to come back from two strokes that took away her mobility and her famous voice. Many would have crumbled. However, the Latina songstress who brought you so many R&B hits continues to turn a difficult situation around. She is able to walk (with the use of a cane) and talk (mostly in fragmented sentences) once again! She has thoughts about music, courage, hope, humor and her return to the stage, as she shares with Darnell Meyers-Johnson…
DMJ: Good day everyone, this is Darnell Meyers-Johnson for SoulMusic.com. Today I’m speaking with someone you all have been asking about. She is a singer-songwriter who has been bringing you good music since the late ’70s. You know her dance hits like “Too Tough” and “Something About You” and “Angel of the Night,” but she is most known for her emotional ballads, like “I Try,” “I’m On Your Side,” “Tonight I Give In,” “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter”—the list goes on and on and on. Recently, she’s been through some trials and tribulations—and we’ll talk about that, hopefully—but she is still with us, and she is not only a living legend, but she is a true soul survivor. Today I am speaking with Miss Angela Bofill. Hi, Angela—are you there?
AB: Hi. Yes, I am [laughs].
DMJ: [Laughs]. I’m glad to speak with you. I’m glad that you’ve made time for us today. What I want to do is, I just want to really jump right in with the most obvious question that everybody’s been asking. For those who may not know, in 2006, you suffered a stroke. And just as you were starting to mend from that, you suffered another stroke in 2007. In addition to that, a year ago this month, you lost a nephew in a tragic car accident. And during this whole time, in the midst of all these things, your mother has been experiencing her own health issues. So what everybody wants to know, first and foremost, is: physically speaking and emotionally speaking, how are you today?
AB: Today, I’m living another day. All right! [Laughs]
AB: I’m feeling great.
DMJ: That’s good, that’s good. Can you share a little bit about what you’ve had to go through, since the first stroke in 2006, to get to where you are today?
AB: Really, a lot of therapy. I need therapy: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, you know—every day. Still, physical therapy needed, you know.
DMJ: And so how are you—
AB: Left side weakened after the stroke, impeding—impeding my ability, also: speech, impeded a little bit. A struggle, but I’m very hardheaded [laughs].
DMJ: [Laughs] It sounds like that’s working in your favor right now.
DMJ: I said, it sounds like being hardheaded is working in your favor right now.
AB: I think so [laughs]. I’m still here, talking about it, and that’s good [laughs].
DMJ: Usually a question like this I would ask towards the end of an interview, but I’m just going to ask you this right now, since we’re kind of talking about things and what’s been happening: what have you learned about life since 2006?
AB: I’ve learned life is a precious thing. Nobody a right to take it for granted. Every second counts.
DMJ: I know that you’ve been singing since childhood?
DMJ: And that you’ve earned a degree in voice performance. So I’ve got to ask you, are you singing again now? Are you making any efforts in that direction?
AB: An effort. After the stroke, though—damage to my vocal chords. Not singing no more.
DMJ: Okay. How does that, since singing has been such a part of your life for most of your life, how do you feel now that you’re not able to do it?
AB: Well, you know… more things important, now, you know? Other things. But now, Angela Bofill Experience—a show—put together. My manager, Rich Engel, put together the show—my music. Maysa singing, Phil Perry, also Dave Valentin performing. Me—stage—sitting down, a chair onstage, talking about my life. Turned out… it turned out, me, a comedian! [Laughs]
AB: Cracked me up! Instead of a stand-up comic—a sitting-down comic.
DMJ: [Laughs]. And I’ve heard really good things about the show, and I do want to talk about it in just a moment. But if you don’t mind, can we take a little bit of a walk down memory lane? Is that okay?
AB: Sure, sure.
DMJ: Many people know—many people probably still don’t know, but—you’re part Cuban and you’re part Puerto Rican, and your music has always reflected your Latina heritage. You’re one of the first Latina singers who’s made such an impact on R&B music, that some people consider you a bit of a pioneer in that way.
DMJ: What are your thoughts about that? Do you feel like a pioneer?
AB: Hold on.
DMJ: Sure, sure.
AB: (to someone in the background) I don’t know… (to DMJ) hold on.
DMJ: Sure, sure, no problem.
AB: [background noise] Okay—Mom, yes.
DMJ: Oh, okay. So I was speaking of—we were talking about being one of the first Latina singers to make an impact in R&B music.
AB: Yeah! After me, Jennifer Lopez; Christina Milian, you know. I think I first, break ground, yes. Yes.
DMJ: And what were some of your musical influences when you were growing up?
AB: Motown—a lot of Motown. Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Tito Puente—all the Latin music. Cuban—great musicians, Cuban people.
DMJ: You came out with your first album in 1978: ‘Angie’. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got that first record deal, and how that all came together, as best that as you can?
AB: Yeah. Dave Valentin, my friend in high school. Dave Valentin, the famous flute player. A deal. Before that, my friend Noel Pointer?
AB: David and Noel go the same high school of music and art, New York City high school. Performing, yeah? But Noel Pointer introduced David— Dave Grusin, Larry Rosen. Dave introduced me. Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen—a meeting. I play piano; I sing my songs I wrote. I play “I Try”,“Under the Moon.” A month later, a deal.
DMJ: [Laughs] In just a month?
DMJ: Oh, awesome.
AB: First album produced. ‘Angie’, in 1978.
DMJ: And then you followed that up about a year later with the second one, ‘Angel of the Night’—which everybody knows that song. But also, on that album, it featured a song that would kind of remain one of your signature songs for the duration of your career. So what can you tell me about the song “I Try”?
AB: Oh, I wrote it at seventeen years old.
DMJ: [Laughs] Wow.
AB: Yes. A teenage angst song.
DMJ: [Laughs] So you were breaking up with someone at that time?
AB: Yep, yep.
DMJ: Wow, that’s—
AB: A musician.
DMJ: Wow, that’s awesome, that’s awesome.
AB: Turned out, play on the song—drummer! [Laughs]
DMJ: Oh, he was the drummer—that was the guy?
DMJ: Did he know the song was about him?
AB: Yeah, of course. Now—a famous drummer, now [laughs]. Because of me.
DMJ: [Laughs] I love it, I love it. Were you doing a lot of songwriting, back in your teenage years?
AB: Yes, yes. Whole first album, I wrote as a teenager. “I Wish For”—‘Angie’. I forget the name of the song, I’m sorry [laughs]. (Editorial Note: The song she was trying to remember was “The Only Thing I Would Wish For”.)
DMJ: No, no, it’s okay, it’s okay. Then by the time that you did your third album, ‘Something About You’, you kind of switched—that was kind of, basically, your first official album for Arista Records, even though they were—
DMJ: —even though they were distributing your earlier albums. But this was the first time that you were recording for them. So I’ve got to ask you: at that point, how big of an influence was Clive Davis on your career? At that point?
AB: Oh my God. Clive Davis actually discovered me, you know.
DMJ: Oh, he was the one that basically discovered you?
DMJ: And how did that happen?
AB: Walking down the street—no, no, no, no.
AB: David, my drummer friend, right?
AB: A gig. Irving—a keyboard player. But this time, I find out Clive Davis label. I would go in the show. Buddy, my drummer friend of mine, introduced me to Clive Davis backstage. “Hi!” You know, I don’t know Clive Davis is so famous then, back then. I’m a friend to everybody, “Hi, hi!” [Laughs]
AB: Next day, introduced me , GRP distributing deal, Arista. Went to the meeting over to Arista—“Oh, hi!” [Laughs] Definitely, I think… Clive Davis a very good ear in music, you know?
DMJ: Yes. And you remained with Arista for quite a number of years. And I know that in the past, with other people, even during that time that you were associated with Arista, people have had different—other artists—have had different tensions with him. As you can tell, I’m trying not to mention specific names. But has there ever been a point in your association with Clive and Arista where you kind of clashed, or was it always a great relationship?
AB: I think a great relationship. You know why?
AB: Clive Davis respects talent. Recognize talent. Me—a lot of talent! [Laughs] Match in heaven, you know?
DMJ: [Laughs] That is true, that is true. Now, I’ve got to ask you about one of my personal favorite songs of yours, and that was from the ‘Too Tough’ album. And it is a song that was not only one of my favorites, but it was also one of my mother’s favorite songs: and that song is, “Tonight I Give In.” I know that’s not one that you wrote, but what do you remember about making that particular song?
AB: Clive Davis chose that song. Bring in the producer, Narada Michael Walden. Six tunes, Clive Davis brought in Michael Walden. One of them—“Tonight I Give In.”
DMJ: Did you like it when you first heard it, or was it one that you had to—?
AB: Beautiful, beautiful. I think Clive Davis a good ear of music.
DMJ: Oh, and here’s another thing I’ve got to tell you, ’cause I—[laughs]—this is a rare moment, this really doesn’t happen to too many people. And again, this is a selfish moment for me, so I apologize for that. But your very next album was, if I’m getting it right, was in ’83: ‘Teaser’—right?
AB: Yeah. A gold lame jacket, cover.
DMJ: But I’ve got to tell you, that’s the very first album that I actually went to the store and purchased with my own money that I earned, and so it has—
AB: Wow. Thank you.
DMJ: —so it has a special place in my heart. And one of the standout tunes on that (album) —there was a few, for different reasons, but—one of the ballads that stood the test of time, obviously, was “I’m On Your Side.”
AB: Yes. Beautiful.
DMJ: How did you and that song come together?
AB: Michael, me, co-wrote the song. Writing, composer. But that song, today, very much about my life now, you know?
DMJ: Yeah, yeah.
AB: Life, friend, family, everything, you know? Important. Most important, friends and family.
DMJ: Yes, yes. On that same album I was surprised to know that you, in a way, and indirectly, became a bit of a hip-hop star, because you have a song on the ‘Teaser’ album, “Gotta Make It Up to You,” that has been sampled—
DMJ: —several times throughout the hip-hop community. What are your thoughts about that?
AB: Yeah! Oh, boogie down! [Laughs]
AB: Get dancin’, yeah! I love it. “Magnificent”. A bit hit in Bay Area.
DMJ: Yeah, yeah, Rick Ross, yeah.
AB: Um-hm. I love it. More, more, more.
AB: Recently, DJ Quik sampled my music also. New release, “Children of the World.”
DMJ: Oh, okay—yeah. So now… oh, I do want to ask you about one of your later albums, I just… what is it called? “I Wanna Love Somebody”? In ’93-ish?
AB: Shanachie? Shanachie?
DMJ: Or was it Jive? Which one was it—Shanachie?
AB: Ah, no—both labels do the album. Jive, somebody… I’m sorry, memory shudders sometimes.
DMJ: No, it’s okay.
AB: In and out.
DMJ: Do you—and I’m asking this on behalf of a friend of mine, because that’s one of his favorite albums, and it’s—
DMJ: —it’s one that didn’t get a lot of promotion. But do you have any special memories about that album, and how involved you were in that? Did you do a lot of songwriting on that particular one, from what you can recall?
AB: Yeah, co-wrote. Me and producer co-wrote. Actually, Clive Davis’ daughter, Lauren Davis, did the deal.
DMJ: Oh, okay.
AB: Um-hm. Next generation Davis.
DMJ: [Laughs]. Now, at some point in time—and pardon me, ’cause I am bouncing around from album to album, I’m not going in the exact order in which they came out—but you did an album with the guys from The System, and that was a big departure for you in terms of sound. How did you and The System get together, back then?
AB: Clive Davis’ suggestion.
DMJ: Oh, okay. So a lot of those times were—
AB: Very fast.
DMJ: Yeah, exactly. It was very kinetic, yeah.
AB: Very fast.
DMJ: Were those songs hard to sing?
AB: Of course. But me, a trained vocalist, get easy sounding. Difficult, challenging, vocally. Especially live.
DMJ: Oh, okay, yeah.
AB: Hard to sing it live.
DMJ: Now between your last album, which I believe was in—not including the live album that came out—but the last studio album, was around ’96. And between ’96 and about 2006, when people first started to hear about your first stroke, we didn’t really hear that much music from you. I know that you doing dates and stuff like that, but was there a reason why there was such a large gap, when you weren’t recording?
AB: What years?
DMJ: Between ’96 and 2006?
AB: I think, Shanachie album produced.
DMJ: Oh, did something come out, between…? ’Cause I remember there was a large gap of time, where it seemed like there wasn’t a new Angela Bofill album coming out.
AB: Ah, music different—music business is changing, you know?
DMJ: Right, yeah.
AB: Back in the day, easier to get a deal. Harder.
DMJ: So now you’ve got “The Angela Bofill Experience”, so let’s talk about that a little bit. It’s a reflection on… It’s all of your hits, you’re back onstage, so to speak—you’re not performing, but you are providing narration and reflections on your past hits. When that first—
DMJ: When your manager first started to put that idea together, did you have any anxieties about literally coming back to the stage and being onstage?
AB: Of course. I was scared to death [laughs].
DMJ: [Laughs] How did he talk you into it?
AB: Well, first gig—played in Bay Area. Live in Bay Area in California. Doable, you know? But reaction to show—great. Fun. I live with the stage—my whole life, the stage. I miss it, you know?
DMJ: Right. And you are a native New Yorker, as the song goes, and you’re from the Bronx. I understand the show is going to be coming to New York in, like, October, so...
AB: Yes, October 8th.
DMJ: Yes. And so what are your thoughts about coming back home, so to speak?
AB: I love New York City. Powerful energy. I need energy [laughs], I like it.
DMJ: [Laughs] At the shows, afterwards, at “The Angela Bofill Experience”, it seems like you go backstage, or you have a point where you kind of sit and you meet the fans? Is that how it…
AB: Yes. After the show.
DMJ: Yeah, after the show, right. And so…
AB: Merchandise selling, autographs, talk to the people, yeah.
DMJ: What is some of the feedback that you’re getting from the audiences about the show?
AB: All good.
DMJ: [Laughs] That’s what I’ve been hearing, too.
AB: All good.
DMJ: That’s what I’ve been hearing, too.
AB: Great reviews, also. The press.
DMJ: Yes, yes, I’ve been reading some of those. So, again, just tell me a little bit about who’s performing your hits? You touched on it earlier, but I just want to make sure everybody gets—
AB: Maysa… Maysa.
DMJ: From Incognito.
AB: Yes. Phil Perry—beautiful voice. What a range. Also Dave Valentin—first crush of mine, Dave Valentin.
DMJ: Ah… did you write any songs about him [laughs]?
AB: Yeah. I set to flute.
DMJ: [Laughs] Is this going to be the same lineup of people in the New York show, or is it going to be different people?
AB: Same show, Bay Area, for New York City.
DMJ: So earlier in this interview you said, when I asked you about desires to sing again, you said something to the effect that there are things that are more important to you now. So as we—
DMJ: So as we wrap up the interview a little bit, just tell me what is really important to you now that trumps even being onstage, or anything else?
AB: Yes. A little pug named Momo. A little puppy, a pug. My grandson. Yes, I love dogs to death. Therapy—animal therapy. Every day, Momo makes me laugh. Laughter very good at healing a body.
DMJ: Yes, yes…
AB: No stress, you know.
DMJ: I was just going to say—
AB: Don’t have a lot of stress, you know?
DMJ: What is the main message? ’Cause a lot of people who are listening to this interview right now, as I said in the beginning, their main thing they want to know is how you’re doing and you covered that already. But what is the main message that you want to leave with people who are listening to this right now? What is your message—?
AB: A lot happens. Live it to the fullest. Peace and love, and SOUL!
DMJ: [Laughs] I love that! Oh—let me ask you this. In terms of the show, getting back to “The Angela Bofill Experience”, are you guys—are there any plans to put that out on DVD, after you guys do a few shows? Is there any plan to market it so people can buy it?
AB: I think so, I think so. Not discussing, yet—I planning. I’m planning all of it.
DMJ: That would be awesome.
AB: I think HBO specials are nice.
DMJ: Oh yeah! Yeah. We’ve got to tell Rich to work on that [laughs].
AB: Um-hm. Also, an off-Broadway play, maybe.
DMJ: There you go.
AB: I’m a big dreamer [laughs].
DMJ: Yeah. You’ve always been that way, though, right? ’Cause that’s how you—
AB: Yep. Yep. Always that way.
DMJ: So, Miss Bofill, I do want to thank you so much for your time. I know that you’re not doing a whole lot of this kind of stuff—as much, anymore, I should say—so I do appreciate the time. And anytime that you want to discuss anything that’s going on with you, or with the show, or anything in general, if you just want to give us an update on how you’re feeling and what you’re doing, our doors at SoulMusic.com are always open for you. So just keep that in mind, and again, I do appreciate you so much for your time.
AB: Oh, same here—very appreciative also.
DMJ: So you continue to take care of yourself, and thanks for being an inspiration to so many others, and giving them a message about what’s really important in life, and—
AB: Oh, also—listen, check with the doctors. Checkup very important.
DMJ: Right—yes, exactly. And there’s—not just with the blood pressure, but also with the stroke screenings, ’cause they can do the stroke screenings now and determine if you’re likely to have one.
DMJ: So those are very important.
AB: Myself—genetic. My daddy died of a stroke.
DMJ: Oh, okay. Okay.
AB: But—very important to take care. Sally Field said it—commercial. Sally Field—one body.
DMJ: Exactly. So you’ve got to take care of it.
DMJ: You are so awesome—you are so awesome.
AB: You awesome!
DMJ: [Laughs]. Continue to be blessed, and I just look forward to sharing this interview with everybody. And like I said, feel free to keep in touch with us here at SoulMusic.com.
DMJ: All right, take care.
AB: One of the goals I have: learn computer [laughs].
DMJ: Oh—you’re not online yet?
AB: No [laughs].
DMJ: Well, you have your Web site.
AB: Yeah, I know! [Laughs]
DMJ: AngelaBofill.com, by the way. We forgot to plug the website! I was just about to say goodbye, and we forgot to even mention it. So yeah, AngelaBofill.com. That’s where they can also get updates, you know, on how and what you’re doing. So you haven’t learned how to use the computer yet?
AB: No. Afraid.
AB: I don’t know—new, you know?
DMJ: You’ve got to get on Facebook, or something [laughs].
AB: I don’t know. I’m thinking about it.
DMJ: We’ve got to get you—you can get, like, a Facebook fan page, and all the fans could keep in touch with you, and you know… [Laughs] Oh!
AB: I’m thinking about it.
DMJ: Oh, you know, I’m glad that we’re kind of talking about Facebook, because I was supposed to give you a message and I almost forgot. There’s two, but one of the people I’ve been communicating with on Facebook is the singer Miki Howard.
AB: I love Miki!
AB: I love her to death.
DMJ: She wanted me to tell you that she loves you and that she misses you, and I promised her I would give you that message. I almost forgot.
AB: Oh, thank you—thank you.
AB: Ditto. Ditto. Copy that.
DMJ: And while we’re talking about it, I meant to ask you—and I’m glad that we kind of got delayed a little bit here, with our goodbye—is that I meant to ask you about your relationship with Phyllis Hyman, ’cause we’re working on a feature on Phyllis, with this year as the 15th anniversary of her passing. And I just want to ask you a little bit—and I know in your show, you kind of do a little mini-tribute to her, during your show?
AB: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. One show, Norman Connors guest. Norman Connors producer, big Phyllis Hyman hit. You know—ah, I miss shoe shopping together. Me and Phyllis is tall ladies, you know. Phyllis taller than me, but I’m bigger feet than Phyllis.
DMJ: [Laughs] Okay.
AB: Both Phyllis and me shop for shoes a lot. Phyllis loved to shop. I miss her, you know—diva wars. Fighting.
DMJ: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s—
AB: But… but my nephew passed away, also. Maybe my nephew met Phyllis.
DMJ: Yeah, you never know. Did they—did they… ’cause he would have been very young when she passed, like he would have been a teenager, right?
AB: Yeah, yeah.
DMJ: Did they ever meet?
AB: Never. No, no.
DMJ: So they may…
AB: Here. Also, Isaac Hayes pass on, too. My friend, Isaac Hayes. But I tell ’em, “I’m not ready to see you yet.”
DMJ: [Laughs] Exactly—not yet. You’re still here for a reason. I want to ask you this, since we’re kind of talking about it, and you’ve been writing songs since you were very young. Are you still writing songs? Do you still have melodies going through your head?
AB: Yeah. Not before—more. But now, maybe more around music, more of music—maybe it come back.
AB: But before stroke, a demo—a couple of demos. “All This Time”—really good jam, you know?
DMJ: Which, by the way, if anybody wants to get that song they can go to your Web site, AngelaBofill.com. The song is called “All This Time” and it’s available for purchase right on the Web site there.
AB: I’m not—I like this song, more than… ah… not really, more writing scripts.
DMJ: Oh, okay. Do you think, at some point, there’s going to be the Angela Bofill story—like a movie?
AB: One day. Yeah, why not? [Laughs] Play me: Alicia Keys [laughs].
DMJ: Oh, really—that’s who you would like?
AB: Yeah. Or Jill Scott.
DMJ: Yeah, I like both of them. Is there anybody else that—
DMJ: I’m sorry?
AB: Also my daughter, really good actress. But now, also, my friend Jackee a really good actress, also.
DMJ: Oh yeah—I haven’t heard too much from her in recent times, but I like her.
AB: September 21st, BET—a show, Jackee. A new comedy, a sitcom.
DMJ: Okay, okay.
AB: For this month, August 14th, birthday—Jackee’s birthday. I called to wish Jackee a happy birthday, you know—my friend [laughs]. Jackee thinks myself funny. I tell her: You know what? This is a good disability person. Covert affair, a blind CIA agent—covert affair show?
DMJ: Oh yeah, yeah.
AB: Blind character. Also, “House”, walking around with a cane. Maybe disability—write something disability. A play, you know. Endless creativity still here, you know. Enjoy writing scripts and plays.
DMJ: Well, maybe that’s going to be the next part, the next phase of your life.
AB: New chapter.
DMJ: Exactly, yeah. Exactly, there you go—new chapter, yeah.
AB: You know, fun [laughs].
DMJ: And then you never know with those things, you may end up writing a whole book about your life, or something. I feel like you’ve been through so much that you have… now you have more than just a song to give; you actually have a voice to give to other people, to help encourage and inspire them, so...
DMJ: So whichever way that God sees that for you, and how that manifests itself, whether it’s through a script, or a movie, or a book, I just wish the best for you in whichever avenue that you go.
AB: Thank you. Also, God runs the show.
AB: God (says) sing again— I sing. I don’t, cool with that, you know? I’m really happy I’m still talking about it.
AB: I know talking need improvement. Working on that.
DMJ: Well, I think you’ve made some really good strides so far; I mean, considering what you’ve been through.
AB: After the first stroke—no talk, no walk.
DMJ: And now you’re walking—
AB: Now, walking—I use a cane, you know.
DMJ: But you’re walking and talking [laughs].
AB: Yeah, yeah—yeah.
DMJ: So that’s a good thing.
AB: Maybe I guest star on “House” [laughs].
DMJ: Hey—anything’s possible [laughs]. I love your—
AB: I have a pimp cane now [laughs].
DMJ: [Laughs] How have you been able to maintain this great sense of humor throughout everything?
AB: I have to. I don’t like crying all the time [laughs]. You know, boring.
DMJ: Yeah—yeah. Well, I feel like I could talk to you for, like, another fifty minutes or so, but let’s save some of it for our next interview. We’ll talk again, when you’re doing your book, or appearing on “House” [laughs].
AB: Okay [laughs]. Okay.
DMJ: So again, I want to thank you for your time, and just be blessed, in all that you do. Thank you so much.
AB: Thank you.
DMJ: All right, take care.
About the Writer
Darnell Meyers-Johnson is a New Jersey based music journalist and creator of The Meyers Music Report (www.TheMeyersMusicReport.Tumblr.com). Previously, he served as Entertainment Editor for the now defunct publication Nubian News and as Editorial Coordinator for SoulMusic.com. When not conducting interviews or writing liner notes, Darnell hosts a weekly radio show, Vocal About Jazz, which streams online every Saturday from 12-2pm, EST on JazzOn2.org and iTunes.