When an artist speaks, most of the insight comes through their art. That’s why we all are interested when an artist creates something new. We want to know what they are saying. The artist bears what is in the heart through works. Singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae is no different from any other artist in that regard. As the title of her new album implies, when we listen to her music, we hear it from a whispering heart.
Last year, The Heart Speaks in Whispers was released and it continues to find a waiting audience as more singles have made way to listening fans. I am one of those fans, and apparently so is previous US President Barack Obama as he featured the song “Green Aphrodisiac” on his Spotify Summer “Night” Playlist. The album is one of those “quiet” hits of the year. I use the word “quiet” because there were many other releases that dominated the news. The title perfectly describes Corinne and her work. Like music coming from a whispering heart.
On the very publication date of this post, February 26, 2017, Corinne Bailey Rae will celebrate her thirty-eighth birthday. Bailey Rae was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, to a Kittitian father and an English mother, as the oldest of three daughters, including her siblings, Candice Bailey and actress Rhea Bailey, who played Caz Hammond in the television show Coronation Street. Bailey Rae began her musical career at school, where she studied classical violin before she turned her attention to singing: “I started off singing in church, I suppose, but people think it must have been a gospel church because of the whole, you know, black assumption,” she said in reference to her multi-racial background… “But it wasn’t gospel at all, it was just your regular Brethren church, very middle-class, where we would sing these harmonies every Sunday. It was always my favorite part of the service, the singing.”
Bailey Rae studied English Literature at the University of Leeds where she graduated in 2000. While at university, she began work as a hat check girl on an evening in her local jazz club where she met Scottish-born Jason Rae. When she married Rae in 2001 at the age of twenty-two, she changed her name to Bailey Rae. Jason Rae, a musician, played saxophone for the eight-piece group called Haggis Horns, and had also recorded on albums with his wife Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, the New Mastersounds and Martina Topley-Bird (Quixotic). On March 22, 2008, Jason Rae was found dead in a flat in the Hyde Park area of Leeds.
Time does not necessarily heal wounds, but it has been almost nine years since the death of Jason Rae. Corinne Bailey Rae has certainly moved ahead even if she still feels the pain of that loss. In 2013, Bailey Rae married producer Steve Brown. Still, I have known many friends who have lost a spouse in death and the memory never goes away. I’m sure it has been the same for Corinne. In December 2008, Leeds Coroner’s Court gave a verdict of death by misadventure, and stated that Rae had died of an accidental overdose of methadone and alcohol. The methadone had been prescribed to a friend who was recovering from an addiction to heroin. Commenting on her husband’s death, Bailey Rae stated, “He was impulsive, I guess. He liked to have a drink, have fun. It could easily have turned out to be one of those stupid, drunken things you do that you get to talk about afterwards…It’s unbelievable that this one didn’t turn out like that, that this was the drunken, curious thing that went wrong.”
Before the tragic death of her first husband, Corinne Bailey Rae’s career was moving along wonderfully. Her début album Corinne Bailey Rae was a hit with major critical acclaim. The album netted four Grammy nominations and prestigious performance opportunities like Saturday Night Live, BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge and the Grammy Award show. And then early in the year 2008 Bailey Rae lost her husband to death. Recently I reviewed some comments from a few of her fans. They are very sympathetic to Corinne Baily Rae’s pain. So am I. Amazingly she has continued making music. Whispering heart indeed!
Four years after the release of her first album and almost two years after the death of her husband Jason Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae released her second studio album, The Sea. As part of the grieving process, she continued to channel her emotions into her music, and pickup up right where she was before her husband’s death. Yes, The Sea provided us with more great music.
Due to corporate restructuring, Bailey Rae endured an even longer layoff before she released her third studio album. The Heart Speaks in Whispers, released on May 13, 2016 debuted No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B chart. Recorded both at her studio in Leeds and in Los Angeles at Capitol Studios, the album was co-produced by Bailey Rae with Steve Brown, who collaborated on her critically acclaimed 2010 album The Sea, and features Paris and Amber Strother, Esperanza Spalding, James Gadson, Bill Withers, Pino Palladino, and Marcus Miller.
Corinne Bailey Rae has certainly been quite busy since the release of the album. Bailey Rae was selected by NASA for DESTINATION: JUPITER campaign when Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4; represented Europe for the International Olympic Committee’s PSA Campaign; performed at various festivals in the UK and Europe, including Glastonbury; and was special guest supporting Stevie Wonder at his Hyde Park, London concert. Her own whispering heart is continuing to sing loud and clear for her audience to hear.
I’m sure there will be more music from Bailey Rae. I don’t think this time we will have to wait for an extended period. Please listen to The Heart Speaks in Whispers when you get a chance. Corinne Bailey Rae, the music from the artist known as the “Bewitching Queen of British Soul” will not disappoint you.