Blues diva Janiva Magness to headline blues festivalWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The title of Janiva Magness’ 2010 disc says it all: “The Devil Is an Angel Too.”
“I knew instantly I needed to do the song,” she said. “It was not only going to be the title cut, it turned out it was the theme of the record.”
Twelve tracks explore darkness and light.
One of the singer’s favorite songs is “Walkin’ in the Sun.”
“It’s an old Percy Sledge tune that I first became aware of in the ’70s from a cover by a band called Rufus, and the lead singer for Rufus was a woman named Chaka Kahn,” Magness said. “I have been carrying around that tune for that long, hoping one day that I might have the opportunity to sing it.
“And I just don’t know anyone who has had the experience of being beat up by life and then coming out the other side — I don’t know anyone who has had that experience and not known that feeling of what it’s like to walk from darkness into light; it’s beautiful.”
Magness knows. Growing up in Detroit, she lost both parents to suicide by the time she turned 16.
“I went through 12 foster places in two years. That’s not an uncommon story, sadly,” she said during a call from her Los Angeles home. “[Carrie] was an unlikely candidate to be a foster parent, yet she ended up being the one that was willing to truly stand up for me when no one else would. She wasn’t willing to let me go back out on the street again. She was a kind and loving and generous adult that had boundaries.
“What great luck it was to have found her. It didn’t just change one thing in my life, it ultimately changed everything; it changed the end of the story for me.”
She credits the right foster parent and the blues with saving her.
“The music has carried me through, given me hope. It helped me in some of the darkest times to understand that I’m not alone,” Magness said. “It lifts my heart, it soothes my soul; it always has.”
These days she offers comfort and hope by sharing her story as a national spokesperson for Casey Family Programs and as an ambassador for Foster Care Alumni of America.
“It turns out the purpose of the early part of my life and the struggles — and also the fact that I’ve come through it and come out the other side and most days I’m a pretty happy person — to be able to say that to youth that are still in foster care is huge,” she said. “[Sharing] helps it make sense for me; maybe I’m going to be able to help someone else.”
She added, “My job is about human connection: The gift is the music.”
Magness — the second woman to win the Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year besides Koko Taylor — will headline the 2011 Blues & Jazz Festival at Centennial Terrace in Sylvania at 10 p.m. June 11.
Tags: Blues & Jazz Festival at Centennial Terrace, Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Casey Family Programs, Chaka Kahn, Foster Care Alumni of America, Janiva Magness, Koko Taylor, Percy Sledge, Rufus, Sylvania