70s Music

Introduction to Rita Coolidge

Introduction to Rita Coolidge

Rita Coolidge
Rita Coolidge performing an outdoor concert in Seattle, 2002. (Source: Wikipedia)

The very versatile and Grammy Award-winning vocalist Rita Coolidge is known for her hit songs “We’re All Alone” and the #2 single “(Your Love Has Held Me) Higher and Higher.” Her singles have charted in pop, country, jazz and adult contemporary charts. The Nashville, Tennessee-born Coolidge has also worked with music luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Kris Kristoffersson, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker and Stephen Stills. Apart from her collaborations with then-husband Kristoffersson, Coolidge only got to taste her own commercial breakthrough via her sixth studio album Anytime.. Anywhere in 1977. Her highest-charting single was “(Your Love Has Held Me) Higher and Higher,” her cover of Jackie Wilson’s original which went to #2 in 1977. Coolidge also regards her heritage as a part-Cherokee by also forming her band Walela, a Native American band consisting of herself, her sister Priscilla Coolidge and Priscilla’s daughter Laura.

 

Early life and career, and collaborations with other artists

Pop, folk, country and R&B singer-songwriter and musician Rita Coolidge was born in Lafayette, Tennessee (near Nashville) on May 1, 1945 to a minister father and schoolteacher mother. She has two sisters and one brother. Coolidge has a Native American (Cherokee) and Scottish blood.

While her father had his minister duties, Coolidge also sang at their local church. She had started to write songs as well. After graduating from Florida State University, Coolidge moved to Memphis and started to sing in television commercial jingles, which she sometimes did with sister Priscilla. She also became one of the vocalists for Delaney and Bonnie; she in fact became a popular backup vocalist on many other artists’ albums including Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

She sang on recording sessions with other artists such as Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Dave Mason, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. She also collaborated with Kris Kristofferson whom she later married in 1970. The couple recorded songs together, including two Grammy Award-winning songs “From the Bottle to the Bottom” and “Lover Please.” She recorded an album with Kristofferson called Full Moon, which contained “From the Bottle to the Bottom” and topped the country album charts in 1973.

 

 

Coolidge’s own solo recordings, and hit album “Anytime… Anywhere”

On her own solo career, Coolidge was signed to A&M Records. She released her self-titled first solo album and a second one Nice Feelin‘ both in 1971 — despite critical acclaims for both albums, they failed to break through commercially. After three more decent releases — The Lady’s Not for Sale, Fall Into Spring, and It’s Only Love — Coolidge was finally able to break through with her sixth albumAnytime… Anywhere which peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 and #23 on the Billboard country albums chart in 1977.

 

Anytime… Anywhere‘s singles “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher” and “We’re All Alone” was high on both pop and adult contemporary singles charts. “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher” became Coolidge’s biggest hit, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the adult contemporary singles chart. “We’re All Alone” went to #7 pop and #1 adult contemporary.

 

 

Later career

Coolidge and Kristofferson released one more album together, Natural Act, but at that time their marriage was dissolving, and ended in divorce in late 1979. They have a daughter, Casey.

Coolidge never duplicated the success with Anytime… Anywhere although she continued to churn out more hits on the adult contemporary charts through the early 1980s such as “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “You,” “Love Me Again,” “One Fine Day,” “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love” and “All Time High” (which became her second and last #1 AC hit as well as appeared as a theme song for the James Bond movie Octopussy).

Coolidge had gradually become preoccupied with social work that led her to be away from the music business for a while. She returned to music in 1992 by releasing another album Love Lessons, and continued to issue albums for smaller labels. In a desire to re-connect herself to her Cherokee heritage, in 1997 Coolidge formed a Native American music band called Walela. The trio also consisted Coolidge’s sister Priscilla and Priscilla’s daughter Laura. Walela has released three albums (including a compilation album) as well as a DVD.

 

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