Yet René stood strong. Her daring makes her one of America’s most interesting and compelling artists. So do her influences. Her style incorporates a distinctly American mélange of jazz, soul, blues, folk and gospel and an innate theatrical ability to interpret a song deeply and live its truth. An actress as well as a vocalist, René starred Off-Broadway in New York City October 12-13 and 18 and 20, 2013, as part of the All for One Theatre Festival at the Cherry Lane Theatre in a one-woman play she wrote. In typical fashion, she raised eyebrows just with the title itself – “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean.” The meaning becomes clear and intensely significant as the audience – and critics alike – find themselves transformed by her play about U’Dean, a woman on a painful yet sometimes funny journey from sexual abuse to self-esteem.
René also is a woman of great strength and humour who walked a similar journey. Married at 18, a mother of two by 23 and a Jehovah’s Witness, she only occasionally sang. When her husband of 23 years issued an ultimatum to stop singing or leave, she chose music over the turbulent marriage and self-released her debut Renaissance in 1998 and toured as Ella Fitzgerald in a regional play. She began experiencing a whirlwind of success rarely seen in the jazz world, winning over critics; receiving awards such as the Best International Jazz Vocal CD (besting Cassandra Wilson and Joni Mitchell) by France’s Academie Du Jazz; gracing the Billboard charts multiple times; and becoming a headliner at major international festivals. A gifted songwriter, her previous Motéma release, Black Lace Freudian Slip, features blues-heavy originals. Her label debut, Voice of My Beautiful Country, is an ambitious celebration of Americana and a striking display of her incredible ability to forge connections between songs most would never think to merge.
For René Marie, success means shining attention on important issues in America and on bold artists like Eartha Kitt who helped change America’s landscape for the better. René has become one of those bold artists. It’s hard to believe it all started after she turned 40.
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