A compelling force on the contemporary R&B music scene, singer-songwriter Regina Belle has combined her deep roots in Gospel music with her education in jazz and opera to trademark an artistic and soulful performance style.
The Young Musician
Regina Bell was born in 1963 and grew up in New Jersey. She was introduced to music at a young age, and performed in choir at Englewood’s Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Regina studied trombone, tuba, and steel drums, and won a school contest at the age of 12, when she performed The Emotions hit, “Don’t Ask My Neighbors.” When New York radio DJ Vaughn Harper discovered Regina, he introduced her to R&B group The Manhattans, and she quickly forged a deal to debut as their opening act. In 1986, Regina Belle and The Manhattans recorded the duet, “Where Did We Go Wrong,” which garnered the attention of Columbia Records.
Regina’s R&B Career Soars
After signing with Columbia, Regina Belle embarked on her career as an R&B recording artist. Her debut album, All By Myself, was released in 1987. The album produced two hit singles, “Show Me the Way” and “So Many Tears,” and quickly set Regina on the road to success. The singer-songwriter released her second R&B album, Stay With Me on the Columbia Records label in 1989. The album featured the hits, “Make It Like It Was” and “Baby Come to Me,” which received a nomination for Best R&B/Soul Single-Female at the 1990 Soul Train Music Awards.
Regina’s career gained additional strength in 1991 when she teamed with Johnny Mathis for the duet, “Better Together.” She collaborated with Peabo Bryson the following year on the songs, “Without You,” “I Can’t Imagine,” and “A Whole New World,” which ultimately became the featured song for the soundtrack to the 1992 Disney movie, Aladdin. “A Whole New World” reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It went on to win the 1993 Academy Award for Best Song, and the Grammy Award for Best Pop Perormance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
1993 was an outstanding year in Regina Belle’s career. She released her third album, Passion, which eventually went platinum in sales. The album featured her hit duet, “A Whole New World,” in addition to “If I Could,” which peaked at #9 on the Billboard R&B charts. She followed with her fourth and fifth albums – Reachin’ Back in 1995, and Believe in Me in 1998.
A Return to Jazz and Gospel
In 2001, Regina Belle recorded a cover of Grover Washington’s jazz hit, “Just the Two of Us” for the Jason Miles tribute album, To Grover, With Love. The song returned to Billboard charts, and Regina quickly signed with Peak-Concord, an independent jazz label. Under Peak-Concord, she revisited her jazz routes, and released a sixth album, This Is Regina! On the album, she covered Rose Royce’s original single, “Ooh Boy,” which peaked at #19 on US Dance Charts.
Three years later, Regina recorded Lazy Afternoon, a tribute album covering jazz standards. The album featured several jazz classics including Tony Bennett’s 1965 hit, “If I Ruled the World” and the “Fly Me To The Moon”, made famous by Kaye Ballard and Frank Sinatra. Regina worked together with smooth jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor on his 2007 album, Ladies Choice, and in 2008, she released a debut gospel album, Love Forever Shines.
In May of 2015, Regina Belle achieved a lifelong goal when she received her undergraduate degree in Africana studies with a minor in music from Rutgers University. She had attended Rutgers University in the 1980s, but left her studies during her senior year to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. Regina also performed at Rutgers University’s inaugural School of Arts and Sciences Convocation.
Regina’s Faith-Based Life
Regina’s health perilously suffered in 2009, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She underwent a series of surgeries to remove the tumor, which left her deaf in one ear. While her hope was tested during this trying period of her life, Regina maintained her deep faith in the word of God. She underwent a lengthy treatment program and ultimately recovered. In 2012, Regina Belle released her second gospel album, HIGHER, which was recorded as a vehicle for bringing people closer to God.
Regina Belle has recently partnered with The Links, Inc. and AARP’s Life@50+ Tour, designed to bring awareness and great music. She has also participated in the NAACP’s National Conventions and Prayer Breakfasts. Regina is scheduled to perform with an all-star lineup in March of 2016 on Holland America’s The Gospel Music Cruise. Since 2007, Regina and her husband, Pastor John Battle, have remained deeply involved in ministry at New Shield of Faith, a spiritual growth and worship center based in Atlanta Georgia.
Regina Belle was recognized along with R&B legends Little Anthony, Millie Jackson, Michael Henderson, Kathy Sledge, James D Train Williams, and DJ’s Tom Moulton and Felix Hernandez in September 2015 by The National Rhythm and Blues Music Society at their annual Black Tie Gala Dinner & Awards Ceremony.
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