Don’t feel sorry for Angela Bofill. That is the message you get in the July 2 episode of TV One’s new season of “Unsung.” The statuesque New York-born Latina diva is credited as one of the singers who created the Quiet Storm movement. Despite two devastating strokes in January 2006 and July 2007, Bofill says she’s never been happier. Though the stroke has affected her speech, walk and voice, Bofill laughs heartily recounting her past as a singer and songwriter as well as the joy she finds in her life now.
“I’ve never been happier,” Bofill says. She lives in L.A. with her younger sister who helps take care of her, and her daughter is five minutes away. Her grandson, she says, is the joy of her life. “I can chill out now. Before it was madness every week – running, running and never a break. I prayed to God that I needed a break and he literally answered me with a stroke. Boom! Next time I’ll be more specific and ask for a break in Jamaica,” she laughs.
Bofill, now 58, credits the Louise Hay book “You Can Heal Your Life” with giving her positive affirmations that she says every day, as well as a tenacious spirit and gratitude for life that wouldn’t let her give up. In her “Unsung,” which features interviews with producer Narada Michael Walden who worked on several album projects with her, her ex-husband, daughter and sister, among others, Bofill paints a picture of a life lived around her passion for music. She combined jazz and Latin rhythms with a rich voice that combined emotional intensity with pitch-perfect vocals. Bofill was also a composer, writing songs like “Under the Moon and Over the Sky” and her signature hit “I Try” written when she was only 17.
Her romantic classic “I Try” was inspired by her love affair with drummer Buddy Williams who she says remains a friend. “Teenage angst,” she laughs. “When I was a teenager I loved deep, real deep, but now I laugh about it,” she says. Williams even played on the now-famous track.
Bofill didn’t leave anything out of her “Unsung” – she says she spent most of her life living in a fishbowl and that her life was an “open book.” Though she initially hadn’t seen an “Unsung” episode because she doesn’t have TV One, she says once she saw the show she was intrigued. “It was important to tell my story to maybe help out other stroke survivors,” she says.
Bofill, the first singer of Latin background to cross over into the R&B ranks says that she’s proud of the legacy she’s left for those that came behind her – Latina singers like Jennifer Lopez, who she’s a fan of, Lisa Lisa, Brenda K. Starr (credited with discovering Mariah Carey) and jazz/R&B artists from Anita Baker to Chrisette Michele.
“I developed a style because composing defined my style. My daughter had an app – I have a dumb phone, my daughter has a smart phone – but on the Angela Bofill channel on Pandora, I turn it on and all this great music is on in a similar genre as me, like Anita Baker and the smooth jazz and the Quiet Storm. Wow, I’m responsible for all of that. I’m a pioneer.”
Still, Bofill says her most memorable accomplishment in music was not the many fantastic songs she composed or any accolades she received, but presenting an award to Michael Jackson at the American Music Awards in 1984. “I was a big fan!”
Bofill says she’d like to sing again, but the stroke has made her once flawless pitch unsteady. Instead, she’s participated in “The Angela Bofill Experience” a live show where singers like Melba Moore and Maysa (formerly of Incognito) sing her songs and pay homage to her body of work with Bofill recounting some highlights of her career. Reviewer A. Scott Galloway says the show was both poignant and heartfelt. Bofill and the vocalists will do it again in New York City in October. (Dates are posted at www.angelabofill.com)
“I want to sing again,” she says. “ I think one day, maybe next year, I’m expecting a complete recovery. I’ll never give up. “
“Angela Bofill: Unsung” airs on TV One on July 2 at 9 p.m. Here’s the schedule for this season’s episodes:
June 25 – Sly and the Family Stone
July 2 – Angela Bofill
July 9 – Con Funk Shun
July 16 – Kool Moe Dee
July 23 – The Marvelettes
July 30 – Gerald Levert
Aug 13 – Arrested Development
Aug 20 – Lou Rawls