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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Jeutyn, Alaska, USA
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (cancer)

Mini Bio (1)

70s soul singer. Tasha's father was a chemist with the Atomic Energy Commission and her mother a Pentecostal minister. Music played an important part in Tasha's formative years, singing and playing the organ at her mother's church. By her teen years she knew she wanted to make music her life's passion. She left home at age 16 and traveled about until ending up in New York City. There she again found a church for guidance and a spiritual environment to sing. When her church choir was asked to record on Louis Armstrong's final album, "What a Wonderful World", Tasha suddenly opened to the idea of expanding her repertoire to include secular music.

Tasha broke through as a background vocalist and, between the years 1970 to 1978, sang on over 100 albums, including Stevie Wonder's classic "Innervision". Her rich, vocals ignited the backgrounds of various singing icons ranging from the pop stylings of Petula Clark, Jim Croce , Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon and Cat Stevens, to the jazzier groove of B.B. King, Little Esther Phillips and Grover Washington Jr.. She also made a minor Broadway debut as a singer/dancer in "The Selling of the President" in 1972 starring Pat Hingle, Barbara Barrie and Karen Morrow, which closed after only five performances.

Tasha grew to become a semi-name in prominent jazz clubs in and around New York's uptown circuit. Her biggest break, however, came on the Broadway musical stage when she answered an open casting call for black performers and won the role of "Aunt Em" (she was only 24!) for the upcoming Broadway-bound musical "The Wiz". A hip, soulful re-telling of the classic "Wizard of Oz" story, the 1975 hit show opens with Tasha's heartfelt rendition of "The Feeling We Once Had," which garnered praise and stellar reviews. The show, which featured another jazz artist Dee Dee Bridgewater (as "Glinda") and made a star out of vibrant young vocalist Stephanie Anne Mills (as Dorothy), ran for 1,672 performances. Tasha also understudied the part of the wicked Evillene character played by Mabel King before leaving the show.

In 1978, the disco era was in full tilt. Based on her distinctive vocal stylings and (now) Broadway name, Tasha managed to sign with Orbit Records and released the dance club single "Shoot Me (With Your Love)" which was promoted by Atlantic Records. Her solo album "Midnight Rendezvous", in which she provided her own background vocals, came out the following year. Two other disco-flavored semi-hits resulted with the release of her album -- "Hot Buttered Boogie" and "Street Fever". During this peak she performed on a number of TV music-based programs ("The Merv Griffin Show", "Dance Fever").

On an interesting note, the ill-conceived film version of The Wiz (1978) came out during this time. Once they decided to replace the wondrous innocence of Stephanie Anne Mills with an adult neurotic version in the form of Diana Ross (who at 34 years sorely lacked the powerhouse voice needed for the role), Tasha was not even considered as Ross was already a good 6 years older. Matronly-looking Theresa Merritt, who took over the part of Evillene earlier on Broadway, played Aunt Em. In retrospect, it was probably a blessing as the film was a critical and commercial bomb.

By the time Tasha was dropped from Atlantic, the disco-era had worn out its welcome and the forward momentum of her career suddenly shifted backwards. She returned gamely to her old stomping grounds of background singing while awaiting her next break. A second album never came to be. In 1980 she provided choral arrangements for the short-lived Broadway musical "It's So Nice to Be Civilized".

In the early 1980s, the 30+ year-old Tasha was tragically diagnosed with cancer. After a courageous battle, she succumbed to the disease on November 8, 1984 at age 34. As in the case of singer Minnie Riperton, whose early death from breast cancer in 1979 was a similar heartbreak, there is no telling how far this gifted performer could have gone -- as an actress as well as jazz/pop/soul singer. Thankfully, Tasha's couple of dance tunes and especially her touching vocals on the original Broadway album of "The Wiz" remain for us to ponder...and cherish.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

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