She is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, actress and international performer, whose list of credits is a testament to her desire to meet new challenges and create new opportunities. With five decades as a recording artist, 20 something albums and a Grammy, Thelma Houston can proudly look back at a career very rich in achievement.
In the late summer of 2002, Thelma torn it up on the streets of New York City, on NBC’s "Today Show’s Concert In the Park" series. Thelma was proud to be asked to be part of VH1’s hot new music series (which has been running extensively) hosted by William Shatner, where she was interviewed extensively about her career. This summer she starred in the play "Big Otis’s Jump Up Blues Revue” which was presented by Tony award winning director ("Smokey Joe’s Cafe") Otis Sallid. The play received such an amazing response that their’s talk that it might be taken directly to Broadway.
In Oct. 2002, Thelma was asked to guest star in the Prime time ABC show called "The Disco Ball" which celebrates 30 years of Disco. The show was a two hour special, shown in January 2003, and directly benefited (one of Thelma’s favorite organizations) Aids Project Los Angeles. The day after this special was taped, Thelma was personally asked (because of the amazing standing ovation generated from her appearance on the “Disco Ball” taping) by producer Ken Erlich to be a part of the “Motown Christmas special.” Thelma was joined by Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Take 6 and Brian McNight. Needless to say, her appearance at the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards) brought down the house and she received a standing ovation.
In November 2002 Thelma headlined “Devine Design” for Project Angel Food. This very exciting night ended up raising one million dollars to feed home bound people with AIDS. In December, Thelma taped a PBS special with Aretha Franklin and Mary Wilson called, “Love, Rhythm & Blues” which will air nationally, sometime in the spring. The end of 2002 brought a “very special appearance” by Thelma at “Harrah’s on the Las Vegas strip. In January 2003 Thelma taped five episodes of the syndicated hit game show “Family Feud.” Thelma ended up raising close to five thousand dollars for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. In January, Thelma taped several episodes of the hit syndicated hit game show called “The Pyramid” with Donny Osmond. She also received a "Proclaimination" (for all of her AIDS charity work) from the mayor, announcing that Wednesday, Jan. 29th 2003 was officially "Thelma Houston Day" in the City of West Hollywood.
In the '90's alone, Thelma's busy schedule has included a whirlwind of recording, film, television and songwriting activities and constant performances literally around the globe. She appeared in Oprah Winfrey's highly-acclaimed 1998 movie, "Beloved" and towards the end of that year, was honored to be a big part of a special stage show called "The British Rock Symphony" (in Australia) where she appeared with a 30-piece orchestra paying tribute to the legends of British pop and rock. Her late '98 month-long Australian engagement as part of the "British Rock Symphony" (with Eric Burdon) showcased Thelma's stunning versions of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday," a reminder that her sizzling cover of the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was featured on her very first album "Sunshower." Thelma also recorded three cuts for the show's cast album (featuring Roger Daltry, Paul Rogers and Ann Wilson of Heart among others) which was released worldwide by Point Music/PolyGram. The show to toured all major European markets to great acclaim at the end of 1999.
What Thelma Houston loves to do is share her natural gift which she's been doing as long as she can remember. "I've been singing since I was three," says the Mississippi-born native who moved to Long Beach, California when she was ten. " My baby-sitter, who was also the piano player at our church would play hymns and I'd sing them. After that I started singing in church myself and anywhere else I could!" Like so many other great performers who began their musical journey in church, Thelma's obvious vocal talent resulted in an early recording career in gospel music with the renowned gospel group, the Art Reynolds Singers. She soon realized that it was time to launching her own career in pop and R&B in the late '60s. Her first album, "Sunshower" was produced by legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb and was hailed by critics and music fans alike as a triumphant debut from a rising new star. Thelma's breakthrough into mainstream recognition and international acceptance came after she signed with Motown Records in the '70's. After recording the theme for the hit Richard Pryor/Billy Dee Williams movie, "The Bingo Long All Stars,” Thelma hit the top of the pop, R&B and dance charts with her high-powered rendition of "Don't Leave Me This Way" (originally recorded by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes). A gold single, the now-classic song gave Thelma the distinction of being the first solo female artist at Motown to win a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Female Vocal Performance" in 1977 that launched her on a musical journey that has never stopped.
Known for her emotive style and passionate delivery, Thelma showed her musical versatility with the jazz-flavored "If It's The Last Thing I Do," a Top 20 R&B hit in 1977, she then recorded several albums with soul legend Jerry Butler at Motown before scoring further success at RCA and MCA records in the '80s. It was at MCA that she gave then-fledgling producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis one of their first Top 20 R&B hits with the dance jam "You Used To Hold Me So Tight." Thelma then ended the decade with a rousing gospel-flavored version of Bill Withers' "Lean On Me," recorded with The Winans and featured in the hit movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman.
Continuing to display her many talents, Thelma co-wrote "Be Yourself," the title track for Patti LaBelle's 1989 hit album. Her burgeoning skills as an actress first became apparent in the '70s and her resume includes "Death Scream", "The Seventh Dwarf" and most recently, a remake of "And God Created Woman" which also starred Rebecca DeMornay. Her music has been heard in a number of hit films such as "Thank God It's Friday", "Looking For Mr. Goodbar", "Norman, Is That You?"
Thelma's numerous television credits include guest parts on "Cagney & Lacey", "Simon & Simon" and "Fairy Tale Theater." In 1998 she also performed in the initial workshop for "The Legend," Debbie Allen's adaptation of Ibsen's "Pier Gynt," with music by James Ingram, which also starred Hinton Battle and Jasmine Guy among others. She also co-wrote a song ("The Night I Fly") for the disco film “54.”
Known as a humanitarian for her ongoing support for a variety of charitable causes and most specifically for her tireless efforts in the battle against AIDS, Thelma participated in a special benefit in 1994 at New York's Algonquin Hotel with other major female artists, Phoebe Snow, Chaka Khan Mavis Staples and CeCe Peniston under the banner of "Sisters of Glory." The show was so electrifying that Thelma and the other members created a singing group where they performed traditional gospel songs. An invitation to perform at The Vatican for The Pope followed in 1995 and then were invited to sing at the “Return to Woodstock” concert as well. That year Thelma participated with Snow, Peniston and gospel great Albertina Walker on the Warner Brothers album titled, "Good News in Hard Times."
Aside from her own Reprise album, "Throw You Down," Thelma's recording activities has included guest appearances with guitarist Scott Henderson on his 1997 CD "Tore Down House" (for Atlantic) and guitarist Eric Henderson on his JVC CD "Faces," also in 1997. Thelma can also be heard on the soundtrack for the film "Into The Night" and recorded in the UK with well-known producer Joey Negro in 1996.
Thelma does a great deal of globe trotting, and has performed recently in Switzerland, Indonesia, France, Chile, Singapore and Malaysia as well as appearing at private parties, corporate conventions, major concert venues and nightclubs throughout the U.S. where she averages 275 shows per year. Thelma's appeared with many of the top names in the world of entertainment including the late Sammy Davis Jr., Lou Rawls, Neil Sedaka, Engelbert Humperdink, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and The Four Tops.
The year 2000 found Thelma Houston back in Australia starring in the Broadway musical "Fame." Rave reviews and SRO crowds from Sydney to Perth kept Thelma in Australia for the better part of 12 months firmly establishing Thelma's reputation as a legitimate stage actress. This experience provided Thelma a platform that she would like to pursue in future theatrical productions. Thelma is lucky to tour constantly throughout the U.S. and the world, performing to sold-out audiences, and sharing the stage with music artists like Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn 'Champagne' King and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Thelma Houston has traveled a long way since her first album and she shows no signs of slowing down. "I have so many things I want to do," she says with typical enthusiasm and energy. "I would really like to do a CD of original “dance music” because the fans of that music have been so loyal to me over the years. I'd also like to do a jazz album and a gospel album to remind people of my musical roots. There is still so much for me to do and to be honest, I just didn't think I'd be doing all of this for so long.” Whether she's appearing in Mexico City, Tokyo, Las Vegas or London, Thelma Houston has brought audiences to their feet with her dynamic, energetic stage show. The ever-soulful song stress is enjoying every moment of her ongoing career: "I still feel a tremendous excitement about performing," says an upbeat Houston. "It's such a part of me, something I have to do! I used to see success in a whole different light but, you know what? I’m really blessed because I don’t ever stop working and I truly love what I do!"
“I'm very grateful, and I can truly say that I appreciate my career now more than ever. Sometimes it feels like I’m just getting started."