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Joan Osborne Biography

Last updated: 02/19/2013 03:07:51 PM

b. 8 July 1962, Anchorage, Kentucky, USA. The 90s rock singer Joan Osborne began her singing career one evening at the Abilene blues bar in New York, USA. Prompted by several drinks, she took the stage at 3 am as a dare and sang Billie Holiday 's 'God Bless The Child'. The resident pianist at the club encouraged her to attend the bar's regular open-microphone nights. Although a reluctant performer at first, she soon learned to enjoy these opportunities, building a solid reputation in the New York area. The live album Soul Show was released on her own Womanly Hips Records in 1991 and an EP, Blue Million Miles, followed in 1993.

Later that year she became the first signing to Blue Gorilla, a new label set up by Rick Chertoff, senior vice-president of PolyGram Records. However, before the deal was completed, Chertoff invited Osborne to take part in writing workshops in Katonah, New York, alongside a variety of musicians. It was here that the band who appeared on her major label debut formed. Relish featured Rob Hyman (keyboards), Eric Bazilian (guitar, ex- Hooters ), Charlie Quintana (drums; also of Cracker ) and Rainy Orteca (bass). Bazilian wrote the infectious US Top 5 single 'One Of Us'.

This simple song, which combined Neil Young -style guitar with a plaintive vocal, featured a thought-provoking lyric built around the refrain of 'what if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home'. Osborne's own songwriting was helped by a workshop given by Doc Pomus, explaining the rootsy nature of much of her work which owes more to blues and R&B than to 90s rock music. The album also included two songs, 'Help Me' and 'Crazy Baby', originally included on Soul Show.

Following the success of 'One Of Us', Relish received strong reviews from Rolling Stone, the New York Times and the New Yorker, the latter describing Osborne as 'one of the most distinct voices in rock'. Two television appearances on the Late Show With David Letterman, and national tours, during which she invited pro-life organizations to put their case to her audience, increased her profile throughout 1995. In 1996, 'One Of Us' found its way to the UK and was a Top 10 hit.

It is hoped that media attention and radio saturation does not lessen the quality of her work. Both Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette received too much adulation too soon, and quickly became part of the establishment. Osborne does not deserve the same fate. While recording the follow-up to Relish, Osborne toured with Lilith Fair and, in 1999, contributed 'Baby Love' to the For Love Of The Game soundtrack.