A consummated actress, entertainer, and vocalist are a few of the creative attributes that describe and are possessed by Ann Nesby.
With a career spanning over two decades she has worked alongside a who’s who list of incomparable talents in the world of theater, film, and music.
Synonymous with creative artistic consistency, Nesby launched her professional career in the early 1980s working with the likes of Rev. James Cleveland and the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) to her first major off Broadway production, Sing Hallelujah under the direction of the incomparable Grammy award winning artist/producer Donald Lawrence.
At the close of the 1980s Nesby joined the Minneapolis based inspirational soul ensemble the Sounds of Blackness. Eventually becoming the lead vocalist to the emerging group under the auspices of music industry icons Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Nesby’s vocal dexterity and songwriting aptitude garnered the group a bevy of hit singles and an international prominence; the group with Nesby on lead vocals garnered two Grammy award wins in 1991 and 1993. Establishing herself as beyond quintessential Nesby worked alongside international superstar STING on the 1993 title track “Demolition Man” for the blockbuster film of the same title featuring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. By the mid-90s the Sounds of Blackness had amassed awards, international recognition, and critical acclaim, climbing the ranks from a onetime local music group to launching their first major tour with R&B crooner Luther Vandross to performing to an international audience by 1994 for the FIFA World Cup.
Nesby’s star power and creativity continued to rise and under the direction of Jam & Lewis she penned hit songs for R&B/Soul divas Gladys Knight (“Home Alone” from Knight’s chart topping 1994 ‘Just For You’ album) and the “The Right Kinda Lover” and “Someone Like You” from Patti Labelle’s respective top selling 1994 ‘Gems’ and the 1997 ‘Flame’ albums prior to her departure from the Sounds of Blackness and the release of her 1996 solo album ‘I’m Here For You.’ Nesby’s debut album blended her love of storytelling through song and wove a beautiful musical tapestry of R&B, Gospel, and Dance music, the album spent an impressive 60 weeks atop the R&B best selling album lists.
Returning to her other love of theater, Nesby began a production with then emerging playwright Tyler Perry in his first stage play ‘I Know I’ve Been Changed.’ Initially meant to be short run Nesby headlined the stage play alongside the likes of Perry and Gospel singing sensations Lashun Pace and Latrice Pace from 1998 through 2000.
Entering the 21st century Nesby continued to build upon the foundation of her artistic creativity as the music industry shifted at the beginning of the decade. With the release of her first Dance anthology, ‘The Dance Essentials’ on her independent record label It’s Time Child Records in 2001. The album showcased a few of Nesby’s top charting single remixes – “Love is What We Need,” “Lovin’ Is Really My Game,” “Can I Get a Witness,” to “Hold On” with production by some of the world’s most noted DJ’s and producers from around the globe – Mousse T, DJ Mijangos, Steve “Silk” Hurley, and Thunderpuss to name a few.
With the release of her sophomore album, ‘Put It On Paper’ Nesby returned to the top of the R&B charts with the album’s lead single “Put It On Paper” featuring the Rev. Al Green yielded Nesby her first solo Grammy Nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance in 2003, solidifying her as a force to be reckoned with.
Making her motion picture debut, Nesby scored the supporting role of Aunt Sally Walker in the 2003 musical comedy The Fighting Temptations opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyonce Knowles. That same year she returned musically with the release of her third album, the inspirational treasure chest of urban grooves entitled ‘Make Me Better.’ Despite modest promotion or radio support the album garnered Nesby yet another Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance in 2004. A year later she was nominated once more for a Grammy, Best Gospel Performance for her work on ‘The Fighting Temptations Soundtrack’ for the duet “The Stone” with Gospel legend Shirley Caesar.
Suffering a health scare in 2005, congestive heart failure, due to the rigors of extensive touring, poor diet, and weigh issues, Nesby shed over 100 lbs, regaining control of her health and new image. By 2006 Nesby continued to diversify her range as a recording artist with the release of her first traditional Gospel release ‘In The Spirit,’ which showcased the raw power and depth of her soul, as well as her range as an elite vocalist. As a treat to fans in the early 2007 she released the ‘Ann Nesby the Best of Live’ CD/DVD, the musical/video collage showcased Nesby’s diverse repertoire of music encompassing the previous 20 years of her career–from Sounds Of Blackness through her solo recordings. The accompanying DVD video provided fans a first glimpse of the new slim and trim Ann Nesby.
Appeasing her R&B fans Nesby released the critically acclaimed 2007 album, ‘This Is Love,’ spawned Nesby yet another Grammy nominated single, “I Apologize.” Returning to the musical forefront two years later with the release of ‘The Lula Lee Project,’ a hybrid blend of funky up-tempo contemporary and soulful Gospel and inspirational songs aimed at showcasing the edgier side of her artistry, Nesby once again proved a vocal and songwriting force to be reckoned with. Collaborating with creatively eccentric Gospel artist Tonex, Nesby’s lead single “I Found a Place” positioned the album to peak at #13 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album Chart and # 57 on the Top R&B/ Hip-Hop Album Chart.
Rounding out an impressive musical repertoire and catalog, she released her first ever holiday album in 2009, ‘Soulful Christmas,’ where she revisited classic holiday tunes “Silent Night,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” to Nesby’s signature holiday hit single “Soul Holiday,” featuring Big Jim Wright and was featured as the musical backdrop of one of the poignant scenes in the critically acclaimed Lee Daniel’s film Precious in 2009.
With a career total of two Grammy wins with the Sounds of Blackness, Nesby has amassed an impressive six Grammy nominations as a solo artist since her 1996 solo debut album; the latest for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocal for her duet with R&B crooner Calvin Richardson for the classic cover of Bobby Womack’s “Love Has Finally Come at Last” (from Richardson’s latest album ‘Facts Of Life – The Soul Of Bobby Womack’ and a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance “Sow Love” from Nesby’s 2009 release ‘The Lula Lee Project.’
American Idol’s Randy Jackson refers to Nesby as, “One of the best singers in the known world.” Acclaimed by her peers and fans around the world for her down to earth spirit she has successfully chartered the waters of music, theater, and film. With each song she sings and each new role she undertakes – Ann Nesby personifies creative longevity unlike no other.