Angela Bofill’s incredible journey
Known for her chart-topping hits “I Try,” “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” and “I’m On Your Side,” Angela Bofill’s three-octave range was silenced when she suffered a massive stroke in 2006 and a second one in 2007. Since her strokes, Bofill has worked very diligently in re-learning how to walk and speak again (albeit with a cane), but “the voice” has yet to return. Since the summer of 2010, Angela Bofill has returned to her love of music with “The Angela Bofill Experience.”
When asked about how to describe the show, her manager Rich Engle said, “ ‘The Angela Bofill Experience’ is a narrative and multimedia presentation of the songs most relevant to her career. It begins with video footage of her jammin’ days in Central Park, and is peppered with footage of her appearances on The American Music Awards (with Michael Jackson), ‘The Tonight Show,’ and ‘Soul Train.’ ”
I had the opportunity to interview Bofill about her shows last weekend at Scullers Jazz Club. In a halting voice, she very willingly and very honestly answered my questions.
How did “The Angela Bofill Experience” come about?
The idea came from my manager Rich Engel after a benefit concert for me. I met a singer [called] Maysa in Detroit and the first show was in San Francisco at the Rrazz room in July 2010. The dates kept coming.
How do you feel about Maysa performing your songs and singing your words?
I enjoy seeing Maysa performing my music. I enjoy seeing the show every night.
How were you discovered?
I began singing at 4 years of age and professionally at 16. I have a bachelor’s [degree] from the Manhattan School of Music. I performed in chorus gigs with fellow musicians who were singing around my age. Dave Valentin and Ricardo Marrero. Valentin was the one who introduced me to GRP [a record label in the late 1970s]. My mother gave me piano lessons around 12 and I began composing music at 17 years. Then GRP released my first album in 1978 and Clive Davis later bought out my contract and I went to Arista.
Who were your musical influences growing up in the Bronx?
All of Motown, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and later Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.
Growing up in a household that was both Cuban and Puerto Rican, were you influenced by the music of Celia Cruz or Tito Puente?
Celia Cruz played all the time in my house as well as Tito Puente.
How was it performing with Tito Puente?
I pinched myself … once performed with Celia Cruz in Chicago. I was speechless. Celia Cruz is a Latin diva. I met all of my favorite singers … Diana Ross. In 1984 I presented Michael Jackson an American Music Award. Exciting. One time Denzel Washington came to my show and he said, “You’re my favorite singer.” The embarrassing thing was that I didn’t know who he was. My assistant almost fainted.
How does it feel to be performing again after suffering two strokes in 2006 and 2007?
Very emotional … I’m glad I’m not dead yet. The stroke affected me greatly … movement, speech. I wish I could sing again. It’s a lesson in patience.