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W R A p p e d A R o u n d L ov e
By Ruth Adkins RoBinson
low slung sports car suddenly pulled out of Los Angeles traffic and over to the curb; comedian actor/songwriter Tommy Davidson bounded out of the car. His target was a young man walking down the street. “Eric, man hold up!” Eric Benét was soon enveloped in Davidson’s high energy and laughing at the comedian’s take on life in general. Then Davidson turned serious: “I just wanted to tell you, man that I just heard the single and I can’t wait for the album. I don’t know if people know how deep and extra talented you are. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.”
A few hilarious moments later Davidson was back in his car and off, but the point had been made that Davidson, like so many of the cadre of his fans, appreciates Benét’s serious, solid, career-deep talent. He attracts attention, even on an innocent walk down the street. The stares of the women passing reinforce Benét’s much-appreciated chiseled looks and sex appeal. He smiles back, well manned and gracious always. But believe it, this man has always been way more than just another pretty face singing pretty tunes. He’s always been an artist on the cutting edge of contemporary R&B and Urban Soul. He has done it again, with the new product from Warner Bros/Reprise, entitled Love & Life (which by the way Tommy D, hits the streets on September 9). In it Benét provides a multilayered look into his own identity. This has been an ongoing theme in all of Benét’s work. If you string his entire recorded product together, or examine them individually, you are going to know where he is in his life’s journey. He spills it all out there, wrapped sometimes in the sweet tendrils of love. At times, however, life has not been quite so sweet. A picture emerges of a man tested a great deal –in Life, in Love and in Music. The musical part of the equation began back in his hometown of Milwaukee. His police detective dad loved classical music and fostered his children’s interest in music. Young Eric got into Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye. His mother would also sing around the house. Eric would sing at church and in school plays or musicals. There were several group incarnations, including one comprised of the then teenage singer, his sister and cousin. The group signed with Capitol and released Benét in 1992, but the album was largely unnoticed. PAGE

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He then pushed on into the music as a solo artist and released his debut album True to Myself in the fall of 1996. His breakout album came with A Day in the Life 1999 and its first single, a cover of Toto’s “Georgy Porgy,” did pretty well at radio, but things really blew up with the album’s second single “Spend My Life With You” (featuring Tamia) which became a chart smash. “Spend My Life With You” went to number one on the R&B charts and was certified gold. A Day In the Life went on to earn a Soul Train Music Award for “Best R&B/Soul Album Male” and also was nominated for a 2000 Grammy Award for “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.” During this time, Benét headed into the studio to work on Earth, Wind & Fire’s 30th anniversary, which was very much like a dream for him since he’d been a fan since childhood. Five years later came Hurricane, which broke new stylistic ground for the artist, and also tapped deeper into his ongoing theme of exploring his own humanity. At the time, Benét was creating music capturing “different stages of a long and difficult journey,” Benét explains. “Along the way, I felt all kinds of things – hope and despair, anger and remorse – and it’s that range that I’ve tried to capture on this album. But, in the end, it’s about more than just me. It’s about the human condition, about how we all find ourselves in dark times and about how we can find our way out again.” Overall, Benét felt it was a great experience, as he got a chance to work with the talented ultra-Grammy winning producer David Foster who produced a lot of the album tracks and also Tim Blixseth, who ultimately signed Benét to his label, Friday Records. His solid relationship with Foster created an interesting incident recently. Benét was attending a Foster concert and there was, as usual, a long list of superstar singers participating. Suddenly Foster announced to the crowd that Benét was in the audience; that announcement was complete with all the praise Foster feels about Benét’s talent. At Foster’s urging, Benét got up and sang just a bit of one of the songs from the new album. It’s one of the cuts destined to be a smash single called “Chocolate Legs.” Understand now, it was barely the refrain of the song that was performed, but to Benét’s utter astonishment, Foster continued to play his song and the audience continued to sing along. According to his official bio “Chocolate Legs” is “a telling homage to the power that a woman provides for her man by simply wrapping herself around him.” But that audience reaction proved to Benét that “whatever the color of your legs,” people get it. It’s a fun song to sing and clearly a fun song to sing with. “Chocolate Legs” is evidence that Benét seems on the other side of the stormy weather that clouded his life and music for a while. On Love & Life he lays out a man’s responses to life’s situations. Sometimes those reactions are visceral, sometimes emotional, often physical, but for Benét, always a true depiction of what he’s been through in his own life. Right now he seems a happy man, he’s more relaxed and perhaps more intent on letting the world know he wants them to understand. Overall, Love & Life reflects his confidence and approach to happy living. “There’s an energy and feeling that you get from the whole record. The journey is mine, but there’s no one who can’t relate.” For this album, he again joined forces with his long time production partner Demonte Posey and writer/producer/cousin

George Nash, Jr., writing on all 12 of the cuts. The first single-heard and enthusiastically appreciated by Tommy D-is “You’re the Only One.” His message here is that time will determine whether a love is meant to be or not. Most of the other elements on the album are insights into his current feelings about…well…Life and Love. “Iminluvwichoo” is a dance jam filled with energy and features Hungarian vocalist Linda Kiraly. This song is about how much fun it can be to be in love. There’s a bit of an 80’s feel to this groove. Another decade is captured in “Don’t Let Go,” with its 90’s R&B flow. This cut encourages a look at what love can become if the two hold on and explore what might happen. But, Eric being Eric, there has to be the sexual groove happening. It’s there on “The Hunger,” and it’s clear what hunger is fueling the appetite. Benét describes it as “that physical attraction where you just can’t get enough of their essence, their body. I cannot be satiated. I just want more. That part where you can’t go home yet, the straight, raw hunger.” Benét might get into a tad of trouble with his title of “Spanish Fly” but hastens to explain this is “not about a chemical aphrodisiac, it’s all about some Latin pimp trying to talk his way in.” The conversation is fueled by the Latin rhythms and horns. As far as Life’s tests for Benét, there has been birth, death, divorce and triumph. In any conversation with Eric, the subject is eventually going to come around to his daughter, India, born in ’92, to Eric and his girlfriend Tami Stauff. Sadly in ’95, Tami was killed in an automobile accident, and Benét became a single father. “He relishes his role and delighted in being a dad from the very moment his daughter was born. One of the songs on the album was written when India was born. “One More Tomorrow” is a tribute to her birth and the way he feels about her today. “If I had only one day left on earth, there is no one else on earth I’d rather spend it with than India.” He credits her as a stabilizing force in his life. “There are so many things that I’ve done where I was thinking let me do what’s best for her, and, had she had not been there, I may have taken the wrong path on many occasions. As a single parent, there was no other way than to keep it together for India.” Benét says he’s kind of a dork around her and is constantly learning from her. “We’ve been through so much together and it’s made us both stronger. As much as anything, this music is a gift, an expression of my love for her and my respect for who she’s becoming.” Who she’s becoming these days is an accomplished singer. She has even sung ‘a little’ with her father. No doubt there’s more to come. There are new avenues for Benét as well. He’s made a few forays into acting and is very seriously working on a film script. He loves it! The passion about it all comes through in his voice. There seems to be no doubt –from “Chocolate Legs” to film complexities, Eric Benét seems wrapped around love.

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