Jennifer Yvette Holliday (born October 19, 1960) is an American singer and actress. She started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls (1981–83), Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (1980–81) and later became a successful recording artist. She is best known for her debut single, the Dreamgirls number and rhythm-and-blues/pop hit, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", for which she won a Grammy in 1983. She also won a 1982 Tony Award for Dreamgirls.
|Birth name||Jennifer Yvette Holliday|
|Born||October 19, 1960|
|Origin||Houston, Texas, U.S.|
Holliday landed her first big role on Broadway in 1979 at age 18, the same day she auditioned for the Broadway production of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God. Her performance in that musical earned her a 1981 Drama Desk nomination. Her next role, which she began to act at age 21, was the role for which she became best known: the role of Effie Melody White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Holliday originated the role of Effie and remained with the show for nearly four years after its December 20, 1981 opening. Her performance in the role was widely acclaimed, particularly in her iconic performance of the musical number that ends Act I, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
Among the acclaim was Holliday's sweep of awards in 1982, including the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, a Grammy Award for her recorded version of the song, and Drama Desk and Theater World awards for her acting performance. Holliday also performed in the touring company of Sing, Mahalia, Sing in 1985. In 1998, Holliday was featured on the album, My Favorite Broadway Ladies as one of "The Queens of Broadway."
Holliday's version of the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" made her a star on Broadway and catapulted her to national stardom. In 1982, a pop version of the song was released as a single. The song became successful, peaking at number one on the Billboard R&B chart, and number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. She continued to have success as a recording artist through the rest of the decade. Her follow-up song, "I Am Love", became another hit in 1983. Holliday's later R&B hits included "Hard Time For Lovers" (1985), "No Frills Love" (1985), "I'm On Your Side" (1991) and "A Woman's Got the Power" (2000). "A Woman's Got the Power" charted at number 7 in summer of 1999. It re-charted the following year, peaking at number 1. She continued to appear on the charts throughout the 1990s, but never had the same level of success she had in the 1980s. Holliday was a featured vocalist on the number one single "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner in 1985. A number of her songs became hits on the US Dance charts as well. A dance version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" peaked at number 6 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2001.
On October 30, 1986, Paul Simon hosted a Ken Ehrlich-produced "Gospel Session" originally televised as part of a series of "Cinemax Sessions" featuring Holliday, Luther Vandross, The Oak Ridge Boys, Andrae Crouch, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. The show began with Holliday singing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow". Later, she returned to collaborate with Simon and Vandross on "Still Waters Run Deep," followed by an Aretha Franklin arrangement of "Bridge Over Troubled Water, "with the finale consisting of all the participants joining in "Gone at Last", followed by "Amazing Grace".
A reviewer wrote:
Ms. Holliday's performance and Simon's long-term repertoire of gospel-influenced songbook ("Bridge", "Gone at Last", "Slip Slidin' Away", and "Loves Me Like A Rock" [not included here] is the glue that holds the show together. Visually intriguing is the role reversal of a larger-than-life Jennifer Holliday and a waif-thin Luther Vandross. The music, however, is uniformly exciting, mesmerizing and sets the highest-of-high standard for gospel arrangements. You will seldom see a major gospel show without a musical reference to this concert's arrangements.
Holliday became popular with LGBT events and fundraisers, which she acknowledged on her gospel album On & On. Because of this, the Atlantic Entertainment Group's Director of Live Talent, Scott Sherman, produced and promoted many Jennifer Holliday events for several years, acting as both Holliday's de facto agent and as her road manager. Under Sherman's aegis, Holliday went on a series of special tours and promotions, one-night-only performances, LGBT pride appearances, and special fundraising events.
Health concerns and career renewal
In the 1990s, Holliday lost a substantial amount of weight and talked about her health struggles with depression during promotional interviews. Initially, the weight loss was attained strictly by diet. Eventually, in an effort to avoid regaining the weight, Holliday had gastric bypass surgery. After the initial weight loss, she released an LP and video titled I’m On Your Side. The video, unlike most videos, was recorded live. In 1995, Holliday released the gospel album On & On. In a March 2008 interview, she revealed that she was in the studio working on a new album, to be released later that year.
In April 2011, Holliday released a Christian CD titled Goodness and Mercy on her own Euphonic Records label. She produced it in conjunction and cooperation with the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, later elected United States Senator from Georgia.
At the St. Louis Muny, Holliday reprised her role of Effie White in their production of Dreamgirls, running from July 16 to July 22, 2012. She has stated that she does not plan to return to the role again.
Apart from her career in the music industry and on the stage, Holliday has also made appearances on primetime television. In addition to appearances on Touched by an Angel and Hang Time, she had a half dozen appearances in a recurring guest star role on Ally McBeal, where she acted out the role of choir director Lisa Knowles, often singing popular ballads.
On June 26, 2007, Holliday made a surprise appearance at the BET Awards, singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in a duet with Jennifer Hudson, who had played Effie White in the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls, and won an Oscar for her performance. Holliday had not been offered a cameo role in the film and, feeling snubbed, had repeatedly expressed displeasure with the movie in the media. (Another original Dreamgirls cast member, Loretta Devine, did have a cameo in the film.) More recently, it became possible to see Holliday in a YouTube video, singing a duet with Hudson. The two actresses-singers performed their live duet at a concert Hudson gave on April 16, 2009. The YouTube video has been viewed more than 1.3 million times as of July 2021.
On October 17, 2011 Holliday appeared on The Wendy Williams Show where, following a sit-down interview, Holliday performed "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and received a standing ovation from the studio audience.
Jennifer Holliday was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
On July 30, 2020, Jennifer Holliday sang “Only What You Do for Christ Will Last” as well as "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at the funeral of civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Holliday has been married twice. In March 1991, just two months after she met keyboardist Billy Meadows in a nightclub where she was singing, they married. "He had a great sense of humor and he made me laugh all the time," Holliday says of her first husband. "I had been feeling bad for so long, I wanted to laugh." But in December 1991, just nine months later, they divorced; the marriage, according to Holliday, "ran out of steam." She explained of Meadows: "We just didn't know each other well enough."
Her second marriage, which began on March 21, 1993 and ended in 1994, was to Rev. Andre Woods, a minister in Detroit. Jet magazine covered the marriage in their April 19, 1993 issue. Though Woods was a charismatic Detroit preacher, she subsequently said that even so, he was a player who also ran through her money. Still, Holliday was devastated when, in 1994, that marriage, too, ended, just four months after her mother died of cancer. "It was like experiencing two deaths at the same time," she remembered. "The grief was overwhelming."
Holliday attended Texas Southern University. She later received a Doctor of Music honoris causa from Berklee College of Music, Boston in 2000. In 2001 she was presenter for the tap dance show 21 Below at the Town Hall in New York, and also appeared in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Nothing Like a Dame show at the St. James Theatre in 2002.
As of late February 2011, Holliday was residing in Atlanta.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|Feel My Soul||31||6||—||—|
|Say You Love Me||
|Get Close to My Love||
|I'm on Your Side||
|On & On...||
|Goodness & Mercy||
|The Song Is You||
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|The Best of Jennifer Holliday||
|20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jennifer Holliday||
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"||1982||22||1||—||32||Dreamgirls - OST|
|"I Am Changing"||—||29||—||—|
|"I Am Love"||1983||49||2||—||—||Feel My Soul|
|"Just Let Me Wait"||—||24||43||—|
|"Hard Time for Lovers"||1985||69||17||26||82||Say You Love Me|
|"No Frills Love"||87||29||1||—|
|"Heart on the Line"||1987||—||48||—||—||Get Close to My Love|
|"I'm on Your Side"||1991||—||10||—||—||I'm on Your Side|
|"On & On (Stronger)"||1994||—||—||—||—||On & On...|
|"To Teach Me"||—||—||—||—|
|"Let Jesus Love You"||1995||—||—||—||—|
|"No Frills Love (Remix)"||1996||—||—||1||—||The Best of Jennifer Holliday|
|"A Woman's Got the Power"||1999||—||—||7||—||Non-album single|
|"Think It Over"||2000||—||—||1||—|
|"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
(Rosabel with Jennifer Holliday)
|"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
(Jennifer Holliday with Rosabel)
|"Givin' Up"||—||—||—||—||Why Did I Get Married? - OST|
|"God Is Faithful"||2011||—||—||—||—||Goodness and Mercy|
|"Get Up, Get Ready"||—||—||—||—|
|"Hold On"||2012||—||—||—||—||Lysistrata Jones - OST|
|"Touch"||2014||—||—||—||—||The Song Is You|
|"Baby, Tonite"||2019||—||—||—||—||Non-album single|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
|1980||Your Arms Too Short to Box with God||N/A||Ambassador Theatre & Belasco Theatre||Broadway|
|1981–83||Dreamgirls||Effie Melody White||Imperial Theatre||Broadway|
|1995||Grease||Teen Angel||Eugene O'Neill Theatre||Broadway|
|2001||Chicago||Matron Mama Morton||Shubert Theatre||Broadway|
|2003||Like Jazz||N/A||Mark Taper Forum||Los Angeles/Regional|
|2014||The Color Purple||Sophia||Various||Mini-Tour|
|2016–17||The Color Purple||Shug Avery||Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre||Broadway|
- Sing, Mahalia, Sing (1985)
- The Gospel Truth (1986)
- Harlem Suite (1988)
- Angela Lansbury: A Celebration (1996) (benefit concert)
- Downhearted Blues: The Life and Music of Bessie Smith (2001)
- Black Nativity (2002)
Awards and nominations
|1983||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"||Won|
|Best New Artist||Jennifer Holliday||Nominated|
|1984||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"Feel My Soul"||Nominated|
|1986||Best Inspirational Performance||"Come Sunday"||Won|
- 1982 Theatre Awards Outstanding Broadway Debut – Dreamgirls
- 1982 Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical – Dreamgirls
- 1982 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical – Dreamgirls
- 1981 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical – Your Arms Too Short to Box with God
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
- "A dream shape for the 'Dreamgirl.' – singer Jennifer Holliday". Ebony. 1991. Archived from the original on December 8, 2006.
- She would soon be much thinner, while he would again be heavy and remain so for most of the rest of his last years.
- In 2006, the concert became available on DVD under the title Night of Gospel Glory, "starring Paul Simon & Friends."
- Echeverria Jr., Steve (March 28, 2008). (The Herald Tribune) "Nightlife: The original Dreamgirl." Retrieved on April 23, 2008.
- "CAPITAL ENTERTAINMENT :: Press Release – Jennifer Holliday". Capitalentertainment.com. April 19, 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
- Jennifer Holliday to Star as Effie White in Dreamgirls for the ‘Last’ Time at St. Louis' Muny Broadway.com, Retrieved January 14, 2017
- Nader, Juli (November 21, 2006). "Exclusive: Jennifer Holliday Says She Created Role in Dreamgirls and Doesn’t Want to Be Forgotten". Blackprwire.com, Retrieved on November 27, 2006.
- "Video: GMA Day's epic diva surprise for pint-sized singing superstar Malea Emma". ABC News. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- "Out Of The Dark - Jennifer Holliday's battle with depression - includes related article on black women and depression Essence - Find Articles". August 27, 2006. Archived from the original on August 27, 2006.
- "Jennifer Holliday Weds Again, Vows 'This Is The One'". Jet. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. 83 (25): 34–36. April 19, 1993. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
Ms. Holliday, 32, recently married Bishop Andre Woods, 38, at his church in Detroit. It is the clergyman's first marriage.
- "Jet – Google Books". Books.google.com. Johnson Publishing Company. December 15, 1997. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
- "Nothing Like A Dame | Broadway Cares". Broadwaycares.org.
- "Jennifer Holliday to Record Track on Lysistrata Jones Album". Broadwayworld.com. April 5, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
- Jennifer Holliday Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on November 6, 2019
- "UK Charts > Jennifer Holliday". Official Charts Company.
- "Jennifer Holliday". Grammy.com.