Award-Winning Blues Singer
Like the repeating refrain of a hit song, the stunning life story of Janiva Magness will stay with you for a long time. This talented artist has been singing the blues for more than 30 years. Her simmering, powerful vocals, gritty live performances, and ten soulful albums have made her a favorite of fans and critics alike. Winner of the 2006 and 2007 Blues Music Awards for Best Contemporary Female Artist, Janiva received the coveted BB King Entertainer of the Year Award in 2009. Thus far Janiva has been nominated for 17 Blues music awards. In 2008, she signed with the country’s premier blues label, Alligator Records, and has just released her 10th CD “Stronger For It.”
Behind the raw, emotional authenticity that Janiva’s fans adore, is an inspirational tale of redemption. She was born into a working-class family just outside of Detroit. It was a tough childhood as both parents battled alcoholism, her mother was depressive and Janiva suffered molestation by age six. Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, she lost her mother to suicide. Within a year of that tragedy, she ran away from home to Berkeley, CA where she endured homelessness, substance abuse and isolation. After what she a calls a “moment of clarity,” Janiva escaped life on the streets and headed to Minneapolis to stay with a family friend. By the age of 14, she had attempted suicide multiple times. Over the next two years, she would experience three psychiatric hospitalizations and would live in 12 different foster homes, including a group home for girls with mental retardation.
She began hanging around local blues clubs where she discovered the distinctive sounds of legendary blues guitarist Otis Rush. She says the music made her want to “hang on to life.” Although this musical awakening would become an essential part of her future success, the trails of her young life would continue. When Janiva was 16, her father committed suicide and she became pregnant with a daughter she would later give up for adoption. With all doors closing around her, Janiva went to a local youth center where they connected her to Carrie, a divorced mother of five children who often provided temporary shelter to runaways. Moved by her plight, Carrie decided to become a certified foster parent because she couldn’t bear to abandon this young girl. Janiva recalls: “Carrie showed me kindness and compassion. She had the capacity to say ‘no’ when I needed it most. Music inspired me to go on, but Carrie set boundaries that truly saved my life.”
Bolstered by the guidance and support of a caring adult, Janiva began the long journey of healing that she continues to this day. Along the way, she discovered her own musical gifts while working as an intern at a recording studio. Today, she and her band travel the world touring more than 200 days a year. When she’s not on the road, she resides in LA. And, after 16 years apart, Janiva reconnected with the child she gave up for adoption. She enjoys a close relationship with her daughter, an accomplished musician, and is a proud grandmother.
Even as her star is rising, Janiva’s desire to give back grows as well. “It has been a deeply rewarding experience for me. To come out the other side of my early life experiences has been intense to say the least. I have much to share with folks interested in hearing a message of hope for the youth at risk. The big prize is of course – turns out, sharing my story openly in the right arenas has helped me to continue to heal as it helps others. I never dreamed that this would happen. What an amazing journey!”
“I have a life today I could never have imagined. You know, your fate does not have to be your destiny. Fate is what you are handed. Destiny is about what you could be. I’m living proof. The tragedies of my life no longer define me.”