The soul of a man can be described in many parts. It can describe his tenacity to stay true to his craft, it will illustrate his passion, and it will ultimately define his essence; the musical legacy of Calvin Richardson will prove why he is noted as “The Prince of Soul.”
Emerging as the fifth child out of nine, Richardson grew up in the Bible belt, Monroe, North Carolina where he got his musical foundation in Gospel. As a youth he sang alongside his mother who was a part of a successful local Gospel ensemble The Willing Wonders. Adding to his musical diet Richardson got his fair share of R&B/soul servings from the likes of Bobby Womack, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding to Donny Hathaway.
While making his rounds on the Gospel circuit Richardson became acquainted with Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “Jo Jo” Hailey, who went on to form the 90s top charting R&B group Jodeci. Motivated by the success of his friends, he formed his own R&B group Undacova. Richardson and his group came to the national forefront contributing to the soundtrack of the mid 90s urban cult classic film, New Jersey Drive alongside Outkast, Total with Notorious BIG, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly to Heavy D & the Boyz with the mid-tempo groove “Love Slave.”
Spring boarding his career as a solo artist after Undacova disbanded Richardson emerged in 1999 with the release of his debut solo effort ‘Country Boy’ via Uptown/Universal Records. The album’s lead singles included “True Love” featuring Chico DeBarge and “I’ll Take Her” featuring Richardson’s friend “K-Ci.” The album noted as a solid effort failed to make a strong impact commercially, it would be four years until his sophomore effort.
In the time between his debut and follow-up effort, Richardson was busy crafting music for the release of his second album, female soul chanteuse Angie Stone heard a demo of Richardson’s “More Than a Woman,” she later went on to record Richardson’s song as a duet for her 2002 album ‘Mahogny Soul.’ The song went on to be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 2003, solidifying Richardson not only as a phenomenal singer but songwriter as well.
Caught in limbo with this record label, Universal Records, Richardson’s long awaited sophomore album was released in 2003 on his new label, Hollywoord Records. His second album, ‘2:35 PM’ was named to commemorate the time one of his children was born. With Richardson’s album getting heavy support at Urban AC radio with the release of singles from the album including – “Keep on Pushin,’” “Not Like This,” and “I’ve Got to Move;” the successful push of Richardson’s album allowed him to land at #65 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart and #8 on the R&B chart respectively. ‘2:35pm’ went on to sell around a quarter of a million units solidifying Richardson as a successful artist while being true to his craft, soul music.
Taking a five year sabbatical from the music scene Richardson’s voice wouldn’t resound again until 2008 with the release of his third album, ‘When Love Comes’ via Shanachie Records and Richardson’s own independent label, NuMo Records.
‘When Love Comes’ was led by what some music critics considered to be a provocative statement from the soul singer’s lead single, “Sang No More.” In the song Richardson sings frankly about the hard choices a singer must make given the trade-offs between being an artist, a star, and an authentic human being. He alludes that If fame and fortune means forgetting what’s important – love and the core values of life – then he doesn’t want to sing anymore, doesn’t want to be “successful,” that ultimately the price would be too high. Richardson’s gamble to take on such a subject in popular music resonated with music listeners and his fans allowing his third album to land at #17 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums Chart in 2008.
Richardson along with notable producer/songwriter Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds collaborated on the massive Urban R&B single “There Goes My Baby” for R&B icon Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band fame. “There Goes My Baby” broke into the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart and spent 10 weeks at the top spot on the Billboard R&B Adult Contemporary Chart, and 52 weeks on the chart in total, it also garnered Wilson a Grammy nomination at the 52nd annual awards(2010); proving once again that Richardson had the Midas touch. Richardson received the ASCAP writer of the year award in 2010 for his part in writing “There Goes My Baby”
Not one to miss out on the success and esteem of the Grammy awards, he was also honored with three nominations at the 52nd and 53rd annual musical celebration. Richardson scored his first two Grammy nominations as a solo artist for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals with Grammy award winning singer Ann Nesby former lead singer of the Sounds of Blackness for their soulful cover of one of Richardson’s musical idols Bobby Womack’s “Love Has Finally Come at Last” and Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Woman Gotta Have It” from his fourth studio album, ‘The Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack’ released in late 2009 via Shanachie Records and his own indie imprint NuMo Records. Calvin also scored another nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance for his self penned hit ‘You’re So Amazing’ from his fith studio album, ‘America’s Most Wanted‘ released in September of 2010 also on Shanachie Records and his own NuMo Records.
Expanding his creative reach into the world of theater Richardson co-stared in the Garrett Davis inspirational stage play, ‘The Lord Will Make a Way’ alongside Ann Nesby, Gary “Lil G’ Jenkins former lead singer of the R&B group SILK, and Scott Savol a top 5 American Idol finalist (season 4).
Calvin has spent the last 4 years touring and performing on stages around the country with Soul Legends and R&B greats from Lenny Williams, The O’jays, Bobby Blue Bland, Charlie Wilson, Tyrese to Frankie Beverly & Maze as well as headlining his own shows in smaller theaters.
Closing out the first decade of the 21st century and basking in the success of relevant longevity over the span of 15 years as an artist Calvin Richardson’s heterogeneous blend of Soul and Gospel tinged music put him in a class all his own. His tenacity, passion, and the essence of who is undoubtedly make him “The Prince of Soul.”