Jacqueline Maureen Graham (born 15 September 1956) is a British singer-songwriter. Following her hit version of "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" with David Grant in 1985, Graham scored a further five UK Top 20 hits over a two-year period. In 1994, her cover version of Chaka Khan's hit "Ain't Nobody" reached number one on the U.S. BillboardDance Chart.
Graham was born in Birmingham to Jamaican immigrants. In 1983 after recording a session for a jazz funk band called ‘Medium Heat Wave’, Jaki was spotted by a talent scout and signed to EMI Records. Soon after signing with the company "What’s the Name of Your Game" was released and this gave Jaki her first TV appearance on the highly rated BBC children’s programme Crackerjack in 1984. Two further solo singles followed that year "Heaven Knows" (the title of her first album) and "Once More With the Feeling".
The duet with David Grant, a cover version of the Detroit Spinners track "Could It be I’m Falling in Love", was released in early 1985 reaching No. 5 in March of that year. Jaki’s fourth, and probably best known, solo single "Round and Around" saw her return to the UK top 10 a few months later. As her first album reached completion in the summer of that year, "Heaven Knows" was re-released and Jaki toured the UK for the first time. A new song was recorded and released to end the year entitled "Mated". The song received wide critical acclaim gaining significant airplay.
Her hit single "Set Me Free" was released in early 1986 and reached No. 7 in the UK, also seeing the success repeated throughout Europe. Her second album "Breaking Away" and follow up single to "Set Me Free" was released in August reaching No. 14 in the UK charts. "Breaking Away" proved to be a surprise hit in Asia and to this date it remains one of Jaki’s most popular songs in this territory. Later in 1986 her hit "Step Right Up" was remixed and released also making the UK top 20.
During this time, American singer Michael McDonald was looking for a female singer to accompany him on the track "On My Own" (originally recorded with Patti Labelle) for his next UK tour. After hearing Jaki’s voice, he was quoted as saying Jaki was one of the best singers Britain has ever produced, and a deep friendship and mutual respect grew between the two artists that remains to this day, with Michael having written for Jaki’s albums and featuring her as a Special Guest on his UK tours.
In 1989 she released her third and final album recorded on the EMI label called From Now On. This gave a more diverse sound than the two previous albums. Although being made up of guaranteed hits, including the title track and ballad "The Better Part Of Me", promotion never truly got underway and Jaki’s time at EMI Records came to an end. From Now On still remains one of Jaki’s most popular albums with her fans and as the 80’s drew to a close, Billboard magazine established Jaki as Britain’s most successful black female artist throughout the decade.
In 1991, Jaki joined with Paul Hardcastle in the group "Kiss The Sky" - their self titled album was released that year.In 1993, Jaki was spotted by AVEX International, Japan, whilst at the Midem music conference and was immediately signed to the label. Work started in 1994 on her ‘Real Life’ album. Three singles were released internationally from the album, ‘You Can Count On Me (For Love)’, ‘Absolute E-Sensual’ and the song that would be Jaki’s biggest international single to date ‘Ain't Nobody’.
‘Ain't Nobody’ entered the charts in Europe, Asia, Australia and reached No.1 in the US Billboard Dance Chart for 5 weeks as well as being in the Top 5 favourite videos for BET (Black Entertainment Charts). The Real Life album was followed by a tour of Japan and Australia.
In 1995 Jaki completed work on her second album for AVEX entitled ‘Rhythm Of Life’ which was again a chart success in chosen territories. In Sweden the album was released under the title ‘Hold On’ and in the US ‘Don’t Keep Me Waiting’, with both albums containing additional tracks exclusive to these releases. Jaki’s fourth and final album with AVEX was the R&B influenced ‘My Life’ with one of the popular tracks being her version of Julia Fordham’s ‘Happy Ever After’.
Between March 2008 and April 2009, her early record label, EMI, re-released all three of Jaki’s albums digitally which included bonus tracks and 12” versions that were only previously available on vinyl 7” and 12” singles.
In October 2009, Jaki performed at the Birmingham Town Hall with the BBC Big Band to perform specially arranged versions of Gershwin classics. Both the concert and the transmission that followed later on BBC Radio 2, received high critical acclaim and within a few weeks of the transmission Jaki was invited back, this time to perform Duke Ellington classics in March 2010.I2010 was a very popular year for her music catalogue. In August, almost 24 years to the date of its original release, ‘Breaking Away – Special Edition’ was put out on CD across the UK and Ireland via Cherry Pop. In addition to the 12 songs that were included in the original album, an additional 5 bonus tracks, 3 of which were exclusive to the CD, were added.
During the summer of 2010 Jaki accompanied Michael McDonald (singer) and Al Green on their UK ‘Legends’ Arena Tour which included Birmingham LG, Manchester MEN and London’s O2 Arena, as Michael’s Special Guest. Later in 2010, Demon Music released ‘Absolute Essential – The Very best of Jaki Graham’. This would be Jaki’s first ‘official’ ‘greatest hits’ album and included 28 songs over two CDs. The album included all of Jaki’s singles from the 1980s, including for the first time ‘Once More With The Feeling’, as well as 14 songs selected from Jaki’s time with AVEX.
During 2011, Jaki continued to perform worldwide at both public and corporate events. She also started to make plans and choose songs for what would become her 7th studio album ‘For Sentimental Reasons’. However, prior to the recording of the album, Jaki was invited to join Sir Cliff Richard on his successful ‘Soulicious’ Arena Tour in October. This was his only British Special Guest alongside James Ingram, Percy Sledge, Freda Payne, Lamont Dozier and Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr of The 5th Dimension. The event was filmed across two nights at London’s O2 Arena and issued as a DVD.
In early 2012, she entered a small recording studio in Leeds, and along with her band, would record her new album. Jaki returned to the recording studio in Leeds to add some additional backing vocals (along with half a day in the studio in Birmingham) and the album was complete. The mixing of the album took place in early August and was released in October 2012.
Jaki continued to perform worldwide and in late 2013 was approached to create a new show to perform on the cruise liner ‘Britannia’. The ship set sail from Southampton in March 2014 and she performed over 60 shows during that year at the ’Limelight’ venue on board.
In summer 2015, to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of the release of Jaki’s debut album ‘Heaven Knows’, Demon Music released ‘The Studio Albums: 1985-1998’ on its Edsel label. The 7CD, 86-track box set included the EMI albums 'Heaven Knows', 'Breaking Away' and 'From Now On', as well as the four Avex albums 'Real Life', 'Hold On', 'Rhythm Of Life' and 'My Life'; the latter four receiving their first official UK release.
In 2016, Graham presented a radio programme, 'Soul on Sunday', on BBC Radio London. She continues to work as a singer on cruises worldwide, and has toured as part of the line-up for the retro/80's UK summer music festivals Let's Rock and Rewind.
In 2018, Graham will be releasing a new studio album, When A Woman Loves, on her own label, JNT Music Ltd.
In early October, 2012 Jaki was honoured with a ‘Birmingham’s ‘Walk of Star’ on Broad Street. A show took place in the evening that month where she performed some of her hits, as well as a selection of songs from ‘For Sentimental Reasons’.
In 2015, Graham was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton in recognition of her services to the music industry.
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