Angela Winbush (born January 18, 1955) is an American R&B/soul singer-songwriter who rose to fame first in the 1980s R&B duo René & Angela, also scoring hits as a solo artist. To date, Winbush has sold over ten million albums and singles worldwide.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Angela began singing in church. She grew up in a loving and family-oriented household in a nice middle-class area of St. Louis. She did not initially aspire to a career in music, instead studying architecture at Howard University, singing only to earn extra money. She continued to sing in church while at Howard as well as with gospel legend Richard Smallwood. She also performed as a singer with a group called “Hot Tea” while she attended Howard University. They opened for various well-known performers during shows and also did background singing for recording artists. One of the other members of “Hot Tea” was Tawatha Agee, who later did a lot of background singing on the albums of several well-noted recording artists, eventually joining the funk/soul band Mtume. By 1977, Angela had changed her major to music education and recorded a demo. She shopped it to various record labels with no success but, through a personal introduction furnished by respected industry veteran, Wayne K. Garfield, the demo was heard by New York disc jockey Gary Byrd, who made the call that landed Angela a spot in Stevie Wonder’s backing vocal group, Wonderlove. Becoming Wonder’s protégé, she learned a great deal about writing and arranging songs. While in Los Angeles with Wonder, Angela met singer Rene Moore. The two formed the duo René & Angela later that year. They soon came to the realization that they could be successful as duo music writers and producers for others as well, and began pursuing that goal. René & Angela released their self-titled debut album in 1980, followed by Wall to Wall in 1982 and Rise in 1983. During this period they had two moderate R&B hit singles, “I Love You More” and “My First Love”.
During Rene & Angela’s early years, Moore and Winbush were asked to write and produce four songs for Janet Jackson’s 1982 self-titled debut album, Janet Jackson. One of the songs, “Young Love”, became Jackson’s first top ten R&B hit reaching number six on the chart. They also wrote exclusively for Stephanie Mills, who forged a close friendship with Winbush (their “I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love”, gave Mills her first-ever #1 R&B single, in 1985). Winbush would later write another Mills number one R&B hit with “Something in the Way You Make Me Feel”. Between that, Rene & Angela decided to branch out and find a bigger fan base signing with Mercury Records in 1984. They released their breakthrough album, A Street Called Desire the following year. Among the hit singles included on the album was their first R&B number one with the dance single, “Save Your Love (For #1)”, which included guest vocals from rapper Kurtis Blow, making it besides Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You”, one of the first songs to prominently feature a rapper. Other hit singles included “I’ll Be Good”, the mostly Winbush-led “Your Smile” was another number one hit, while the subsequent “You Don’t Have to Cry” hit number two in the beginning of 1986. Eventually A Street Called Desire sold over a million copies, going platinum, but on the brink of their greatest success, tensions between Winbush and Moore had grown. After their split, Moore would continue to find success as a songwriter and producer, most notably for Michael Jackson.
In 1986, Winbush was introduced to Ronald Isley, lead singer of the influential Isley Brothers after Benny Medina had agreed to ask Winbush to be involved with the Isleys’ next record when Isley proposed plans to work with Winbush on a future project. Producing, writing and arranging the Isleys’ Smooth Sailin’ album, Winbush helped the group, now featuring just Ronald and Rudolph (eldest brother O’Kelly had died the previous year), score a top 10 R&B hit with the title track.
In turn, Isley opted to manage Winbush and he helped in the process of releasing her debut solo album, Sharp, which was also released in 1987. The album included the huge hit, “Angel” which showcased Winbush’s four-octave range. The song reached the #1 position for two weeks in 1987. Other notable hits include the dance track, “Run to Me”, “C’est Toi (It’s You)” and the Ron Isley duet, “Hello Beloved“. The album spent twenty-eight weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart and fifty-one weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In 1988, she wrote and produced two tracks for Sheena Easton’s gold album The Lover in Me. They were “Without You” and “Fire and Rain”, both of which showcased Easton’s lower range and surprisingly soulful vocals. In 1989, Winbush released her follow-up to Sharp with It’s the Real Thing. The title track reached number two on the R&B chart while subsequent hits “No More Tears” and “Lay Your Troubles Down” continued Winbush’s top 40 success on the R&B charts where she was now a fixture on despite failed attempts to cross her over to pop audiences. She sang the song she wrote for Stephanie Mills (“I Have Learned To Respect The Power of Love”) on the “It’s The Real Thing” album. On June 26, 1993, Winbush and longtime manager/collaborator/lover Ronald Isley, who is thirteen years Angela’s senior, married. A year later Winbush released her third self-titled solo album, which included the huge R&B hit, “Treat U Rite”. Produced by Chuckii Booker, the song peaked at number six on the R&B chart making it Winbush’s ninth top ten R&B hit altogether in her career. In 1996, Winbush was featured on the Isley Brothers’ (rejoined by brothers Ernie and Marvin) hit “Floatin’ On Your Love”, which was essentially a duet between Winbush and Ron Isley. The song was later remixed by Sean “Puffy” Combs and featured guest vocals from Lil’ Kim and the group 112 in backgrounds. The video for it showcased Winbush serenading Isley’s Mr. Biggs character. Winbush continued to collaborate with the Isley Brothers until 2001’s Eternal, where afterwards, their marriage had cooled off. In 2002, Winbush and Isley quietly divorced. In 2003, Winbush made news when it was found out she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Eventually after a successful surgery, the cancer was in remission and Winbush returned to perform on the road.