Brenda Russell

Brenda Russell anticipates first album in two decades with beautiful single

(November 14, 2023) Let it be noted that Brenda Russell boasts one of the greatest pens to ever touch the prodigious galleries of recorded music. Whether it’s chart-topping hits in her own solo catalog (“Piano in the Dark,” “So Good, So Right”) or compositions that overwhelmingly soared in the hands of other vocalists, such as the iconic Chaka Khan on Rufus’s “Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me),” Oleta Adams’ mesmeric take on “Get Here” and Luther Vandross’s Quiet Storm presentation of “If Only for One Night,” the talented five-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter has made their mark on the music world.

In 2016, Russell, with the assistance of Stephen Bray and the late Allee Willis, took home their very first Grammy win for their work on the acclaimed musical The Color Purple in the category of Best Musical Theatre Album. “Thirty-five years ago, in the middle of me doing my thing as a pop singer and songwriter, my mom suggested I write a Broadway show,” Brenda adds. “I said, ‘Sure, mom,’ never thinking the opportunity would arise many years later. What a joy it was to work with Allee and Stephen.”

Today, Russell is working on releasing new music for first album in twenty years. The initial single to drop is the heartfelt ballad “What Will It Take.” Co-produced by Stephan Oberhoff (Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau), the four-minute track channels the anthemic tones of The Lion King while providing a unique blend of gospel, soul and a hint of pop gloss à la Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.

And like a solemn prayer, Russell arrives to the current moment with lyrics of an urgent message song. The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. With wars in Israel, Gaza and the ongoing unrest in Ukraine, alarming levels of hate groups on the rise in the US and troublesome inflation hinting at a global economic collapse, Russell composes a song with the wisdom of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” while dealing with matters of the heart. “What will it take for us to be as one?,” she asks in song. “One human race under a mighty sun/What will it take to let the children grow?/Into a world where love is all they know?” Moments into the second verse, Russell’s voice acts as a clarion call towards social justice: “Let’s take the hate, the war, the poverty. . .and give it up for all humanity.”

Russell expresses pure joy over the song’s message and what it will mean to listeners: “As a singer, songwriter and musical composer, I want to be remembered for being uplifting. People have enough to be depressed about in this life and I just want them to hear my songs, feel good and rise up. I’m excited that ‘What Will It Take’ will now have the opportunity to do just that.”  

Listen to the new track by the legendary Brenda Russell in this SoulTracks First Listen feature and let us know your thoughts. 

By J Matthew Cobb

Brenda Russell – “What Will It Take”