Soul singer Jean Carn was raised in Atlanta, where her parents encouraged her at the age of four to sing in the church choir and to take piano lessons. (Indeed, for decades she remained an accomplished performer on piano, clarinet, and bassoon.) She first revealed her formidable musical talents as a teenager on a morning radio talk show, Today in Georgia, when she sang "Misty" to the accompaniment of Erroll Garner's piano. After winning a music scholarship to Morris Brown College, she learned to play almost every instrument in the orchestra. Her recording career began in 1971 with her then husband, Doug Carn, and together they made three albums for Black Jazz Records that brought widespread recognition, built upon by touring engagements across the country. At this stage Carn was often praised for being one of the first African-American women to define her own voice and image, rather than being molded by the industry. Afterwards, she performed with Duke Ellington, the last vocalist to do so before his death. She then teamed up with Norman Connors for four acclaimed albums, contributed "Reach for It" to George Duke's gold album, and sang on the first two albums by Earth, Wind & Fire.
The three albums Carn recorded for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records label between 1977 and 1979 are probably her best, and introduced the singer to pop and R&B audiences for the first time. Her hits during this period included "Free Love," "Don't Let It Go to Your Head," and "My Love Don't Come Easy." She moved to Motown Records for 1983's Trust Me, which provided her first major singles success with "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and a duet with Bobby Militello on "Let's Stay Together." Carn later found time to contribute to records by Kenny Gamble ("Love Is Beautiful When It's Right") and Stanley Turrentine ("Night Breeze"). Adding an "e" to her last name, she signed a new recording contract with the Atlantic Records imprint Omni and enjoyed immediate success with 1986's chart-topping R&B hit "Closer Than Close." Further hits followed in the late '80s, including "Flame of Love," "Everything Must Change," and "Ain't No Way." Carne carried on recording into the '90s, completing a touching tribute album to the late songwriter Van McCoy. In the years that followed, she continued to tour for six months annually, spending the rest of her time at home in Atlanta with her three children. ~ Rovi Staff, Rovi