En Vogue vocalist Maxine Jones is celebrating her 32nd birthday today.
Born and raised in Patterson, N.J., Jones would go on to join En Vogue, a group
single-handedly reinvented the R&B girl group in the late '80s and early
'90s with such songs as "Hold On" and the scorching cover of Aretha
Franklin's "Givin' Him Something He Can Feel." It all started when
Oakland, Calif.-based producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, who had
previously worked with such acts as Timex Social Club and Tony! Toni!
Tone!, assembled the group with the idea of starting an R&B vocal group to
sing over the New Jack Swing beats that were such the rage in 1988. After a
short audition process, Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson, Terry Ellis and
birthday girl Jones were selected, and the group was named Vogue. Their one
appearance under that moniker was on Foster and McElroy's concept album,
By 1989, the group changed its name to En Vogue and released its full-
length debut, Born To Sing, in 1990. It hit #21 on the pop charts,
with the single "Hold On" climbing to #2. While Born To Sing put the
soul songstresses on the map, it was 1992's Funky Divas that broke
through to the masses. The album sold millions and was filled with songs
that touched on elements of hip-hop ("Hip-Hop Lover"), rock ("Free Your
Mind"), pop ("This Is My Life"), doo-wop ("Giving Him Something He Can
Feel") and reggae ("Yesterday"). "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It),"
based on a sample from James Brown's "The Big Payback," reached #2, and
hard rockin' protest song "Free Your Mind" bullied its way into the #8
slot. In 1993, the group's considerable vocal skills were featured on
Salt-n-Pepa's "Whatta Man," and En Vogue released an EP entitled
Love. The foursome sang "A Change Is Gonna Come" with First Brother
Roger Clinton at MTV's Inaugural Ball in 1995 and, later that year, landed a
blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in Batman Forever. The group's
last outing as a foursome came in the form of "Don't Let Go (Love)," which
first appeared on the soundtrack of 1996's "Set It Off." Robinson
left the group early last year, just before recording for EV3 got
under way. The girls adopted a goth-Supremes look for "Don't Let Go (Love)"
and EV3, but sales for the album and its singles were lukewarm.
Other birthdays: Bob Bogle (Ventures), 61; William Francis (Dr. Hook), 56; and
Paul Webb (Talk Talk), 36.