They say that becoming 40 years old is a huge turning point in everyone's life. It's the age that perhaps puts youth to bed for good (though don't tell 41-year-old Jay-Z that) and also the age when a person needs to start to think about his or her legacy. Of course, Mary J. Blige has nothing to worry about, as her place in history is set in stone. The veteran singer (and spiritual godmother of modern R&B) turns 40 years old today, so if you see her, cut her an extra large slice of cake.
Blige burst onto the music scene in 1992 with her debut album What's the 411?, which spawned the iconic hit "Real Love." One of the first big discoveries of a young Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, Blige delivered one of the best voices in modern music, full of sweet soul, street toughness and twinges of gospel and jazz. That remarkable instrument was set to a sturdy batch of beats, and the result was the birth of hip-hop soul, which few people have done better since.
Not only has Blige been a consistent hit-maker for the duration of her career (with smash singles like "Not Gon' Cry," "Family Affair," "No More Drama" and "Be Without You"), but she has also been an extremely in-demand collaborator who lends an instant blast of credibility, depth and melody to every song she graces. Those tag-team tracks include "I'll Be There for You/ You're All I Need to Get By" (with Method Man), "Runaway Love" (with Ludacris) and the recent smashes "Remember Me" (with T.I.) and "Something's Gotta Give" (with Big Boi, from his critically-acclaimed 2010 album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty).