Angela Bofill is undeniably one of the greatest and most influential vocalists of our time. She was gifted with a voice that floated confidently in song lyrics that will forever occupy a space in our hearts. She breathed out lyrics with conviction, passion, sophistication, mystique, and a yearning quality. With a coveted 3½ octave range, the songstress had an unmatched gift for heartfelt, soulful balladry that transcends generations, as evidenced in such beautiful songs as I’m On Your Side, This Time I’ll Be Sweeter, Angel of the Night and I Try. The brilliant Afro-Latina performer proved herself to be adroit at doing Latin, jazz and R&B with finesse throughout the late 70s to mid-80s.

Angela was born in Brooklyn to a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother, and grew up in a musical household. Music from artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and a long Motown roster of talent was constantly playing in Angela’s home. It was apparent that the Bofill’s were music lovers. Angela’s dad even sang with the great Afro-Cuban jazz musician Machito.

Angela began singing at age four and writing songs at 12. So, by the time Angela graduated from high school, she was an accomplished singer and songwriter, jamming with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock, Nat Adderley Jr., and Dizzy Gillespie. She was a featured soloist with the Dance Theater of Harlem, majored in theater at the University of Hartford, and majored in voice at The Hartt College of Music. Angela also holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the prestigious Manhattan School of Music where she was classically trained in opera.

Angela hit the scene in 1978 with her debut album, Angie, and her first big radio hit from the album was Under the Moon and Over the Sky. Angela kept her success momentum going by producing a second album less than a year later, Angel of the Night that outperformed its predecessor. The album included the chart singles What I Wouldn’t Do (For the Love of You) and the song I Try. Angela’s albums topped the pop, jazz and R&B charts in 1979.

In 1980, Angela was signed to the Arista label, then one of the hottest labels in urban music under the leadership of Clive Davis. Angela’s first two albums for Arista, Something About You (1981) and Too Tough (1983), marked the high-water mark of her popularity. A group of female songstresses of the times—Deniece Williams, Melba Moore, and Anita Baker, ruled the urban airwaves during this period, but Angela’s magic mix of jazz and R&B vocals kept the crowds coming out to her concerts.

Sadly, tragedy struck when in 2006, Angela suffered a massive stroke. Tragedy struck again for a second time a year later.  Angela suffered yet another massive stroke and this time, she was listed in critical condition. The second stroke required a long period of therapy and left her speech and mobility impaired. Another devastating consequence of the strokes is that Angela can no longer sing.

I went over the moon and under the sky to find this angel of the night. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to chat with Angela for Angela is one of my favorite performers and it was an honor to spend time chatting about her journey to now. A true inspiration and a definite icon, 50BOLDers, we bring you the beautiful and gifted creative, Angela Bofill.

50BOLD: We like to go back to the beginning. I know you were raised in the Bronx, but weren’t you born in Brooklyn?

Angela: Yes, I was actually born in Brooklyn but raised in the Bronx.

50BOLD: Okay, good! So, I’m going to claim you as a Brooklynite. My Bronx friends and I used to argue about where you were born. “Oh, she’s from Brooklyn. No, she’s from the Bronx!”

Angela:  Then, I’m from both! (laughs)

50BOLD: Well, alright now, thank you! You’re the product of a Cuban father and an Afro-Puerto-Rican mother. What was it like growing up in the Bofill household?

Angela: Well, my parents really loved music. They were playing music all the time at my house. Yeah, they had a favorite smooth jazz radio station that was based in New York City. They played a lot of R&B and Motown. My parents also played a lot of Latin music.

50BOLD: So, did you come from musical roots?

Angela:  Oh yes!

50BOLD: Tell me, when you were a child, did you know music would be your destiny?

Angela: Yes, when I was four years old, I knew.

50BOLD: Really, at age 4?

Angela:  At age 4, I learned a complete Latin ballad. (laughs)

50BOLD: Incredible! Your musical styles have been categorized as jazz and R&B. Do you favor one more than the other? And if so, tell me why.

Angela: Well, I think of my style as fusion, you know. Back in the day, I was in a high school singing group, the Puerto-Rican Supremes. And I was Diana Ross, of course. I love a lot of Stevie Wonder and Motown. I also love jazz and Latin music which also has a lot of rhythm.

50BOLD. Latin music does have a lot of rhythm and more than most!

Angela: Yeah, love the rhythms of jazz, Latin and R&B music. Love a fusion. My daddy was also a singer.

50BOLD:  It’s been said you have a coveted 3 ½ octave range. Is your range a natural musical talent or did you train hard to achieve this range?  

Angela: Well, I have a natural vocal range.

50BOLD: Is it true you were writing songs at age 12?

Angela:  Yes, it is very true, I did write songs at age 12. And at age 17, I also did a lot of writing; I wrote I Try and Under the Moon and Over the Sky.

50BOLD: Your recordings will forever remain in my heart. I will never forget the first time I heard, I Try. My sister brought one of your albums home; back then when we had albums. (laughs) Ok, so how did Angela Bofill come to be? Is it true flautist Dave Valentin introduced you to GRP Records where your debut album, Angie, was released in 1978?

Angela: Yes, he did take me to GRP where my first album was released. It was a special time for me. I worked with great people there like Larry Rosen.

50BOLD: Angie was a chart-topper that spawned, This Time I’ll Be Sweeter, Under the Moon and Over the Sky, and Share Your Love. Your ethereal, angelic voice just brings me such inner peace. You are truly my favorite recording artist. What was it like working on your debut album?

Angela:  Thank you so much, I appreciate it!

Well, at my house, I had a cassette player and piano. I studied piano because I was already writing songs. I wrote, Under the Moon and Over the Sky for a homework assignment at the Manhattan School of Music. I got an ‘A’ by the way. I used the cassette to tape my voice and piano playing. Larry Rosen at GRP Records, God bless him, saw my potential, you know.

I remember my first recording session at GRP.  Larry told me to just sing naturally. Whenever I sang, he said to just make believe, I was in the shower and this exercise helped strengthen my vocals.

50BOLD:  Arista record executive, Clive Davis, bought out your GRP recording contract. When you went over to Arista, what was it like working under the great watchful eye of Davis?

Angela:  Well, I love Clive Davis, he respected my artistry. I went to Clive after I wrote, I try. The only instrument used on the song was a piano. Upon hearing the song, Clive told me, “I Try, is a true classic.”

50BOLD: Why did you transition from being a predominantly jazz recording artist to mainstream pop with tracks such as Too Tough and Something About You (also the name of your third album release). Was the switch your decision or Clive’s?

Angela: Well, it was Arista’s decision to move me into pop’s mainstream. Narada Michael Walden produced Something About You and Clive was the executive producer. Clive came to me and said, “Listen, there’s this producer who’s really great and I want you to work with him.” And Michael had a lot of hits you know, so, we worked with each other to write songs together.


50BOLD: You were established as a respected artist with a stellar musical career. Fans everywhere. Angela, I know you felt the love from devoted fans. Yet, everything came to a screeching halt in 2006 when you had a stroke. Then, just one year later, you had a massive stroke. The second stroke paralyzed your left side and you weren’t able to speak. We heard stories back then that when you fell ill, you didn’t have health insurance.

Angela: Yeah, that is correct. Well, you know, strokes happen. My daddy suffered a stroke as well but my family pulled through, you know. And as for me, a lot of prayers, music, plenty of physical and occupational therapies have really helped me. I am a fighter. My attitude of never giving up and remaining positive have also kept me going. And I also drink a lot of fresh vegetable juices and this has also helped me.

50BOLD: You remained at a rehab center for three years where you re-learned how to walk and talk again?

Angela: Yes, all true.  And my daughter says that I now, talk too much. (laughs)

50BOLD: I’m sure your grandchildren love it.

Angela: Oh yeah! Listen, I’m a grandmother of four and I enjoy it so much, so much! I have twin boys, another grandson and one granddaughter. The twins are four years old and going to pre-school. The twins, Peter and Paul love music. Paul especially loves to sing. He loves the song, Peaches sung by Jack Black in The Super Mario Bros. movie. Peaches, Peaches, Peaches! (laughs)

50BOLD: A few years ago, we had a scare. It had been reported that you had passed away. Did you hear about that rumor?

Angela:  Oh yeah!

50BOLD: What was that experience like to hear that you had died?

Angela:  Well, I know it’s not true! (laughs) But I just don’t know, I don’t understand it… Several people called me up and they were so confused and upset. I don’t know how these rumors get started but I wish they would stop.

50BOLD: You’ve also battled kidney disease and were being treated with dialysis. How are things with you now health wise?

Angela:  Well, you know, I still receive dialysis because at four years old, a doctor removed my right kidney. The doctors told my mother that I could survive with just one kidney. So, for years and years, I didn’t need dialysis. But as I’ve aged, the kidney has needed help. Listen, I pray, and pray, and prayer keeps me going. I thank the Almighty every single day.

50BOLD: Amen! Now you live with your daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren.

Angela: Yes, I do.

50BOLD: I remember reading that you have not regained your beautiful singing voice, is this still the case?

Angela:  Well, I only remember one song. Happy Birthday. (laughs) (Editor’s note—It is Russell’s birthday and Angela sings Happy Birthday to him) Next year, I will turn 69 and I’m so thankful. All of my grandchildren know the Happy Birthday song and love singing it.

50BOLD: Do your grandchildren know about your legendary musical status?

Angela:  Oh yeah, my oldest grandson, Lucas, who loves classical music, told me I’m a grandmother rockstar. (laughs) He also has a very good ear for music, perfect pitch. My granddaughter, Emily, already writes Easter songs and catchy tunes (laughs).

50BOLD: Are there any artists today that you really enjoy listening to?

Angela: I love Will Downing. I also love Wayne Brady’s voice.

50BOLD: Really?

Angela: Oh yes!

50BOLD: Well, Wayne is a big ball of talent. He can sing, act, and dance.

Angela: Yes, he has a beautiful voice.

50BOLD: Now, your daughter Shauna is your caregiver.  Do thank her for me! She is taking such good care of you!

Angela: Yes! God bless my daughter because a lot of kids don’t take care of their parents.

50BOLD: I’m a caregiver for my parents, so, I understand what it all entails. And even though caregiving can be difficult at times, it is also so rewarding.

Angela: I understand, but my daughter has a full plate, you know–four kids, a husband, a mama and a dog! She has truly got a full plate. God bless her….

50BOLD: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our 50BOLD readers?

Angela:  I wish the world was a more peaceful place where children could grow up truly understanding the meaning of love. We are all part of God’s plan. I wish positivity could be contagious.