Award-winning blues singer Janiva Magness coming to Tri-Cities

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerFebruary 25, 2014 

Janiva Magness

Janiva Magness

JEFF DUNAS

Given Janiva Magness' childhood, it isn't surprising she ended up a blues singer.

Her rocky start in life began when her parents committed suicide when she was just a young teen. She spent the next few years bouncing around various foster homes or living on the streets of Detroit.

Then at 17, Magness found herself pregnant and gave her daughter up for adoption. That was the catalyst that set her music career in motion, she said.

"Music was and always will be a critical part of my life," she told the Herald in a recent phone interview. "It literally saved my life."

Magness brings her award-winning soulful blues to the Tri-Cities for one night March 7 at The Roxy Wine Bar in downtown Kennewick. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $25 and available at the wine bar, at the corner of Kennewick Avenue and Auburn Street.

Magness earned the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award from the Blues Foundation in 2009. She is only the second woman to earn the title.

She also was honored with the 2013 Living Blues Readers Award for blues artists.

"My dad had quite a collection of records that I listened to growing up," she said. "But blues made the most sense to me. I connected with it at a deep level."

Magness credits the music of Otis Rush for turning her on to real blues because he "played with absolute intensity."

She knew she wanted more of that, so at 19 she auditioned for a position with a 16-piece big band looking for three female singers and one Elvis impersonator.

She signed with Alligator Records in 2008 and released What Love Will Do that same year, followed by The Devil is an Angel Too in 2010 and Stronger for It in 2012.

She is working on a new album that she will self release later this year, she said.

And though she jokes that sometimes she makes a living as a musician, she devotes as much time as possible as a spokeswoman for promoting National Foster Care Month.

She also was happy to reconnect with her now 39-year-old daughter a few years ago, but does not over step her bounds, she said.

"Though I have reconnected with my daughter, I would never disrespect her adopted parents by calling myself her mother," Magness said.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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