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Bryson, Peabo (Pepo Bryson)

album charts pop musical

Bryson, Peabo (Pepo Bryson), one of the great singers of romantic soul, known for a smooth baritone and good looks; b. Greenville, S.C., April 13, 1951. Bryson was born into a musical family, and decided he wanted to sing by the age of four. His father left home when Bryson was five, and he lived with his mother and grandfather on the grandfather’s farm, where he worked hard, claiming to have slaughtered his share of pigs and removed the chitterlings.

By the age of 14, Bryson was on the road as a backup singer for Al Freeman and the Upsetters. Three years later he worked as a backup singer for Mose Dillard and Textile Display. Dillard continuously introduced him from the stage as “Peabo” and Bryson decided to go with this new name. He was “discovered” singing with Dillard in an Atlanta club by Bang Records, and he worked there as a writer, producer, and arranger from 1970–76. In 1976, he finally released his own record, Peabo . The R&B chart success of the singles “I Can Make It Better” and “Underground Music” impressed Capitol records. They signed him that year.

Bryson’s first two records with Capitol, Reaching for the Sky and Crosswinds, went gold. The title track “Reaching for the Sky,” the classic “Feel the Fire,” and his single from Crosswinds, “So into You,” hit the R&B Top Ten. Bryson began recording a series of duets on Capitol, starting with “Gimme Some Time” with Natalie Cole. The album Born to Love went gold on the strength of his #16 duet with Roberta Flack, “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.”

Bryson moved on to Elektra, taking his music in a more pop direction. “If Ever You’re in My Arms Again” went #10 on the pop charts, topping the adultcontemporary (AC) charts for a month, but Bryson was uncomfortable with the style. He also had a substantial R&B hit in “Without You,” a duet with Regina Belle. However, the album Take No Prisoners tried to capitalize on prevailing musical trends, pairing Bryson with guitarist Eddie Van Halen. The album lost sight of Bryson’s musical strengths, and he went to Columbia for one album. Can You Stop the Rain went gold and topped the R&B charts on the strength of the #1 title track and the Grammy nominated “Lost in the Night.”

Yet it was his duets with women that brought Bryson to the pinnacle of his career, in the unlikely venue of Disney Films. He earned a best Pop Performance Grammy for his duet with Celine Dion on the 1993 #9 single “Beauty and the Beast” from the Disney film of the same name. The following year, he topped the charts with his duet with Regina Belle on “A Whole New World,” which they performed over the end credits of the movie Aladdin; the song also won a Grammy award. The movie themes and other tunes comprised the album Through the Fire . Without question, 1994 was a banner year for the singer; he became the first artist in Billboard history to top four charts simultaneously: Contemporary Jazz for his recording with sax player Kenny G on the tune “By the time the Night Is Over”; Pop and Adult Contemporary charts with “A Whole New World”; and Classical Crossover for his recording of music from The King and I .

Following these successes, Bryson took a break from recording, thought that break marked one of the busiest periods of his career. He cowrote the theme to the soap opera All My Children as well as two songs from the Barney movie. He expanded his reach from the concert stage to the dramatic stage, first touring with the musical Raisin, then playing the Wizard in a touring company of The Wiz . In 1998, he appeared in the Mich. Opera Theater’s 100th anniversary production of Porgy and Bess . In 1999, Bryson returned to the pop world, signing with Adult Contemporary label Private Music and releasing the album Unconditional Love .

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