When it comes to the music industry, Antonio “L.A.” Reid has carved out a career so amazingly impressive that few can—or ever will—match.
Through TLC, Outkast, Usher and dozens of others, Reid’s knack for discovering diverse talent is so extraordinary that one can’t help but marvel at his accomplishments.
In Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next, his memoir written with Joel Selvin, Reid vividly takes readers on a musical journey via fascinating stories and rare photos that chronicle his modest beginnings as a young musician in Cincinnati, to his storied and adventurous path to becoming one of the most successful music executives in history.
Reid was a struggling musician who hit his stride when his early ‘80s band, Pure Essence, gained local attention in and around Ohio. Once that group disbanded, he brought Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds into the fold with his next band, The Deele. Soon enough, the two realized they had become a solid producing and songwriting team and left the group to form LaFace Records.
He goes on to detail LaFace’s skyrocketing success, initially driven by the multi-platinum-selling group TLC (cultivated by Reid’s then-wife, Pebbles), Toni Braxton (“First Lady of LaFace Records”), and hip-hop duo Outkast. In addition to turning the aforementioned into household names, he also made stars out of pop singers P!nk and Avril Lavigne, orchestrated Mariah Carey’s “comeback” (via The Emancipation of MiMi), and helped officially introduce Kanye West, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber to the world.
What lies at the heart of Reid’s memoir is his perseverance despite the many personal and professional ups and downs of his career: turbulence in his partnership with Babyface, the highly-publicized Toni Braxton and TLC bankruptcy drama, the breakup of his marriage to Pebbles (he was torn between her and TLC), and being fired from Arista after taking over the helm from legendary industry executive, Clive Davis.
The book isn’t all about business, though; readers will undoubtedly enjoy the many “Whoa!” moments including the “Usher v. Tevin Campbell” problem (Babyface simply didn’t think much of the former at the time), his eyewitness account of the infancy of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s relationship, and perhaps the juiciest part of the book, i.e., confirmation of the rivalry and highly contentious relationship between brothers Michael and Jermaine Jackson.
While he details a lot of the “hits”in his career, he doesn’t hesitate to point out two major “misses”: Setting up the infamous, career-damaging Whitney Houston interview with Diane Sawyer, and “the one that got away,”Lady Gaga, humbly admitting that, initially, he just didn’t see her “it factor.”
Sing to Me is a very interesting, behind-the-scenes account about one man’s talent and vision that helped him become one of the music business’ major players and who, at his core, continues to influence the industry and evolve, one artist at a time.
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.