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Linda Tavani of Peaches & Herb, Singing The Music Of Her Heart & Blessing Others In The Process!

If you thought that "Shake Your Groove Thing & Reunited" were amazing, get to know the woman behind these hits! There is so much more to Linda "Peaches" Tavani than meets the eye. Talking to Linda was a refreshing experience. The way she describes the scenic journey of her life is as if you were reading a novel. Since we are members of the public, we are only able to see what the industry allows us to see regarding their "brand". We only know their music, but what we do not know is how much they have in common with us. I particularly admire Linda for her down-to-earth and relatable character. I found her easy to talk to and she was willing to share her stories, both good and bad, with me. Linda is one of the kindest and most generous individuals you will ever meet. Perhaps this is why God has blessed her so abundantly in her life.

I would like to share a bit about Linda before we begin this interview. Linda enjoyed unprecedented success as Peaches of Peaches & Herb. Linda's made black history too! As the first African-American woman to perform in Mainland China, she recorded seven albums with Herb (one album was only released in Argentina), toured the world, performed on the biggest stages, and graced magazine covers including Harper's BAZAAR, American Bandstand, Soul Train, and BET. Among her many accomplishments, she was the first African-American female artist to release albums in Argentinia. A huge crossover hit, their song "Reunited" topped the Billboard Hot 100 Singles and the Pop Charts for four weeks. The song was also nominated for a GRAMMY in the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo category. Over 9 million albums have been sold by Peaches & Herb as a duo. They continue to be featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials around the world, and their hits are still featured on radio stations. Now, let's get into the interview.

Linda, I'm excited about interviewing you today.

Thank you.

You're welcome. So, Linda, how was life for you growing up? Well, I grew up in rural Maryland, right outside of Washington DC. My dad is also from DC, but my mother is from Pittsburgh. Although my parents were not farmers, they owned some farmland on which they raised a few chickens. We never went without. We had everything we needed. Childhood is wonderful. One of my fondest memories is how much I enjoyed listening to the rhythm of a thunderstorm. Rainstorms fascinated me. My mother was a Christian and she taught me how to play the piano by just listening to her play hymns at our local church.

When did you know that you wanted to sing? I was about 6 years old. It was after watching, Stormy Weather” starring, and Sammy Davis Jr., and Nat King Cole is when I knew that I wanted to sing professionally. These artists were also my families' favorites.

Did you try to mimic her? Yes, I wanted to do everything that I saw Lena Horne do. When I would watch her movies, I thought to myself, she's the most beautiful woman of color I had ever seen. I was in awe of her. I always knew that someday that would happen for me, and my dream would come true also.

Yes, that's awesome! I also admired women such as Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson. They have so much class. Growing up in an economically disadvantaged community. They were strong moral African American role models for young girls growing up in that generation. Watching them as a child influenced my life in a similar way. Watching them made me want to be different from many individuals within my environment. Both were powerful women, as are you.

Thank you

You’re welcome. So, tell me Linda, what were you doing before you joined Peaches and Herb? I was always singing. My sister always believed in me, she was my audience. In fact, I used to take walks through the beautiful moss-covered areas, walk to the pond and sing my head off! As beautiful as that experience was, I wasn’t prepared for the disappointments and obstacles that I would encounter. Nevertheless, I had a praying mother and grandmother that believed that God what do something special in my life. So, I kept it in my heart.

One day, my father, who is a Carpenter, was on an assignment. A producer by the name of Van McCoy, who produced “The Hustle”, who moved to New York from DC, had a home there. He bought it for his mom in Broccoli Park. So, one day, while waiting for him, I was singing, playing the piano, and trying to remember songs. He saw me and told me that I was talented and that all I needed was a little more time and practice. He told me that I had something. I was very young at that time.

Years later, I auditioned for a band in Virginia Beach and that’s where I met Natalie Cole. She just happened to show up at the same time. She was playing at another club in the same area. Gina, we hit it off right away. When I told my family who I met, my sister came down to meet her because she was Nat King Cole's daughter. She's a sweet memory that I'll never forget.

How awesome is that to meet Nat King Cole's daughter. Yes. She was a huge encouragement to me in my times of trauma and despair. Some people may not know this, but I was in a major car accident. I was hit by a drunken driver.

Oh no! Yes, I flew through the windshield. What was even worse was that I couldn't afford plastic surgery. I thought to myself, my career and dream of becoming a singer were over. On the other hand, because I still loved music, I kept moving forward.

What did moving forward look like for you? I joined a wonderfully talented cover band. I liked it because I could play anything, including music by Chicago, the Rolling Stones, and others.

Did you enjoy that band? Yes, because that band gave me the opportunity to perform other artists' cool music. I enjoyed it!

So great things began to unfold for you. Yes, Natalie Cole introduced me to her manager to me to see if he could help me. He told me that he was pleased with what he saw.

Being in a band prior to your success gave you the versatility and experience you needed to sing any genre of music. Absolutely, I was not just an R&B singer. I sang everything from the Rolling Stones’s top 40 to their top 100 songs.

So, you became pretty good friends with Natalie Cole? Natalie once told me that she wanted to go to the big time and her dream came true. She had the opportunity to play at the Kennedy Center. She wanted to get a record deal, but it was closed. So, between her saying goodbye and going back to Boston, we were roommates. I had a place, so I let her stay without charging her a dime. She wanted to give me something, but I wouldn't allow it. She told me that she wanted to leave something with me and pray for me because she believed that God had more in store for my life. Her words blessed me deeply. Gina, I attended church and I did what I could to live by the Word at that time, but I did not have the connections that I needed from God.

Natalie Cole was an amazing woman and I know that she was also a woman of God. Yes, whatever people said about her private life, I never saw that. I only saw her singing and enjoying life like me.

Where did your music career go from there? Well, one day while she was playing at the Kennedy Center, which was on a beach resort of Virginia Beach, I drove up to see her. While in the green room, I bumped into Mr. Van McCoy who just happened to be there as well. So, when Natalie Cole saw me, she hollered, “Linda, I can't believe you're here!” When the people that wanted to take photos of her and interview her saw her coming my way, they were curious as to who I was. So, my sister, who was also there reminded Van McCoy of who I was. Remember I was quite young when he first met me, so he couldn't believe it. Then he asked me, did I know who Peaches and Herb were? Although I had a dream to become a solo artist, I also liked Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. I thought to myself, I think I could do that. So, he then said that he wanted to put me in touch with their management because he was helping them find a new “Peach.”

There was only one girl prior to me that recorded with him. A lot of people assume that there were more because Herb wore people out because of his extensive touring schedule. It had nothing to do with his character or him being at fault. Back then, touring was exhausting.

So, you were the second recording artist? Yes, that is correct. He did tour with other girls, but then he got out of the business for a while. Now, when he met me, he hadn't been in the business for a while. There were some producers, one being Freddie Parent, who was working with Motown, Jackson 5, and the guy that did all the music for a group called, Rare Earth, who was also part of my success with Peaches and Herb.

How did you end up being the second Peach? Herb has some time, so he was willing to interview me himself. So, he came by my mom's house to pick me up, we get in the car and Herb looked at me and said, “let's go bowling.” (laughs)

That’s hilarious and unexpected! (laughs) Yes, that's what he said! So, I'm thinking, oh well, he (laughs) yes, that's what he said! So, I'm thinking, oh well, he probably wanted to show me how well he could bowl. In response to my question as to where the audition would take place, he stated that we already had the audition and that his manager would give it to me since I was highly recommended. He told me that he wasn’t going to worry about it. So, that's history.

How did your signature look with the braids and beads come about? I styled my hair in braids and beads so that I wouldn't have to worry about my hair as I traveled from town to town. The record company loved us together, so they got behind the project. So, God was all in it. He was my silent manager. My mom’s and my grandma's prayers were answered. They were an example of godly women. I’m grateful that they taught me the importance of having a personal relationship with God.

You’re so blessed to have had strong God-fearing role models in your life that not only told you how to live but lived it out as examples.

Yes, thank you

Yes. Now let’s talk about your music. Reunited, I Pledge My Love, and Shake Your Groove Thing,” all major hits that I grew up listening to. Did you contribute to the writing of either of them? No, but I wanted to because I’m a songwriter. Here’s the beautiful part of my story. I didn't live a life that made me eligible to be a nun, but I was very good at what I knew how to do. I studied piano for 12 years and played with an orchestra. Music was the center of my life.

Yes. Very seldom do you ever hear somebody say, I heard the Lord say something, but I did. Here’s what happened. I had tried to get one of my songs on the album, but they didn't like it. That disappointed me. So, the next day, the producer & writer for the band, Rare Earth told me that he had a song that would be suitable for my voice. The song was called I Will Survive. Everybody talked about it, but Herb was not on board with that idea. So, I shrugged it off.

The following day, while in session, they told me that although they had enough songs, there was still room for one more. So, they agreed to let me pick the song. I sat in the recording room, in the dark listening to three demo songs. I started getting goosebumps. Right before the lyrics began on the last of the three songs is when I believe I heard God's voice speak to me for the first time. That voice said this song is going to change your life and many others. I heard that voice so clearly. I really enjoyed the song but the entire time that the song played, I felt God's presence all around me. Gina, when I came out of that room, I felt like someone who had just left the planet. They asked me if I selected the song. I said yes, we're going to do “Reunited.” The recording experience was quite a session, quite a moment, and uncomplicated.

Reunited is a beautiful song. I really enjoyed listening to that song. And you're right, there's something very special about that recording. I agree because the words helped to heal and restore so many people's lives. At that time, the doors were wide open for R&B and pop music due to disco. A lot of artists who came out during that time, didn't just do R&B, they also landed on the charts with pop music hits. Disco and pop music were both big during that time. They were already playing it in the dance clubs, but because of disco, it went global in its popularity. So, I would say that was a historical moment in my life, and it is one that I'll never forget. The word that was said to me came to pass.

What a great story. I never knew Reunited had so many wonderful memories attached to it. So, tell me about the other two songs. As we traveled around the world, many doors were opened because of Reunited. “Shake Your Groove Thing" did well, and I Pledged My Love” became a wedding song on the wedding song list. Those songs were very meaningful to the writers, and what was even better was that they had just given their lives to the Lord. That was special.

Wow, that's awesome! What a wonderful story! You know, that's what the music of today is missing. Strong meaningful messages. Those of us who were there, remember when music held substance. It’s very hard to find those same components in the construction of today's music. For me, I just don't get the feeling from today's music as I did from the music back then. Back when music had something that was powerful and memorable. I just love the artists from that era in time. It's wonderful to reconnect with that experience. Now, in 1987, you sang on Michael Jacksons "Man In The Mirror" song. I know that must have been an amazing experience. Tell me about that. Oh, my goodness. I think every young black child, including myself, was crazy over Michael! He would always say hi to us when we saw him at the Grammys or American Music Awards. He was just so admirable to me. It was almost like we knew each other better because there were so many qualities we both liked about each other. Every time he saw me, he would comment on my hair, my clothes, and my music. This was reciprocated by me.

At that time, I formed a meaningful connection with Tina Turner. We both played at the same casino in Las Vegas. I told her that I wanted to become a solo artist and that I felt as though that was the time to do it. Because she was also on that journey, she made herself available to me. She told me that if I felt as though that was the time to do it, then go for it. She went on to tell me that if there was anything she could do for me, don’t hessite to reach out. I took that as a huge compliment because I'm a fan of hers and will always be. I decided to take that journey, but I had to get into deep thought as to how I would execute my plan.

You were a friend of David Bowie as well. Yes, David Bowie was also instrumental in my life. He was totally different off stage than his on-stage persona. He imparted so much wisdom and great advice into my life. He taught me about what fame was and what it was meant to do.

How did you meet him? He had wanted to meet me. He asked his road manager to find out who I was and what I wanted. I try to be cool about it, but inside I was saying to myself, are you kidding? David Bowie! Yes, I’d love to meet him! (laughs)

That’s wild! Yes, and for 3 days, I hung out with him and his entourage. I even went to his concert which looked like a Broadway show instead of a concert stage and every song was like an ongoing story. It was amazing and I will never forget that experience.

Once you made it up in your mind that you were determined to go solo, what happens next? I left Herb and moved to LA. When Michael found out that I was out there, he got in touch with my boyfriend who is now my husband and asked him if I would be interested in singing in “Man In The Mirror” and performing it with him at the American Music Awards that year.

What was your response? I said yes, Of course, I will.

How did you adjust to California? It was this challenging. The weather was nice, but there were a lot of disingenuous people. Hollywood was more like gollywood! On top of all that, a new era of music was being ushered in. Everyone was trying to assess and adjust to changes that were taking place in music. So, Michael asked me to sing the backing vocal and in some parts of the song, he wanted me to sing along with him. I was honored to be invited to do that for him.

I'll bet you were in awe just watching him work. He was a musical genius. Yes, he was. I was happy to work with him.

Life is like a bunch of puzzle pieces that connect us to various journeys. Life is always teaching us, but we must be willing to look, listen and learn. We learn, put it into practice then grow. It's an even bigger blessing when you get paid to learn while being a vital part of history in the making. So, I would have jumped on that also. It was an unforeseen and unexpected blessing indeed. That experience led me to Quincy Jones studio and even got a chance to meet Siedah Garrett, one of the writers of that song.

How were you able to adjust to the new changes just in the music industry? You know, that’s not something too many people talk about, adjusted to the new dawning of the MTV era. I know that I needed God’s help because I couldn't go back to what I was doing before but at the same time, I didn’t know how I was going to move forward. At that time, I became discouraged because of some of the record company meetings that I set up. So, when I met my husband, who was a producer, we immediately began working together because the chemistry was amazing!

How nice! Yes, it was a great b