Updated: May 11
In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, Chicago native and gifted singer Miki Howard had many successful hit songs, including "Baby, Be Mine" and "Come Share My Love, Imagination, Love Under New Management, Ain't Nobody Like You& Many Others!." Additionally, Miki reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B Singles chart with "Ain't Nobody Like You" and "Ain't Nuthin'." Not only is her talent out of this world, but the former "Side Effect" singer is lovely, down to earth, and genuine. She has a love for people and a beautiful, caring heart. I loved that about her. I had the honor of speaking with this amazing woman about her life and career, which she disclosed.
Good afternoon, Miki; how are you? I am doing wonderful.
It's an honor to speak with you today. I'm a fan of your music and have been for many years, so it's an honor and privilege to interview such a rare gem as you. Your voice is one of the greatest voices of our generation, and I'm grateful to seize this historic moment in history. Oh, you're so kind. Thank you, baby girl.
You're welcome. We'll have a little girl chat, so it should be a fun interview. OK.
Awesome! So, let's have some fun. Are you in Los Angeles? Yeah, I'm in Los Angeles right now.
Awesome! How's the weather out there? Very warm and cozy.
I'm in Palm Springs, and it's super hot out here. The last time I was in Palm Springs, it wasn’t that hot, but I loved it!
Scenically, it’s a beautiful place to live but probably about six months out of the year; the heat is unbearable. The only people walking around outside are tourists. Us locals do our shopping either early in the morning or at night when the sun goes down. Both Palm Springs and phoenix are hot.
Blythe, in my opinion, is the closest place to feeling what "hell" feels like. (laughs) Blythe will make you give your life to Christ immediately because you think to yourself, “if this is what hell is like, I don't want no part of it.” (laughs) Oh man, it's so hot out there!
Taking a trip down memory lane, I've watched your videos and listened to some of your wonderful music. Everything you made was a hit! Besides being substantial radio hits, all your songs were beautifully written and sung. Where does that beautiful, unique voice come from? My parents. Both were gospel singers. My dad was in a gospel group called "The Pilgrim Jubilees." The group consisted of my dad, his brothers, and some cousins. My mom is Josephine Howard of, The Caravans, a popular gospel group.
That's awesome! Tell me, what does Miki Howard's life look like from sunrise to sunset? In your spare time, what do you usually do? I'm currently trying to make turkey wings and dressing because I'm hungry. I even went to a soul food place, but they didn't have dressing either.
I know. If you want southern-style dressing, you have to make that at home. I don't know anyone who makes that out of season. You may find it in a soul food restaurant around the holidays. Are you talking about the type of dressing made of cornbread? Yeah!
That's real dressing. The other kind with breadcrumbs is called stuffing. They're not the same. No, they’re not the same. So, that's what I'm doing right now. Do you hear that?
Yes. The sweet sound of pots and pans clinking together in preparation to make cornbread dressing. I'll bet it's going to be delicious! I'm starving! (laughs)
Okay, let's do a dine-and-interview. (laughs) Miki, homemade waffles are one of my favorite breakfast items. What are some foods you can't live without? I love water. I consider myself a water fanatic. Even though this is bad, I also like fried chicken, but I eat pretty much anything when it comes to food.
Have you ever tried Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles? The first date I had was at Roscoe's chicken and waffles.
The one in Hollywood, CA., on Sunset and Gower Street? Oh yes!
That's the best one, regardless of what anybody says. (laughs) Yes!
In your opinion, what is the most disgusting food that anybody can eat? I hate to say it, but the most disgusting food I can imagine eating is Foie gras.
I'm unfamiliar with this term. Can you tell me what that is? Yes, Foie gras is duck liver.
Wow! Never heard of it before. Considering the name alone, I'll pass on that food too. Yeah, I think it's illegal in California. However, the fattier it is the more people like it.
Gross! I'll pass! (laughs) Miki, I'm terrified of bugs. Tell me about the scariest bug you have ever seen. The scariest bug that I've ever seen is the potato bug. They look like little embryos running around. (laughs)
They are disgusting! Just hearing their name freaks me out! (laughs) My skin is crawling right now, so let's move on. I don't even know why I brought that up. Let's talk about something like home décor (laughs). Ok.
Based on colors and furnishings, how would you redecorate a home if you were given a blank canvas to work with? Color-wise, I would choose brown, gold, green, turquoise, and a splash of rust. It would probably be nice to have a black-and-white room with black-and-white artwork.
Fantastic, our homes should be beautiful, and they should also be a place of peace and serenity. But outside of our homes, there are also places we can visit to think and re-evaluate things going on in our personal lives. Where do you go to unwind, and where is your place of peace? The bathtub.
Oh yes! The bathtub is a terrific place to be alone and relax. You can use your bathroom as your little spa—nothing like a relaxing bubble bath. In fact, as a kid, I used to be addicted to bubble baths. I remember they used to have big strawberry or grape-smelling bubble bath bottles. I could barely pick up the giant bottle, but I was fascinated by bubble baths and their smell. That was one of the happy times in my childhood. Yeah, I make it my business to let everything go. As soon as I get in the bath, all my troubles disappear.
In a sense, it is like going in and coming out as a new person. Yeah.
As a well-traveled recording artist, what would you say is the most spectacular place you've ever visited worldwide and why? It's a tossup because I loved Paris, but I also loved Moscow, Russia. Both were beautiful. What a great experience! I loved it!
I love buildings that resemble ice cream cones or something out of a fairy tale. Looking at the pictures of Russia, the buildings Are fascinating. I can only imagine being there and seeing it in person. Right. As a child, I was unaware that these buildings were real, nor did I believe they still existed today. In my mind, they looked like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen movie. (laughs)
That must have been a life-changing experience for you. Yes, When I first got there, I was like, wow! Russia is so beautiful!
Many people don't get a chance to travel outside their communities to see the vast and beautiful world. I think if people were able to experience that, they would look at the world differently. I think we all need to do that.
Yes, exactly! Yeah, I'm like, “what’s going on?” I know everyone's upset with Russia and Ukraine for fighting their brothers. But I'm like, come on, you guys don't have to do this, but it's happening, and it's sad because they're family. It's heartbreaking, but it's such a great place. Nothing gets done without each other.
Yeah. How do you have a problem with someone? It is impossible to accomplish anything without each other.
Yes, absolutely. That's beautiful. So, Miki, let's have some fun. Ok
Tell me, what would you not want to step on in the dark? A spider.
I know that’s right! That would freak me out, also. I hate spiders! Can you tell me about one of your biggest pet peeves? My pet peeve is tardiness.
I agree. That's mine too. Having said that, how do you know if someone coming into your life will be a good friend or an integral member of your life? When that time comes, it will become apparent if they don't have great intentions toward me. If they're good or bad, they'll show you. By that time, hopefully, I haven't lost too much. (laughs)
That's right, I agree. What items do you collect that people would be surprised to learn you collect? I like vintage pictures, but I don't think anyone is surprised that I like vintage pictures of my favorite artists like Abbey Lincoln and Billie Holiday. I also have a sign that says, "missing John Robinson, negro, age 36 feet tall, weight 180 pounds, black hair, slender athletic bill, smooth shaving, dark eyes and dark hair, dark complected. An anonymous man posted it in 1925 about a missing person who helped him. His goal is to get him back. As soon as you enter my home, you will see that sign. I also have a picture of a monkey drinking beer. Most of my collection is comprised of unusual items.
That's amazing! What dreams have come true for you, and what dreams are yet to manifest? My dream has always been to become a mother and have little boys, who are now big, and a beautiful daughter. So, that part came true. It's such a pleasure, and I love them! In the future, I would love to have a large garden. Other than that, I'm not hard to please. I’m happy and grateful to be here. Whatever God allows, I’m grateful for it. God's plans are way better than mine.
I have no reason to complain because I've done many incredible things. This younger generation now gets to do more than I ever thought. But in my time, I did great and fun things also. I don't think I missed much.
What are the differences between the music industry today and when you first started? The music business is a very young industry. It began around 90 years ago, and it's constantly changing because they're constantly changing it. New things are coming emerging. There were Lacquer Records and Acetate Disc. Then, in my career, we went from cassettes to CDs to digital streaming. So, it’s constantly changing.
And as far as artists profiting or not, I don't know. But I think many of today's artists make more money now than those of my era. And that's so good. It happens in everything, including sports. The people who played basketball long ago don't get paid as much as the players do today. In my opinion, the industry progresses naturally. We have to accept the fact that with everything in life, that's what happens; it grows. Our produce has even changed since its creation.
You're correct! Strawberries and blueberries don't taste the same as when I was younger. I'm not sure what's happened to them, but they're not the same. When I was younger, everything was smaller and packed with flavor. Now everything is enormous and flavorless. Yes, and the bananas don't taste the same, either. On top of that, they don't even look the same as they did before.
Your right. They don’t. Although the strawberries look the same externally, they don't taste the same. Nothing's the same.
So, Miki, let's talk about your wonderful, amazing music career. How did your professional career begin? Because my parents were gospel singers, we grew up singing in church. From that, one thing led to another. I have always loved to sing and wanted to become a professional singer.
On one occasion, I sang at a pageant that was held at my church. The church was called, Praises of Zion church. Because I wasn't old enough to participate in the pageant as a contestant, my cousin told me I could sing and entertain.
So, you were only allowed to sing? Yes, I sang in the talent show. Celebrity judges were judging my performance, and one of the judges was from the group Side Effect. At the time, Side Effect was a popular singing group.
When Augie Johnson heard me sing, he thought I was talented and wanted to work with me. So, he contacted me and started putting me on different projects that he was working on because, at the time, he was a prominent up-and-coming producer. One thing led to another, and I sang with the group "Side Effect" when I was around 16. I intended to leave the band if my solo career didn't take off by the time I was 25.
Consequently, I recorded "Come Share My Love" for Atlantic Records. Since everyone in the industry knew me from Side Effect, getting a deal wasn't difficult. I wasn't eligible before since I was so young.
You've had enormous hits! Come Share My Love, Imagination, Baby Be Mine; I could go on forever! Your voice is incredible, and your vocal ability is out of this world! Did you write or produce any of these songs? In some cases, I wrote songs, and in others, I participated in their production. In most cases, artists are involved but are rarely accredited. But yes, I wrote some songs on my first album because I just came out of the school of “ writing your own material?” (laughs)
Yes, it was different back then. You did not get credit for your writing in the past, but you had a great deal of exposure. Because writers today are mainly independent artists working on a limited budget, they get credit but don't get as much exposure. In other words, it's an even trade-off. No matter how you slice it, this business is still challenging.
For artists like Marvin Gaye, who wrote many of his own songs, the publishing companies took it away. Even Bob Marley. There were a lot of artists back then that wrote their own material, but they didn't get their publishing.
Wow. That's insane! Now that we've discussed writing and publishing, let's talk about live performance. You move with such grace, poise, and confidence on stage. For the independent artist that's up and coming, what would you say to the person who struggles with connectivity between themselves and the audience on stage? Well, you know, I come from the old school. I was trained. I had the natural ability from my mom and dad, and I watched him all my life. I also learned skills from singing in church. There, I learned how to relate to and understand people and spread the Gospel to them through song. Besides that, joining the group Side Effect, Augie Johnson, Louis Patton, and Greg Matta taught me everything. I had to dance in the group and learn the exact steps the fellows were dancing. The only difference was that I had to wear high heels and look feminine, even while wearing a tight dress. (laughs)
Since I had to learn how to move, we took dance classes. Even today, I still recommend taking dance classes. Dance classes aren't that expensive. In a dance class, you learn various styles, which is a good thing. I went to Fred Astaire's dance classes even though he wasn't the teacher; it was just his dance studio.
That's what gets you into show business. All of us did that when we first started. There were different classes we took, such as acting. You don't necessarily have to make a career out of it, but you learn things that help you. It is common for artists today to have fire around them with 19 dancers; we had to hold your attention with our bodies and voices. So yeah, I was trained.
Yes, they spent time in artist development back then, but they don't do that today. I would encourage up-and-coming artists to develop themselves. Do personal artist development.
I agree. Now, Miki, you appeared in Malcolm X. Do you have any fond memories that you can share about being on set with Denzel Washington? Yeah, I enjoyed working on the movie. I was a friend of the casting director, Robbie Reed, so it was a great experience. I got a chance to work with the costume designer, Ruth Carter. She won an Oscar for Wakanda.
Wow, that's awesome! She was just a pup back then. It was great working with Denzel Washington on the set of Malcolm X. It was a pleasure to work with him. Both he and his wife Paulette loved my music. We also came up together in LA around the same time. People in the business get to know each other, and you grow up together. Since you started together. Everyone does well, and then everybody goes off to do what they do. Music, writing, and dancing classes were all shared by us. Those are the things people should do, but they never do. Back to the subject at hand, being on the set of Malcolm X was an amazing experience.
You spoke about how you could master the stage while performing live, but how was it filming your first music video? My first music video was with Rick Dees, Get Nekked, Eat My Shorts and Disco Duck. It was pure comedy. I started with comedy in comedy music. It was so much fun! (laughs)
I had a wonderful time with this interview. I have a few more questions for you, and one of them is, can you tell me about your new music and anything that you're working on in the future? Well, my latest record is called throw it Away, and it's an Abbey Lincoln Song, one of my favorite artists. Many of her words still need to be heard, especially by young people. And the older adults as well. The song speaks of letting go of everything holding you down and keeping you from your heart's work. So, it's a good single. I love it! Many people consider it Jazz, but whatever you call it, you'll feel better if you listen to it. I recommend downloading and playing it while bathing, cooking, or having a cocktail party because it's calming.
Awesome! Are you working on anything new for the coming year, 2023? That's part of the entire project. It's called Miha, The Sister Project.
And any upcoming tours? Now, no. In general, I work three days a week and then go home. It's certainly something I'd enjoy, I think. I am content with where I am now. It's what I enjoy doing.
What is your dream right now? I have a dream that everyone will let love lead. Let's stop with the hate! Nothing is important except the love that you give and receive. Once we get through that, everything else will take care of itself. When you do things from love, it works out. Love doesn't let you do certain things.
Can you leave some words of wisdom for those coming up behind you? Many want to get into the music business to make money and rig the industry. In my opinion, this industry has been rapped enough. We need more people willing to contribute to this industry and make a difference. Do something because you love to do it and not because you're trying to make a hit. We all want to make it. That's why we're in the business. Everybody, whatever profession you choose, needs something. And usually, artists need love and attention and all these things.
Maybe, in one way or another, either we didn't get it, we didn't get enough of it, or something like that happened to us, but that's OK because something goes wrong with everybody, but it triggers us to want to express or various art forms. Rappers should make rhymes telling how to raise the body rather than writing lyrics that make people kill bodies.
So, independent artists should not come into this business hoping to get rich. It is OK to make a decent living, but I'm not into getting rich. Pursuing wealth only damages your character and your self-esteem. Focus on what you're passionate about, not what's popular. If they're making house music, don't just copy them because they're making house music. It would be best to do what you feel because there are 7 billion people on earth, and at least a million think the same way you do.
Your words were beautiful. Thank you so much, Miki, for taking the time to talk with me. I pray that God will continue to bless you and your beautiful family. May the works of your hands be blessed according to His will. I pray that God will keep you safe during this time, and I am proud of your accomplishments. You have traveled a long road to where you are today, and I am proud of you. Thank you so much!
You're welcome. That was so nice.
Thank you, and have a great day! Oh, by the way, enjoy your turkey and dressing. Thank you.
Bye Bye, bye.
All Miki Howardsphotos by: Photo credits: Ron T. Young
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