Mary J. Blige’s Musical Background and Career
Mary J. Blige was born on January 11, 1971, into a violent family where her father abused her mother and abandoned them. Born in the Bronx, New York, Mary J. Blige was exposed to different childhood experiences that ranged from violence in her family to drug and substance abuse. Her mother was a nurse and an alcoholic while her father played the bass guitar and served in the military where he was exposed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), leading to his violent outbursts. At some point, Mary J. Blige recalls moving to the Yonkers housing project to get away from his father but was only met with more horrific stories of women screaming and crying at night. At five, Mary J. Blige was sexually abused by people she was supposed to trust. However, Mary J. Blige sadly succumbed to drugs and sex when she was 16 but music and the church were her saving grace.
Mary J. Blige broke the shackles of doom with her What’s the 411 and My Life albums, which became an instant hit selling more than 3 million copies. Mary J. Blige’s musical inspiration came from the church and listening to her mother’s musical collection, which mostly comprised of soul records. Despite her tough image attributed to drug abuse and street influence, Mary J. Blige’s image softened over time as her musical career blossomed. It should be noted that her continuous involvement in music and collaboration with legendary producers such as Sean Combs, exposed Mary J. Blige to an enabling environment where she could pursue her music dreams and connect with her diverse audience. It should be noted that Mary J. Blige’s childhood has had a significant impact on her life based on the public’s perception about her music and beyond. Despite her troubled relationship with her father, Mary J. Blige attributes her musical success to her father’s inspiration who helped shaped her perspective during the occasional visits to her father.
Beyond her immediate family and friends, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Chan, and Gladys Knight played a critical role in shaping Mary J. Blige’s perspectives towards music. Aretha Franklin, deceased, was a legendary songwriter, pianist, and a civil rights activist who championed for women’s rights, supporting access to nutritional food, and promoting charity events. Known for her number one song, Respect, Aretha Franklin provided Mary J. Blige with the much-needed inspiration to jumpstart her musical career and conquer her fears on the big stage. In the same vein, Chaka Chan’s Ain’t Nobody pushed her to greater heights of success where she could inspire young women such as Mary J. Blige who looked up to her during their growth and development. Other influential women such as Gladys Knight also played a critical role of shaping Mary J. Blige’s musical career by exposing her to the inner workings of the music industry and sharing their success, at a time when women were treated as second class citizens.
Be Without You is one of Mary J. Blige’s highest grossing songs that propelled her musical career to become a globally acclaimed artist enjoying support from diverse population groups. The song, which was produced in 2006, was among the most-played songs at the time in U.S. radio. In the same vein, it was certified as a double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2007. Ten years later, Billboard ranked the song as the most successful RnB and hip hop song of all time, a move that made Mary J. Blige a legendary musician of her time. Even though Mary J. Blige has had numerous breakthroughs in her music career, Be Without You is one of the song that exposed her to inner workings of the industry, where she became a household name and began featuring in films and documentaries because of her influence on young women in the U.S. and beyond.
Not Gon Cry is another addition to Mary J. Blige’s musical war chest that elevated her to greater heights of success. In 1997, Mary J. Blige was awarded her third Grammy for Best Female and RnB vocal performance because for her involvement in Not Gon Cry. Written by Babyface, the song rose to become a global sensation because of its relatability, which are inspired by a plot in a film, Waiting to Exhale. In the movie, the lead character is abandoned by her philandering husband who has low hopes about her. However, the lead character defies all odds and rises to become great again. Mary J. Blige has received numerous accolades for her musical performance and brilliance in this song, which has since been sampled by various artists such as The Game and Bryson Tiller. From this realization, Mary J. Blige’s musical career has a series of interesting twists and turns that showcase the influence of one’s immediate environment and the impact of different activities taking place in a person’s surroundings.