One of the most consistent and versatile adult contemporary R&B artists, Brian McKnight placed seven albums across 15 years — from the early ’90s through the first decade of the 2000s — within the Top Ten of Billboard‘s R&B albums chart. Whether he wrote and produced for himself or collaborated with the likes of Diddy, the Underdogs, andTim & Bob, he enjoyed moderate commercial success without ever quite becoming a superstar. This, along with a down-to-earth personality and a catalog heavy on mellow material, may have helped McKnight for the sake of longevity; he made his first mark during the tail-end of the new jack swing era and, nearly 20 years later, shared chart space with singers half his age. He holds a Grammy record for 16 nominations without a win.
McKnight, a native of Buffalo, New York, grew up in a family where music came naturally. He was a member of the church choir along with his immediate family; his grandfather was the director. With a gospel upbringing, McKnightexplored other genres of music. Still in his early teens, he exercised his writing ambitions by penning instrumentals (soft jazz, easy listening); he learned to play several instruments. He formed a band and began performing his originals at local venues. By the age of 18, McKnight had secured a publishing deal. His calling to the national scene manifested itself when his older brother Claude and the group he was a member of, Take 6, signed a recording contract with a major label.
After sending out numerous demos to various record companies, McKnight‘s tape drew the interest of Mercury Records president Ed Eckstine (son of Billy Eckstine). Eckstine was so impressed with McKnight‘s sound that the young artist was signed to a deal within two weeks. McKnight‘s first release on Mercury was 1992’s “The Way Love Goes,” peaking at number 11 after 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart. His two follow-up singles barely cracked theBillboard R&B Top 60, and included “Love Is,” a duet with Vanessa Williams featured on Beverly Hills 90210. Ironically, that single peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, introducing McKnight to a crossover audience. His self-titled album made a minor splash. Continue reading…