Like many musicians today, Brian McKnight grew up surrounded by music. Along with his immediate family, he was a member of the church choir, directed by his grandfather. His gospel upbringing would later be an influence on his music. He began composing songs in his early teens, practicing with soft jazz and easy listening instrumentals. He formed a band during high school and played his original songs at local venues. McKnight had a publishing deal by the age of 18, but his big break came from his relationship with his brother whose band, Take 6, signed a recording contract with a major label.
McKnight always knew that music was his passion, so when he was expelled from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama he took it as a sign to concentrate more on furthering his musical career. With his brother's recommendations, McKnight sent out many demos to various record companies. The tape caught the attention of Mercury Records president Ed Eckstine, who signed McKnight within two weeks. Soon McKnight released his first album of original music on Mercury Records. The self-titled album included two hit singles, 'The Way Love Goes' and 'Love Is', and struck it big on the charts, especially for an unknown young artist. It peaked at number eleven after 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B charts. Both singles made it into the top 60 on the R&B Billboard charts. 'Love Is' was a duet with Vanessa Williams that was later featured on the hit show Beverly Hills 90210. Another single from the debut album, 'Never Felt This Way', was remade by Alicia Keys and appears on her Grammy Award winning album, Songs in A Minor.
Brian McKnight, in addition to writing, arranging, and singing, produced many of his own songs. The popularity and success of his self-produced music soon gained him a reputation with other artists. He still looked to other artists and producers for guidance in his music. He asked friend and producer Sean 'Puffy' Combs to produce his 1997 release Anytime, which featured a popular dance single 'You Should Be Mine'. The title single also hit it big. In 1998 McKnight's Christmas album, Bethlehem, brought back his gospel roots and pleased many fans. The following year he released Back at One, to much acclaim from fans and critic.
Much to the surprise of fans, Brian McKnight paired up with NSYNC's Justin Timberlake on his 2001 album Superhero. The album featured McKnight's thrilling guitar rifts. The following year McKnight had accumulated enough hits to release a compilation album. From Here To Here: 1989-2002 featured a collection of his greatest hits from the very beginning of his musical career. McKnight was again ready in 2003 to release a new album full of his original material. U-Turn was the product of his labors in 2003. At this point in his career McKnight had sold over 15 million records and was one of the most successful and beloved R&B artists of his generation. In addition to his success with studio albums, McKnight's touring career also brought fans and media attention. Tickets to his shows are still a hot commodity for R&B fans everywhere.
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