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Dina Carroll - Biography
|last update : 07-07-2006 20:19|
|Even at birth, Dina Carroll made a dramatic entrance to this planet! On 21 August 1968, a heavily pregnant Mrs. Carroll went late-night shopping in Newmarket near the famous university town of Cambridge in England. She went into unexpected labour, and in true showbiz fashion, she gave birth to her daughter in the backseat of a taxi! Afterwards, the unsympathetically cheeky cabby even put additional extras on the meter before making the journey to the hospital!
Geraldine (Dina) Carroll's mother is Glaswegian whereas her father is a black American GI. The family moved around a lot with the American navy and went to America when Dina was a baby. Dina has very little recollection of her father, who left the family before her second birthday. Mother and children returned to Britain and eventually settled back in suburban Cambridge. Dina's early years in Cambridge were overshadowed by the neighbourhood's bigotry and racism against the mixed race household. Dina took refuge in her music. She has always been very musical, and started singing at age 5, primarily at home with her sister. Despite the lack of formal vocal coaching, in 1981 she won a local Cambridgeshire talent competition at the age of 13 with her rendition of Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love". After leaving school, she worked in various jobs, including a one-day stint as a chambermaid in a Cambridge hotel in 1985.
Aged 16 and with her mother pretending to be her "manager", Dina wrangled her way into the offices of a tiny dance label called Streetwave in London, owned by the mercurial Morgan Khan. Armed with no demo tape, Dina auditioned along to a Stephanie Mills record, halfway into which she was signed. With hardly enough money to scrape by, Dina moved to a tiny flat in West London. She recorded two singles ("Set It Off" & "One Nation") in the mid-80's, credited to a non-existent group Masquerade. After six horrendous months, she left Streetwave. In 1989, she secured a recording contract with Jive/Zomba and released a number of singles in 1989/1990. Of particular notice was her cover of Dionne Warwick's classic "Walk On By", co-produced by The Pasadenas who also provided some superb vocal arrangement and backing vocals. Although "Walk On By" did not make it to the UK Top 40, it was a minor hit in continental Europe. Other solo hits during that era include "People All Around the World" and "Me Sienta Sola (We Are One)", the latter being an underground club hit in the New York scene. She also provided vocals to Brothers in Rhythm's single "Peace And Harmony" in 1991.
After a short time at Jive/Zomba, Dina was spotted by Dennis Ingoldsby, one half of First Avenue Management, a small and newly founded management group. This could easily have been the most important move in Dina's entire career, an instrumental step which eventually led to her huge success.
When Dina first joined First Avenue, they were also managing another unknown band called Quartz. Although Quartz mainly focused on instrumental club/house music, they were in desperate need of a major crossover hit. Dennis Ingoldsby and partner Oliver Smallman offered Dina £ 250 to provide vocals for Quartz. The end result was a modern smooth jam cover of Carole King's "It's Too Late" which became a massive dance chart-topper and a Top 10 pop hit. For the follow-up single, Quartz enlisted the help of Nigel Lowis to co-write "Naked Love". It was a relatively small chart hit, but displayed Dina's vocal prowess to the full.
After two singles with Quartz, First Avenue decided that Dina's position as a homegrown British female singer had been reasonably established, and the time was right to re-launch Dina as a solo artist in her own right. After the experience of "Naked Love", Dina and Nigel Lowis found mutual rapport and appreciation for each other, and the two of them began working on Dina's new solo single. In the spring of 1992, under a contract with A&M won through the success of Quartz, "Ain't No Man" was completed. To further enhance this perfect pop/house tune, they called in top remixer CJ Mackintosh to twiddle the knobs. When the white label promo copies issued by A&M's AM M subdivision hit the clubs in London, the dancefloors simply exploded. "Ain't No Man" shot to the pinnacle of every single club/dance chart in Britain, and was building up for a successful general release. When the single was finally released in June 1992, it débuted straight in the Top 40, eventually making it to No.16.
In order to capitalise on the momentum of "Ain't No Man", Dina and Nigel worked frantically on future singles and her début album. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone, copies of "Ain't No Man" were circulating in New York and was fast picking up clubplay. Amongst the people impressed by this tune were Robert Clivillés and the late David Cole of C&C Music Factory. They actually loved the tune so much that they called A&M to invite Dina over to New York to become the first ever British artist to work with them. This was obviously a chance of a lifetime, so Dina interrupted the writing and recording of her album, packed her bags and flew over to the Big Apple. The result? The dance classic "Special Kind Of Love".
As Christmas of 1992 drew close, Dina released her first ballad single "So Close" another Top 20 tune which showcased the versatility of Dina's vocal talent. In January 1993, the album "So Close" was released and entered the Top 10 of the UK album chart.
The album continued to generate a string of Top 20 hits, such as "This Time" and "Express". By then, Dina was clearly the most popular British female solo artist. One of the tracks on the album, "Don't Be A Stranger", a cover version of a song originally recorded by Chyna, continued to be the most frequently requested tune at Dina's live performances. A&M decided to release that as the sixth single from the album, but Dina and Nigel both reckoned that the album version was now a bit dated and overplayed. Also, Dina's voice had matured since the track was first written and recorded, and a new recording of that tune would be necessary before it could be released as a single. Instead of simply overdubbing the vocals, the production team commissioned the London Session Orchestra to lay down live strings for the new backing track. This completely transformed the song, and when it was released, it went to No.3 in the chart to become Dina's most successful chart single to that date.
Dina announced her first ever British tour for November and December of 1993 with the then unknown Eternal as supporting guests. The tour naturally sold out, and Dina's performance received rave reviews. The running sequence of the concert was obviously dominated by tracks from "So Close", including Dina's very own favourite album track "You'll Never Know". Also, Dina included a number of surprises, most notably a cover of Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want to Talk About It", which she had previously performed on "MTV's Most Wanted". To round off a highly successful 1993, Dina recorded her version of "The Perfect Year" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" and released it in December 1993. Another Top 5 hit well into 1994.
1994 lived up to the title of Dina's last single when she was named Best Female Artist at the Brit Awards in February. Dina then took a well-deserved break from her recording and touring obligations. Although no new records were released, the album "So Close" extended its unbroken residency in the Top 10 for the main part in 1994, eventually selling over 1.5 million copies in the UK alone. The album was also short-listed for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Towards the end of the year, Dina announced another national tour in December, this time at a much bigger scale, selling out over 15 dates at huge stadiums and concert arenas.
Rumours of new songs from Dina started to surface in the summer of 1995, but instead of releasing them, Dina found herself in the midst of contractual problems. Howard Bernham, who had originally signed her to A&M, had moved to Mercury records but there were problems in convincing them to move Dina with him. Eventually, Mercury agreed but it was not until May 1996 that the release of a new single was confirmed officially. "Escaping", a song written by Barry Blue, first recorded by Australian Margaret Urlich in 1989 and subsequently a minor hit for Asia Blue in 1992, was finally released in September, almost three years since Dina's last record. Much to everybody's relief, Dina was in her top shape, and the song entered the chart in the Top 3. The B-side track, "Mind Body & Soul" on the other hand, topped the club chart, re-establishing Dina's supreme dominance in the dance genre.
A new album, "Only Human" followed in October. The title track, also Dina's favourite song from the album, was released as a double A-sided (with "Run To You") Christmas single for 1996, but unexpectedly only generated lukewarm reception. Although it did make the Top 40, it was Dina's least successful single since "Naked Love" 5 years ago.
During the recording of "Only Human", Dina discovered that she had developed otosclerosis, a hereditary bone disease which affected her ears. She postponed treatment until after all her recording duties had been fulfilled. She had an operation to replace a whole eardrum, but went back to work almost immediately to promote the album. Although any dislodgement by noise could have cost her the sense of hearing, luckily Dina made a reasonable recovery, despite some inevitable permanent loss. Overall, Dina considered the making of the second album a very dispiriting experience, and often described "Only Human" as a "lost baby", despite selling 300000 copies and achieving Platinum status.
Dina was nominated for "Best British Female Artist" in the 1997 Brits Awards, but lost. She then went into artistic hibernation, and although there were press reviews of tracks like "Living For The Weekend" (reviewed in Billboard Magazine as a promo US single), no more singles were released from "Only Human".
Dina returned to drawing board in 1998 to plan for her third album. For this, she flew over to Los Angeles to work with producer Rhett Lawrence, most famous for his production of Mariah Carey's début album. The collaboration was originally intended only for three tracks, but Dina hit it off with Rhett so well that they ended up recording a full album in Rhett's home studio. The lead single was "One, Two, Three", a radio-friendly mid-tempo love song. In accordance with her tradition, she released this single in October 1998 with new remixes of "Livin' For The Weekend" to satisfy both her pop and dance music fans. The new album, "Dina Carroll", originally planned for release at the end of 1998, including her cover of the Dusty Springfield classic, "Son Of A Preacher Man". This is Dina's favourite song of the album, saying "I just love the whole thing... every time it comes on it makes me smile... it's got such a good feel to it. I never dreamt I'd get to do that and it's sexy, it's sweet, it's got everything and it just makes me feel so good." When asked about the new album and specifically why it has taken on a much stronger R&B feel than her previous albums, Dina remarks that "It's a whole new direction... I'm not so afraid to reveal myself on a personal level - in styling and in music - so the music is much more relaxed."
"Son Of A Preacher Man" was originally planned as the follow-up single to "One, Two Three". However, due to the untimely death of Dusty Springfield in early 1999, this single was withheld. At the same time, the album was postponed, because Dina was not totally happy with some of the mixes on the album. Instead, Dina's record company decided to re-launch Dina as Britain's No.1 dance diva. A new uptempo track, "Without Love" was chosen to be the next single, with a host of fierce remixes to suit all sections of the club scene. The single continued her uninterrupted string of Dance No. 1's, and re-established her place in the UK music scene when released in July 1999, reaching No. 13 in the UK Top 40.
A follow-up single, "Say You Love Me", was scheduled for release in November 1999. Originally recorded as a power ballad, this song was given the full make-over by the original producer, Rhett Lawrence, and a host of other remixers to turn it into another dance hit. The remixed version of the album was planned to follow this single two weeks after. However, for some unknown reason, Mercury suspended the release of the single at the eleventh hour, and both the single and the album were shelved.
In 2000, First Avenue Management entered into a crisis phase when most of their artists were dropped by their labels, e.g. Eternal, Louise, Dana Dawson, Kele Le Roc, Kéllé Bryan, Michelle Gayle, etc. Dina Carroll was unfortunately caught up in all this, and did not receive any support from her managers or her record company for her career. After months of frustration, Dina finally pulled the plug and left First Avenue at the end of 2000.
2001 briefly saw a revitalised Dina, with a new single and a greatest hits compilation released in the spring and the summer. First up was her cover version of Van Morrison's "Someone Like You", featured in the "Bridget Jones's Diary" soundtrack. To fulfil her contractual obligations to Mercury, Dina released "The Best Of Dina Carroll" in June 2001.
A new tour to support the Greatest Hits package was announced in September. 9 UK dates were booked for December 2001, signalling a major comeback. Very unfortunately, Dina was again let down by her incompetent record company. In fact, ever since she was 16, Dina has been involved in a lot of disputes over ill-advised contract agreements. The tour had to be re-scheduled in the eleventh hour, postponing to May 2002. Finally in Spring 2002, she freed herself from her contract with Universal Music Group, an event to which Dina affectionate refer as her "big divorce"! She found herself a new manager, Cara Harrison of CAT Management, and reduced the May tour to a more realistic itinerary. The shows were extremely well-received, and acted as a showcase to re-introduce Dina's talent to record company executives.