Joan Osborne has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the great voices of her generation — both a commanding, passionate performer and a frank, emotionally evocative songwriter. A multi-platinum selling recording singer/songwriter and seven-time GRAMMY® nominee, the soulful "One of Us” vocalist is a highly sought-after collaborator and guest performer who has performed alongside many notable artists, including Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Luciano Pavarotti, and Taj Mahal.
Osborne is widely known for her live performances in the GRAMMY® Award-winning documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. She has produced two albums for Americana stalwarts the Holmes Brothers, and co-produced her last three critically acclaimed solo records: Songs of Bob Dylan (2017), Love and Hate (2014), and Bring It On Home (2012), with talented producer/ multi-instrumentalist Jack Petruzzelli.
Osborne has showcased her far-ranging talent during 2016 residencies at the Cotton Club in Tokyo, Japan and the Blue Note in Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition, her two residencies at Cafe Carlyle at The Carlyle Hotel in New York City in 2016 and 2017, titled Joan Osborne Sings The Songs of Bob Dylan and Joan Osborne Sings The Songs of Bob Dylan II, received critical acclaim from outlets such as The New York Times ("At every point in the evening, you had a sense of Ms. Osborne as an artist who knew exactly what she was doing") and the Huffington Post ("Her set was magic...the evening was a rediscovery of familiar Dylan, re-mined for new riches.."; "I’ve been a devoted Bob Dylan fan for nearly 50 years, and other than Jimi Hendrix’s brilliant version of 'All Along the Watchtower,' I've never cared for anyone covering Dylan's work. Until now. Joan Osborne has a powerful bluesy voice that — coupled with some fabulous arrangements — makes for an unusually unique evening in a legendary venue. The Café Carlyle is often home to jazz singers, but Ms. Osborne can fill a cathedral, and does so with a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt.")
Osborne felt this would be a great chance to work out an idea she had of doing a "Songbook Series" of albums — the way Ella Fitzgerald did in recording the songs of Gershwin, Cole Porter, and others — but with the songs of more recent writers. Dylan was an obvious choice. On the critically acclaimed Songs of Bob Dylan, Joan Osborne unleashes her sizable gifts as a vocalist (The New York Times has called her “a fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense singer”) and interpreter upon The Bard’s celebrated canon. Osborne winds her supple, soulful voice around Dylan’s poetic, evocative lyrics, etching gleaming new facets in them along the way.
“I try not to do a straight-up imitation of what someone else has done,” Osborne says. “Like if you're going to sing an Otis Redding song, you're never going to out-Otis him so you shouldn't even try. So I always try to find some unique way into the song, and also to pick songs where the intersection between the song and my voice hits some kind of sweet spot. It was a joy being able to sing these brilliant lyrics. It's like an actor being given a great part. You are just so excited to say these lines because they're so powerful that it lifts you up above yourself.”
The album spans Dylan’s beloved standards from the ’60s and ’70s (“Masters of War,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” “Buckets of Rain,” “Tangled Up In Blue”) to some of Osborne’s favorites from his later albums. Unconstrained by any notion of trying to imitate or surpass Dylan, Osborne felt free to play with the songs’ arrangements, a process that was also enabled by the virtuosity and versatility of Osborne’s collaborators, guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith, The Fab Faux) and keyboardist Keith Cotton (Idina Menzel, Chris Cornell). In Osborne and her musicians’ hands, Dylan’s songs take on varied new shapes.
Making Songs of Bob Dylan sprung from an idea Osborne had been toying with for some years: to record a series of Songbook albums, akin to Ella Fitzgerald’s eight-album series where the jazz singer interpreted the songs of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and others classic American Songbook writers. “I always thought it would be really interesting to update that idea and do something similar myself,” she says.
Of course Osborne, who counts such legendary artists as Etta James and Ray Charles as influences, is no stranger to interpreting songs in a wide variety of genres. In addition to releasing a string of studio albums featuring her frank, expressive original songwriting (the 3x-platinum, 6-time GRAMMY®-nominated Relish, Righteous Love, Pretty Little Stranger, Little Wild One, and Love and Hate), Osborne has also made three albums of soul, R&B, and blues covers (How Sweet It Is, Breakfast In Bed, which also features originals, and the GRAMMY®-nominated Bring It On Home) and the holiday album Christmas Means Love. AllMusic has called her “the most gifted vocalist of her generation and a singer who understands the nuance of phrase, time, and elocution.”
Osborne tours extensively on her own all over the world. In 2003, she joined forces with the surviving members of The Grateful Dead when they regrouped to tour as The Dead. On that tour, Osborne had the chance to sing with Dylan, their co-headliner. Osborne has toured in recent years with such artists as Mavis Staples (on the Solid Soul Tour) and as a member of the rock/soul supergroup Trigger Hippy, founded by Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman and built from each band member’s shared love of R&B and soul. The band’s well-received self-titled debut album arrived in 2014.
Osborne’s 2014 solo recording, Love and Hate, is one of the most personally-charged, creatively ambitious efforts of her two-decades-plus recording career. While she has long established herself as one of the world’s most respected vocalists, her soulful songcraft reached a new level of musical and lyrical resonance on Love and Hate. Such insightful, emotionally complex new compositions as "Where We Start," "Work On Me," "Kitten's Got Claws," "Keep It Underground" and the pointed title track survey some of the more complicated terrain of romantic relationships, in a manner that's rarely been attempted in popular music, while the album's intimate, stripped-down sound marks a stylistic departure from the gritty blues-based rock for which
Osborne is best known.
"I feel like each song on this album talks about a different aspect of love," she says. "Love isn't just one thing; it encompasses faith, passion, power struggles, humor, anguish, spirituality, lust, anger, everything on that spectrum…so I tried to come up with songs that were about different aspects of this continuum. This record is like the novel that sat in the author's drawer for 50 years…more than any record I've ever done, it felt like it needed the time to change and evolve and become what it was supposed to be.”
Bring It On Home found Osborne tackling vintage songs by Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Al Green, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sonny Boy Williamson (among others), and treating them with respect while giving them some interesting twists in tempo, key and feeling.
Bring It On Home reminded the singer of what music is all about. “There’s a texture and richness to these songs that singers don’t have right away, that I didn’t have when I started out,” Osborne says. “But the more I’ve done this, the more tone and depth I’ve developed. This was the time. These songs, they’re a remedy—they get me out of my head. These songs put the music back in my heart and my soul.”
Osborne continues to enjoy a long and storied career that was jumpstarted with the great success of her major-label debut album, Relish, which wove together strands of American roots music, poetic lyrics and impassioned vocals, and produced the massive MTV and international radio smash, "One of Us.” The song occupied the number one spot on the U.S. singles chart for two weeks, Relish eventually racked up sales of over three million copies, and Osborne found a large and appreciative audience, particularly during touring as part of Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour.
Although the Kentucky native grew up with a passion for music, when she arrived in New York City in the late 1980s, it was to attend New York University's prestigious film school. But she couldn't resist the pull of the city's live music scene for long, and soon she was performing her own songs in downtown rock clubs and emerging as a popular presence in a vibrant scene of rootsy new acts that included such then-unknowns as Jeff Buckley, Chris Whitley, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors. In 1992, Osborne launched her own indie label, Womanly Hips, and released the live Soul Show: Live at Delta 88 and the studio EP Blue Million Miles. Becoming a regional success led her to the signing of a major label deal and the success of Relish. But Osborne quickly made it clear that she was more interested in musical integrity and creative longevity than transient pop success.
"I'm getting better at what I do," Osborne observes. "I can look at the songs on Love and Hate and realize that it's better than I could have done 15 or 20 years ago. I have an audience that I've built up over time, and I feel like they're with me. And because of that, I don't feel any pressure to fit myself into anyone else's idea of what I should be doing. So I feel like I can write my own rules at this point. That can be scary, but it's also liberating, and it's an exciting place to be."
6:00 p.m. Cocktails & Silent Auction
7:00 p.m. Dinner & Entertainment
Photo by Jeff Fasano