During my college years I was obsessed with independent art films, often seeking them out as inspiration for my own work ad a budding designer. In addition to great directors like Jim Jarmoush, new films could be a gateway to great music otherwise ignored on the radio or MTV.
One of those new discoveries was Jevetta Steele. Jevetta had been a member The Steeles, a Minneapolis based gospel music group comprised of her brothers and sisters. She had already been active in stage productions and was adept in the art of the musical. In addition to working in a touring show and with the Steeles, she released her first solo album in 1988 after the success of her single from a film soundtrack.
Fittingly its one and only single would be the highlight of the soundtrack for the successful German film Badgad Cafe. Also knows as Out of Rosenheim in Europe, the films eclectic cast was led by Jack Palance and C.C.H. Pounder. Bagdad Cafe became one of my favorite films of the ’80s.
“Calling You” summarized the film’s story about a German tourist who inspired the owners of an out of the way cafe to turn a new lease on life. “Calling You” was one of 1988’s most beautiful songs, embodying soul and Steele’s flair for drama. The rest of the soundtrack, a collection of show tunes coud have been a summary of Jevetta’s work up to that point in her career. Although Jevetta was featured on only one song her sister Jearlyn was on another.
As the films signature song “Calling You” was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988. Sense then Steele has performed in various stage and musical capacities, often as a collaborator with the likes of Prince, George Clinton, Ah Ha and Mavis Staples. Her solo career continued, even as a member of The Steeles. Jevetta seemed poised to breakout to the mainstream with an album she recorded at Paisely Park studios in 1991. Here It Is featured two songs written by Prince, but the album was withdrawn for reasons unknown.
Its sad that Steele’s solo work was virtually ignored of by US audiences. Oddly enough outside of er gospel group work, she was more popular in Germany than in Georgia. Ironically many more people were likely to heard her in support of the many artist she has collaborated with in the background. Still, for people like me who were exposed to “Calling You”, everything Jevetta has done sense pales to that excellent track. She certainly had to potential to be the next Whitney Houston or Mirah Carey, but instead was one of many talented performers who’s work should have reached a larger audience.
(1987 film version)
(1988 Album version)