When Jocelyn Brown appeared at a recent Manhattan street party in celebration of legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan, thousands of revelers were reminded of her enduring vocal power. Although her name remains mostly unknown outside R&B and club music circles, she has appeared on literally hundreds of records — sometimes under her own name, sometimes in the background, and quite often as the centerpiece of countless producers’ studio projects.
She’s been doing all this since the late ’70s, when she appeared on a slew of jams by Musique (“In the Bush”), Phreek, Inner Life and other disco groups. Brown experienced a second plateau of popularity in the mid-’80s, when her 1984 single “Somebody Else’s Guy” hit No. 2 on the R&B chart, and several 12-inch singles bearing her name hit the market simultaneously. Her major-label debut the next year as a solo performer, “Love’s Gonna Get You,” helped generate subsequent success when it was sampled for Snap!‘s international 1990 smash “The Power” — that’s Brown belting “I got the powah!” — and other notable cameos followed with Incognito, Todd Terry and Nuyorican Soul.
Although she’s no longer as busy as when her easy-to-spot voice cropped up in pop hits by Billy Idol and The Breakfast Club, this North Carolina-born, London-based expat is still at it: Her 2011 gospel album, True Praises, was just released in the U.S. With technique and intensity to rival even top-tier divas, Brown makes otherwise unremarkable songs worth hearing and great ones absolutely indelible — just listen to what she does to the Motown standard “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” — Barry Walters