Saturday, March 15, 2008


Her desire and ability to sing came early and at age seven she was offered her first recording contract, which her father turned down. However, she did make a spectacular professional debut. Wrapped in the American flag, and accompanied by 350 accordions, nine-year-old Warnes sang The Star Spangled Banner at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium.

After graduating from high school she was offered an opera scholarship but chose to sing folk songs, popular at the time. In 1968 she signed with Parrot Records (a Decca subsidiary) and recorded her first LP. That same year, she joined the cast of the television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

In November 1968, Warnes (known then as "Jennifer Warren") signed on to play the female lead, "Sheila" in the Los Angeles, California production of the stage musical Hair.

In 1970 she met Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen who profoundly influenced her career and became a life-long friend. She would eventually tour Europe with Cohen's band as a back-up singer and would record guest vocals for Cohen's albums Live Songs, Various Positions, I'm Your Man, and The Future. Cohen's Recent Songs included a duet on "The Smokey Life." In 1972, Reprise released her third album, "Jennifer" produced by John Cale. To date, it has never been reissued. In January 1987, Warnes released her critically acclaimed album Famous Blue Raincoat: Songs of Leonard Cohen; Cohen himself performed with her as a guest vocalist on two of the songs featured.

Her breakthrough single "Right Time of the Night," released in 1976, brought her worldwide acclaim with the song hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and No. 6 on the Hot 100. It just missed the million-selling mark (selling over 900,000 copies). The song also plays in the background of a scene from the film When Harry Met Sally....

A few years later, she sang the Academy Award winner for Best Original Song "It Goes Like It Goes" from the motion picture Norma Rae (1979).

Warnes' 1981 song "One More Hour," written and composed by Randy Newman and recorded as part of the soundtrack album from the motion picture Ragtime, was nominated for an Academy Award.

The following year she teamed with Joe Cocker to sing Buffy Sainte-Marie's, Will Jennings's, and Jack Nitzsche's "Up Where We Belong." Written and composed for the motion picture An Officer and a Gentleman, the song would be released as a single and hit No. 1 (for three weeks running) on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. It stands as Warnes' biggest selling disc ever, being certified 'Platinum' for sales of 2 million in the United States alone. The same year she recorded a moving performance of James Taylor's Millworker in the American Playhouse production of Working, based on the book written by Studs Terkel(who also hosted the production), on PBS.

In 1983, she and Cocker won the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Up Where We Belong," while earning the songwriters (Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings) the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In 1987, at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, she sang background vocals with k.d. lang and Bonnie Raitt for Roy Orbison's television special A Black and White Night.

That same year, her duet with Bill Medley, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," was included on the Dirty Dancing motion picture soundtrack album and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was also certified 'Gold' for 1 million U.S. sales.

She performed many songs for film and sang a duet with B. J. Thomas, "As Long As We've Got Each Other," as the theme for Growing Pains.

In August 2007, the Shout Factory Records label re-released the 20th anniversary edition of Famous Blue Raincoat, with a 24-page booklet and four additional songs. Jennifer also contributed to a tribute album of Ian Tyson songs.

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