I never really knew much about Angela Bofill the woman. I still don’t. I just remember her sweet voice bellowing from the car radio when I was a kid. Long before I would experience the complexities of love, I heard her belt out “I Try.” When she asked, "Don’t you think I’m good enough for you?" I was spellbound. It doesn’t get any realer than that. By the time she broke it all the way down to, "You know, that I, tried, to be with you," it was as if she’d completely surrendered herself to the song. She didn’t hold back, which is precisely what made her music so special.
Bofill released her debut album, Angie, in 1978, and followed up with ballad-driven collections nearly every year following until the early ‘90s. Her last album, Live from Manila, was released in 2006. Even today, her songs still sound like masterpieces — from Angel of the Night and I’m on Your Side to Next Time I’ll Be Sweeter and one of my personal, funky favorites, Too Tough. Along with the music, her album covers were works of art, too. Her brown-eyed gaze was always warm, and her hair was often snatched in an upsweep, adorned with a feather or flower. And of course, there was her signature pout, which she painted in bright, vibrant hues. Simple, lovely.
In recent years, Bofill has endured her share of personal and financial hardships. She suffered two strokes — one in January 2006 and another in July 2008 — and sadly, she did not have health insurance to cover her medical expenses. That kind of news makes you wonder how such a thing could happen, but sometimes, life just is... and you keep going. According to her website, she’s still recovering and has been well enough to participate in a showcase aptly named “The Angela Bofill Experience.” Throughout the show, she invites fellow artists, including Maysa, Phil Perry and Dave Valentin, to perform her classics. Bofill interjects with stories and funny anecdotes, but unfortunately, she’s not able to sing — yet. Soon, maybe? Either way, it’s just good to know that she made it through and that she’s still trying.
Next month, Angela Bofill will be profiled on TVOne’s Unsung. She sure did create some beautiful music, and I can’t wait to learn more about the woman who wrote and sang those songs, from her soul. In the meantime, I think I’ll get reacquainted with her catalog, starting with Under the Moon and Over the Sky — on repeat.
Regina R. Robertson is the West Coast Editor for ESSENCE. Follow her on Twitter @reginarobertson.