Those deep-set eyes, that chiseled face, that unruly lion mane … no doubt the markings of a foine man. But it’s really Maxwell’s sultry falsetto that has enchanted millions of us. The Brooklyn-bred singer (with West Indian and Puerto Rican roots) first seduced ladies and moved gents with his 1996 Grammy-award winning debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite. In 1998 he made a slight departure from his signature sound with his sophomore release, Embrya. But today, he reintroduces his devotees to the soul, funk and groove of the 70’s with his melodic diary, Now (released Aug 21).
Maxwell’s ability to produce soulful music and heartfelt lyrics has earned him honorable comparisons to musical pioneers like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Prince. At 28, the hummingbird has already become a fixture in this biz, and from the sounds of his recent release, he’ll be around for the long haul — even in a fickle industry. So while we enjoy Maxwell’s music, here are some fast facts that you’d know only if you were a serious fan.
The Name Game
Maxwell who doesn’t reveal his birthname because he wants to protect his family’s privacy, adopted his middle name as his celebrity moniker to pay tribute to his grandfather and father who shared the same name. Both died when the singer was very young.
Before Maxwell became the object of many a desire, he was a shy guy who preferred seclusion — he didn’t even attend his senior prom. While other young teenage boys were busy getting their mack on, the late bloomer spent hours in his bedroom, penning songs.
Back to Basics
Maxwell began composing music at the tender age of 17 when a friend gave him a battered Casio keyboard. He became a staple on the New York club circuit — one of his performances was at the famed Nell’s in New York City when he was just 19.
Waiting in the Wings
This sex symbol was always destined for stardom, but before he graced the world with his angelic voice, Maxwell’s 1996 debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, collected dust on the shelves at Columbia Records for an entire year. (What were they thinking?). But good things come to those who wait, and in 1997, the soul man won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocalist
Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite is a concept album — illustrating a weekend of intimate encounters between Maxwell and the object of his affection — a woman he met in a club and shared a weekend-long romance with, but never saw again. Maxwell bid his unresolved love affair farewell through song — “Luxury: Cococure,” the first single off of his second album Embrya, is a heartfelt good-bye to that brief fling and an impassioned hello to the “pursuit of [his] internal luxury (happiness)”
Rising to the Top
Nowadays, Maxwell can’t walk into a room without making sisters giddy, but he didn’t always have it like that. Before his first album hit the airwaves, the rising star performed on the Black-college-tour circuit with soon-to-be labelmates, the Fugees and Groove Theory.
A Bevy of Beats
In the past five years Maxwell has consistently churned out hit after hit especially his movie soundtrack credits including “Sumthin, Sumthin: Mellowsmooth” (Love Jones, 1997); “Let’s Not Play the Game”; “As My Girl” (Best Man, 1999); “Fortunate” (Life, 1999).
Maxwell has always been in the business of serving others — in both music and grub. After graduating high school, he held a job as a waiter at the trendy Manhattan hangout, The Coffee Shop.
Make a Wish
Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” not only appears on his 1997 Maxwell Unplugged album, but it can also be found on his new album, Now. He re-recorded the song as a dedication to a six-year-old girl attending his 1999 concert in Los Angeles. She was able to meet her favorite singer through the Make a Wish Foundation. Unfortunately, six months after their encounter, she died of cancer.