You could say that Shemekia Copeland was born to the blues. Born in New York in 1979, she was encouraged to sing at an early age by her father, bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland. She even wound up on stage at Harlem’s Cotton Club with her father at just eight years old.
At 15 she began singing in earnest, joining her father on tour at 16 and earning rave reviews for her opening sets. A few years later, at 18, Copeland recorded her first album, Turn the Heat Up. Upon its release in 1998, critics raved about the debut effort and audiences took note of a significant new talent on the blues scene. Today her vocal style, combining elements of the blues, soul, and roots rock and roll, has won Copeland a legion of devoted fans.
Copeland has performed thousands of shows around the world, including opening for the Rolling Stones, and has worked with some of the biggest stars in music, including Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and James Cotton.
Earlier this year Copeland released her eighth album, Outskirts of Love, which this month earned the singer her third Grammy nomination when it was included on the short list for Best Blues Album. Outskirts of Love marks Copeland’s return to Alligator Records (for whom she recorded four records earlier in her career) and combines new material with Copeland’s interpretation of songs first recorded by artists like Solomon Burke, ZZ Top, Jesse Winchester, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Copeland’s late father. The United Kingdom’s The Blues Magazine honored Outskirts of Love as its album of the year. Watch her perform the new record’s title track:
In an interview with NPR, Copeland suggested that her experiences traveling the world have made her a different performer than she was when she first started, and those experiences informed some of the messages she sought to express with her new album.
Copeland also appears on another record nominated for a Grammy this year as Best Blues Album, the various artists compilation Muddy Waters 100.
Known to many as the reigning “Queen of the Blues,” Copeland will be bringing her mix of blues, soul, and roots music to Chicago’s City Winery on December 20 for the sold-out Shemekia Copeland’s Holiday Party. (Get on the ticket wait list.)
The CBE Artist Board is meant to span generations and cultures to reinforce the blues’ universal appeal and relevance. The considerable contributions Copeland has made to blues music at a still young age—as well as her family connection to the music—makes her a perfect bridge between musical generations and a natural member of the CBE Artist Board.