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Rene Marie

René Marie

Had it not been for her son’s prodding, singer-songwriter René Marie’s musical career might have ended when she was 18. In high school, she sang with a neighborhood R&B band in Roanoke, Virginia, and performed solo at a cafeteria that had a grand piano in its foyer. “I’d had a few years of piano lessons,” she recalls, choosing her words as thoughtfully as the notes she sings. “I sang and played some of Roberta Flack’s tunes, ballads with fairly simple chords, along with a few things that I’d written. But then I was married at 18 and got pregnant early, so any thought of continuing to perform fell by the wayside.”

For the next two decades, Marie worked at a variety of jobs, including a seven-year stint in a bank’s customer service division. Awakened to jazz while watching the movie Lady Sings the Blues, she began buying recordings by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Cleo Laine. “At that point,” she recalls, “my performing consisted of singing and dancing for my two boys, and writing a few songs.

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