Jean Carne (b. March 15, 1947) was one of the most talented soul/jazz singers of the 70s, and scored a string of moderately successful singles highlighted by her unique phrasing.
Carne was born Sarah Jean Perkins in Columbus, Georgia and was raised in Atlanta. Her talent as a singer became evident from an early age and was encouraged by her parents. Carne’s singing ability was so striking that at the age of four she became a member of her church choir. Carne went on to learn to play the piano, the clarinet and the bassoon, mastering all three.
Carne attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, and learned to speak Russian fluently. She received a scholarship after graduating in 1965, to attend Morris Brown College where she was trained in musical theater to opera. Carne planned on furthering her studies at Juilliard School of Music in New York when she met and married Jazz pianist Doug Carn and became a featured vocalist in his jazz fusion band. The couple based themselves in Los Angeles, California, where Carne did three early albums with her husband, “Infant Eyes”, “Spirit Of The New Land” and “Revelations”. Her work with the band garnered enthusiastic new jazz fans and brought her to the attention of the soon-to-be mega-group Earth Wind and Fire. Her voice helped brighten the group’s first two albums, “Earth Wind And Fire,” and “The Need Of Love” where she expanded her musical learning with the group and went beyond her jazz work.
In 1976, Carne was signed to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records; her self-title debut album was a classy affair that merged the best of ’70s soul and jazz with solid song-writing and tight instrumental support (MFSB, Instant Funk). The debut single “Free Love” went to number 23 R&B. Though the follow-up single did not chart, several of the album’s tracks received considerable radio airplay. In June 1978, Happy to Be With You, her second album for the label, was released. It included the hit single “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head.”
Carne’s third Philadelphia International album, When I Find You Love, was more of a return conceptually (musically and sonically) to that of Jean Carn. Produced by Dexter Wansel, the album rates as one of Carne’s best efforts. The smooth and halting “My Love Don’t Come Easy” peaked at number 43 R&B in the summer of 1979. At this time Ms. Carne was switched from the Philadelphia International label to the subsidiary TSOP imprint for her final outing. Released in August 1981, Sweet and Wonderful featured a stunning remake of the Spinners’ “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” which went to number 35 R&B.
Frustrated with her lack of substantial sales and promotion of her previous albums which were artistic and critical successes, if not commercially as acclaimed, Carne moved to Motown Records in 1982, making her label debut with the album Trust Me. The single “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” a cover of the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes hit with backing vocals by The Temptations, went to number 49 R&B. A scheduled follow-up LP was never released, and Carne soon left the label.
By 1986, Carne signed to Omni Records and released Closer Than Close the title track of which became her biggest hit, shooting to number one R&B. Her 1988 album You’re a Part of Me included a hit cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way.” Carne later signed with Place One Entertainment, which reunited her with former Omni Records president Steve Bernstein, with her Love Lessons album.
In 2002, Carne toured the United Kingdom with her musical director, Nathan Heathman, with appearances at the London Jazz Cafe in March of that year. 2003 saw the release of Collaborations, an album for the Expansion label, that featured Carne’s various musical collaborations over the years. She also continued performing as a guest artist on several projects including albums by Juewett Bostick and The Masters of Soul, Funk and Blues.