From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jean Carne (b. March 15, 1947) is an American jazz and soul singer known for her unique vocalising and her impressive interpretative and improvisational skills. Early in her career, her name was spelled as Jean Carn before she added an e under the advice of a numerologist.
Carn 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. Carn's singing ability was so striking that at the age of four she became a member of her church choir. Carn went on to learn to play the piano, the clarinet and the bassoon, mastering all three.
Carn 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 performed every genre from musical theater to grand opera. Carn planned on furthering her studies at Juilliard School of Music in New York when she met and married Jazz pianist Doug Carn (now divorced) and became a featured vocalist in his jazz fusion band. The couple based themselves in Los Angeles, California, where Carn did three early albums with her husband, "Infant Eyes", "Spirit Of The New Land" and "Revelations" on Ovation Records. 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. She was also a featured vocalist with Norman Connors, where she was featured with Michael Henderson on the hit "Valentine Love" (Buddah, 1975) and the song "Dindi", which showed her great versatility.
In 1976, Carn was signed to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records; her debut album in 1977 Jean Carn (PIR 34394) 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(PIR 34986), her second album for the label was released. It included the hit single "Don't Let It Go to Your Head."
Carn's third Philadelphia International album When I Find You Love (PIR JZ 36196) was more of a return conceptually (musically and sonically) to that of Jean Carn. Produced by Dexter Wansel, the album rates as one of Carn'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. Carn was switched from the Philadelphia International label to the subsidiary TSOP imprint for her final outing. Released in August 1981, Sweet and Wonderful with Glenn Jones, featured a stunning and classy remake of the Spinners' "Love Don't Love Nobody," featuring The Jones Girls, 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, Carn 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 canned and is reportedly in the vaults, following Ms. Carn's leaving the Motown roster.Her career trajectory has fallen off to such an extent that she has had to take gigs at conferences and meetings in the recent past. By 1986, Carn signed to Omni Records. Closer Than Close was released in July of that year and the title track went 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." Carn later signed with Place One Entertainment, which reunited her with former Omni Records president Steve Bernstein, with her Love Lessons album.
In 2002, Carn 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 Carn's various musical collaborations over the years. Carn has worked with some of the most prolific soul artists, producers and songwriters over the years, including Dizzy Gillespie, Norman Connors, The Temptations, Glenn Jones, the late Phyllis Hyman, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff among other stellar musicians. Carn has also acted as producer and arranger on her own projects and for others in the music fraternity. In 2008, she was among the Philly artists featured in the two-part PBS television special celebrating the musical legacy of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff and Philadelphia International Records.