It’s time to put that music view lens on focus for all things Ms. CeCe…
Groove goddess Ce Ce Peniston was certainly poised to become one of dance music’s most successful crossover divas. From the moment those opening thumps of her trademark single, “Finally,” hopped on, you knew you’re in for a real music treat. Born in Dayton, OH, CeCe and her family trekked to Phoenix when she was just nine years old. When she was a teenager, Peniston was crowned Miss Black Arizona in 1989 and soon signed with A&M in the early-’90s.
From there, she linked up when Felipe “DJ Wax Dawg” Delgado, a friend and a record producer, who asked Peniston to record back-up vocals for Tonya Davis, a black female rapper known after her childhood nickname as Overweight Pooch. Davis, who modeled her career after Monie “It’s A Shame” Love, was searching for a songstress to add vocals to the title track of her album Female Preacher, and brought on Peniston to get the job done.
After much buzz on the track, it was clear that Ms. CeCe had the vocal chops to strike out on her own–and that’s just what she did. After supplying vocals for three tracks on Pooch’s album, Manny Lehman (a DJ, then A&M Art Director and one of the executive producers of Female Preacher) noticed the powerful voice of the sassy back-up vocalist, and he brought in a team to help get the diva in the right direction where she, um, “Finally” got to work on her first studio venture.
Just twenty-one years old when “Finally” was served to WalkMan headphones, the explosive dance track destroyed the US club scene in late-’91, where it instantly became a dance anthem for the ages. After “Finally” shook its fanny all the way to the top of the dance charts, Ms. Thing logged some time in the studio to record her first full-length set. However, the pressure was on as CeCe only had two months to pull the whole album together, later on spilling about how difficult it was to begin her career at such an extreme pace, being that “Finally” was everywhere at the time of the recording of the album.
By the time Finally was released in early ’92, both the single and the album made CeCe a household name. Second single, “We Gotta Love Thang,” further proved that Ms. Peniston was more than a one-hit wonder. With a video in heavy rotation on TV music channels, “Thang” went to No. 1 in the US Dance chart, as did follow-up single, the new jack wrapped, “Keep On Walkin.”
With yet another hit record on the charts, Peniston began a year of touring clubs and small theaters in support of the record, starting with a series of shows in the Philippines, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy, and after her return to the USA, she continued to tour with R&B acts such as Joe Public and the Cover Girls. Yas.
But it was later that year that CeCe had a true groundbreaking achievement when Billboard magazine announced that she was the leading nominee in the ’92 Billboard Music Awards, being nominated in four categories: three times in the dance category with “Finally” (Best New Artist, Best Female Artist and Best Director), and one in the R&B/Rap category (Best Female Artist) for “Keep On Walkin.” The dance diva went home with two awards, and three of her singles released that year were also listed within the Top 100 songs of the Billboard Year-End chart (at No.#20 with “Finally,” at No.#61 with “Keep On Walkin’,” and at No.#97 with “We Got a Love Thang.”) You better werk, Ms. CeCe.
Just a short time later, Peniston was back in the studio to record her sophomore release, Thought Ya Knew, but it came with a challenge–for CeCe to avoid getting pigeonholed into the dance genre. For that particular slice of music truth, several powerhouse ballads were served up on Knew, (“Whatever It Is”, “Give What I’m Givin” and “Maybe It’s The Way”), but of course we still got served with that classic CeCe dance flavor in David Morales produced cuts, “Keep Me Givin’ Me Your Love” and “Hit By Love,” which are both ’90s deep house classics all the way.
After debates over the first single, “I’m in the Mood” was picked to lead the pack. (although “Searchin‘” would be separately delivered on vinyl only to DJs.) The delicious “Mood” did well, with an accompanying video that served us with a hip-hop remix from M-Doc & Jere M.C., better known as In Da Soul. The song spawned Peniston’s forth No. 1, also going on to snatch the #1 spot from Morales’ produced “A Deeper Love” by Ms. Aretha Franklin.
However, as much buzz as there was surrounding CeCe’s sophomore set, it sadly didn’t enjoy the disco success of Finally, and there were more heated debates about which singles would turn the album’s fortunes around. Eventually, CeCe released the hip-hop flavored, “I’m Not Over You,” which would be followed with “Hit By Love,” which went on to storm the dance charts.
After Thought faded into the music sunset, CeCe would go on to become a member of the gospel quintet called The Sisters of Glory, which included Thelma Houston, Phoebe Snow, Lois Walden, Albertina Walker, and the gals would record a spiritual album, Good News in Hard Times, that would go on to moderate success on the gospel charts. She would follow with I’m Movin’ On, a deeper, more mature sounding record that showcased a noticeably slimmed-down Peniston gracing its cover.
In the late-’90s and early-’00s, Ms. Peniston would keep on recording a whole Trump buffet of dance grooves, (“Somebody Else’s Guy,” “I’m Feelin U,” last year’s, “Nothing Can Stop Me,” just to name a few), and although they didn’t reach Finally heights, she still proved that she’s still that diva in the dance game. While there are many of us who still absolutely live for all things CeCe, there may be some of you out there who aren’t aware of the memorable music that she’s brought to our attention over the years. So, do yourself a favor and get all up in CeCe’s whirling catalog of grooves..you’ll certainly be glad you did.
That’s a Philly Mixtape promise.