Rhode Islander Brenda Bennett, discovered by pop superstar Prince, plays Common Fence Music with Blue Bamboo on May 14 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The performance will take place at the Common Fence Point Community Hall, 933 Anthony Road, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Tickets are $18 in advance and $21 at the door and are available through Brown Paper Tickets anytime, and at the door until sold out.
Call Brown Paper Tickets toll free at (800) 838-3006 or contact them via www.commonfencemusic.org. Call (401) 683-5085 or visit the website for general information and to leave a message. Doors open at 7 pm for the “folk-tailgate party.” Don’t forget your picnic basket!
Singer-songwriter Brenda Bennett, known worldwide as a member of Prince’s harmony groups, Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, was born Brenda Mosher into a musical household in Warwick, Rhode Island in the winter of 1952. Her mother played piano, accordion and sang; her father was a fine guitarist; and country music was the order of the day.
A veteran of Rhode Island’s music scene, Brenda played and recorded with Ken Lyon and the Tombstone Blues Band in her youth. When she met her future husband, Roy Bennett, a stage lighting designer, she went on the road with him. When Roy went to work for Prince, Brenda signed on as Prince’s wardrobe mistress and his videographer. “He had me film his show each night as a learning tool so that he could critique his show to see what and where any changes might need to be made.”
One afternoon as wardrobe attendant, Brenda was setting up Prince’s make-up station and getting his clothes ready for the night’s performance. Prince came in and put a cassette tape into his player on the table; it was a rough mix of the song “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks. Brenda began to sing along as she was worked, not realizing that Prince had stopped what he was doing and was listening. He explained that he was putting together a female group and that he thought she’d be just right for the project. Prince envisioned the group as a trio. Brenda accepted the offer and joined “Vanity 6.” Vanity 6 recorded two albums produced by Prince with Brenda making major contributions to both albums including co-writing credits on three of the albums eight tracks. Vanity 6 morphed into Apollonia 6. The trio, including Brenda, was featured in the film Purple Rain released in June 1984.
In April of 1991 at the age of thirty-nine Brenda had a son, Dylan Thomas-John. For the next fifteen years, music took a back seat. But in April 2007 when Ken Lyon organized a retrospective of his career, Brenda agreed to act as choreographer and vocal arranger for the female backing choir and the rest of the harmony singers.
With her son Dylan approaching high school graduation, Brenda decided to embark on the recording of her first solo album. Brenda began assembling the tracks that would eventually become the solo release, A Capella. “Recording the A Capella project is the first time I had total control over all aspects of the recording – from soup to nuts, I made the decisions on how I felt I wanted this product to be. It was a long process…but I am proud and pleased with the end result.” A Capella was released in September 2012.
On April 26, 2015, Brenda Bennett was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. Ken Lyon performed the ceremony and paid heartfelt tribute to their time together in Tombstone and to Brenda’s accomplishments during the following decades.
Brenda will be joined by Blue Bamboo, an All-Star Rhode Island band including Mark Taber, pianist and Ed McGuirl, multi-instrumentalist. Early ticket purchase is recommended for this performance.
Common Fence Music is a non-profit with a mission to promote culturally relevant but underexposed folk, roots and world music through concerts and educational activities. Seasonal soups, homemade refreshments and soft-drinks are available. The hall is ramp accessible.