Designing the music for Mary J. Blige’s ‘My Life’

Mary J. Blige’s voice, according to one source, “articulates with laser precision the sorrow of a generation.” This is especially true of her album from 1994 ““This is my life.” A new Amazon documentary on this groundbreaking album, which lays bare some of Blige’s deepest life challenges, will be available on Friday. Mervyn Warren, a five-time Grammy winner, composed the score “Mary J. is a character in the film Mary J. “It’s My Life,” says Mary J. Blige. Blige digs into her past growing up in the projects, abusive relationships, and sadness to the beat of Warren’s music. 

Quincy Jones, the film’s producer, suggested Warren write the score. Before the project, he and Blige had never met. Warren and director Vanessa Roth wanted to choose music that both complemented and contrasted Mary J. Blige’s renowned voice. He explains, “We didn’t want the score to sound like Mary’s songs.” According to Roth, throughout the film, Warren should employ a solitary voice that portrays loneliness, contemplation, and childhood. Warren has collaborated with a number of artists, including Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, and Faith Hill. 

In addition, he produced and orchestrated the majority of the music for Whitney Houston’s film “The Preacher’s Wife.” He’s worked on some of the most powerful music with some of the most powerful ladies, but he claims his preference for female vocalists is purely coincidental. One of his favourite collaborations was with Houston. “I became a fan instead of a producer when [Houston] went up to that mike and began to sing,” he says.

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“I was already a fan, but when I put on my fan hat, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible.’ Warren began playing the piano at the age of five. He didn’t hear much pop or R&B music as a kid because he grew up in a pious environment. Despite the fact that his parents only ever listened to The Swingle Singers in the house, he got his start in jazz. He was also influenced by gospel vocalist Edwin Hawkins, singer Andraé Crouch, and keyboard combo Ferrante & Teicher when he was younger. He explains, “I was able to sneak around and listen to other things.” 

“And I sort of absorbed all kinds of musical forms that have informed and assisted me in doing the work that I do now.” Warren’s jazz background led to his work with a gospel sextet. Take six. Though he occasionally produces for artists, he now prefers to work on films and television shows. He explains, “It’s not precisely left and right brain, but distinct sections of the creative brain to develop songs and produce performers against the sort of mathematical, if you will, approach that’s required for composing film and TV.” “However, I enjoy it all and intend to continue doing so.”

Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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