Denice Brooks: Biography

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Denice Brooks built her solo career while she performed with Anita Baker, Roy Ayers, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Natalie Cole. She moved Prince with her version of “Purple Rain” and made huge crowds dance all over Europe. Now, she is back.

Last update: March 20th, 2022

There is not much this force of nature has not been able to accomplish. Once she puts her mind to it, she will follow through with anything. Her musical gifts are not her only blessing. Denice Brooks also was an accomplished track and field athlete, winning the 100m, 200m, and anchoring her 4x100m relay team to a win at the Texas Relays. She was so talented, so fast, that her times back then are considered track and field’s qualifying speed standards for female sprinters today. But her true love, her passion, has always been music. She chose it over an Olympian caliber career, in track and field.  

Strawberry Woman

Necie, as her family and friends call her, moved on. Early on, she competed and sang in three beauty pageants, two of which she won. She became Miss Black Austin and Miss Black Texas, while placing third in the Miss Black America Beauty Pageant. She caught the attention of Actor/Comedian Bob Hope who hired her to sing on his USO Tour that concentrated on performances for U.S. servicemen and servicewomen across Europe.

After closing out the USO Tour, Denice moved to New York City where she met Luther Vandross and performed for him on various studio projects over the next two years. She also performed with the Average White Band, Earth, Wind and Fire, and was hired for her first Broadway show, “The Wiz”, in which she played and sang the role of Glenda. A year later she was hired for her second Broadway show, “Ain’t Misbehavin”. In this case, she was Charlotte. Two years later, Denice Brooks was hired for her third Broadway show, playing the role of “Strawberry Woman”, and lead understudy for the role “Bess” in “Porgy and Bess”.

Feeling that she was not getting the opportunities to further her musical career in New York City, and after finishing her run with “Porgy and Bess”, she moved to Germany. Her move was encouraged by her brother Jason Ansara Brooks, also a singer, and former principal Alvin Ailey’s dancer, who felt she could possibly fulfill her dreams there. So, Denice and Jason Brooks formed a band called First Take whose popularity grew almost immediately.

Rising Star

They performed throughout Europe, playing heavily in Berlin and Paris. Their following became so vast that they began to get the attention of the news media. Shortly after the formation of their band, another brother, Billy Brooks, who also sings, joined them in Germany and began touring with the group as a backup singer. While touring they not only headlined their own shows but opened for groups such as The Gap Band and The Dazz Band.

Making the move to Germany was like finding a pot of gold for Denice Brooks. Her newfound fame and media appeal began to get the attention of major recording artists in Europe, as well as in the United States, who sought to use the rising star’s soulful voice in their performances. She was hired by Jennifer Rush, as a feature vocalist for her “Power of Love” and “Ring of Ice” tours in Europe. 

Sir Paul McCartney also hired her to co-star in a musical which he wrote. It was based on his duet with Stevie Wonder in their Grammy winning song “Ebony and Ivory”. Every show was sold out and the audience responded with standing ovations for her performances every night.

Breathless and Inspired

Have you ever wondered what a female version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” would sound like? During an emotional 20-minute phone call with him, Prince stated that Denice had an “absolutely stunning voice” and that he was proud of her version of his signature song. She was told by his people that he had responded emotionally when he heard her sing her cover version of his iconic song. Prince invited Denice, with her late brother Jason, to his next Berlin show.

On the night of his Berlin show, Prince ushered Necie onto the stage, introduced her as the woman who blew him away with her cover version of his song and invited her to sing the third verse of “Purple Rain”, at which point the Berlin crowd responded aesthetically. The audience roared, “Zugabe!” (“Encore!”) as Denice Brooks descended from the stage, while being showered in a tsunami of roses. With the blessing of Prince, Denice Brooks released her cover version of “Purple Rain”.

Having the opportunity to sing on stage with Prince and cover his signature song garnered her much European media acclaim. During their meeting, Prince told her this: “You are a star in your own right, and you should never bow down to anyone.” Hearing this from Prince left Denice Brooks breathless and inspired her to push even harder in her career.

Performance for Mandela

Her next opportunity came as a result of being on the same music bill with the Nigeran-Swedish recording star Dr. Alban, at a festival in Hamburg, Germany, where he, after being wowed by her performance, approached her and asked if she would be interested in joining him as a background vocalist for his upcoming European Tour. Dr. Alban’s manager, Najee, also a recording artist and producer, thought it would be a great idea to have Denice Brooks open the show with two songs on Dr. Alban’s European Tour, based on her growing popularity. The tour took them to cities all over Germany, England, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain and Johannesburg, South Africa, where Denice Brooks had the opportunity to meet President Nelson Mandela.

While in Johannesburg, during a three-day break in Dr. Alban’s tour, Denice Brooks overheard a group of local women stating that President Nelson Mandela was a few blocks away at the office of the African National Congress. After arriving at the ANC, she asked the guards tasked with securing the entrance if she could meet President Mandela. She was pushed back by guards who laughed and emphatically told her it would not be possible to meet him.

Being the force of nature that she is, she undauntedly told the guards she had recently learned a traditional South African song and wondered if she could sing it for them. They said yes and after she finished the song, and upon opening her eyes, she noticed a small crowd had gathered around her and the guards who were drowning in their tears from hearing their traditional South African song, sung so beautifully by Denice. As a result of her masterful impromptu performance, she was given an opportunity to meet with President Nelson Mandela.

Lasting Friendship

For the next two hours, President Mandela devoted his entire attention to her, entertaining her by giving her a tour of the ANC offices and asking her to attend a reception with him that was already in progress. Weeks had passed after their initial meeting when, prompted by his knowledge of her vocal capabilities, President Mandela asked Denice Brooks if she would sing at his daughter’s wedding. What an experience, to be asked to sing, for royalty, for his daughter, by the President of The Republic of South Africa! Their meeting spurred a friendship that lasted the remainder of President Nelson Mandela’s life.

There are many other attributes to Denice Brooks’ bio. She has sung with many other notable performers, such as Natalie Cole, Patti Labelle, Missy Elliott, Roy Ayers, Evelyn Champagne King, Jasmin Sullivan, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Tina Turner and Kem. And she sticks out, whatever she sings. Her Gospel performances are too beautiful to be real. When she sings Soul ballads, she mesmerizes her audience. And when she presents Funk tunes, her incredible voice, stage presence and power thrill everyone.

Truly Gifted

As it turns out, Denice Brooks is an athlete after all, in the sense that she has always been working hard, both on and off stage, with endless amounts of energy.

But she mainly is a truly gifted vocalist. Her career is not only a testament of her singing ability, but of her entire walk of life. She is the architect of her career. Without a manager, she has paved a path, done it her way and has been successful at her craft. She has established relationships based on her character as a professional and her hard driving work ethic. If she is in demand, she will continue to sing. If she continues to sing, she will be in demand.

Now, in the summer of 2022, Denice Brooks is moving back to Berlin, 24 years after the left the same city for America. New projects are in the works.

5 Comments
  1. […] More information about Denice Brooks’ history can be found in her biography. […]

  2. […] information about Denice Brooks’ history can be found all over this website, including in her biography and in the long interview she gave in late March of […]

  3. Darrin says

    Proud of you Denise. You have a gift.

  4. Zack says

    Denice Brooks not only has an amazing voice, but an amazing character to go with. We befriended her when she was our upstairs neighbor and she became fast friends with the wife and me. We had no idea how much amazing work she had done until much later. But, it was a great surprise to discover her history. We’ll always cheer for you Denise!

  5. Shetay says

    Denice is a force to be reckoned with! She is a powerhouse! Her melodic and sultry sound moves the soul!

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