Some musicians have the power to transcend genres. Local jazz, blues, gospel and R&B singer Francine Reed has proven to have this gift during her illustrious career that has spanned multiple cities and decades.
The local legend will share her vocal talents with Valley fans at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center on Wednesday, January 9. Reed says for her, crossing different genres has come naturally.
“I’ve always been able to sing different music,” Reed says. “That’s simply because people hire you to do a certain job, and you say, ‘Yes, I can do it,’ and you do it. You never say no as a musician…I listen to different music. What I sing is pretty much what I listen to.”
An Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductee, Reed is best known for her rendition of Ida Cox’s “Wild Women.” Her resume is storied, though. She has worked with Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison and Delbert McClinton, and her music was featured on the 1993 film The Firm. For the last 35 years, she has toured and recorded with Lyle Lovett.
“He wants me to be myself. He has always allowed me to do that,” Reed says.
Born in Chicago and raised in Phoenix, Reed sang in church growing up. She came from a musical family, which included seven singers. Her sister, the late Margo Reed, is also an Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductee. From the mid-1970s to mid-1990s, Reed lived in Phoenix and performed around the Valley with her siblings.
“My family has inspired me,” she says. “That’s my first inspiration because I’m the baby girl of the family,” Reed says. “We ran the music scene almost. Everywhere you turned around, there was a Reed playing somewhere. People here were very kind to us. They embraced us, and they gave us jobs.”
Singing always came naturally to her.
“I have this gift and this talent, and I love sharing it with audiences or with anyone who wants me to open my mouth and sing,” Reed says.
She has four children and, while she was raising them, she took any singing job she could to support them, often working six to seven nights a week.
“I had to sing everywhere I could. I never said no to a gig,” Reed says.
Reed recently moved back to Phoenix from Atlanta, where she lived and worked for over 20 years, to take care of her son. Since her return, she has performed at The Nash, the Mesa Arts Center and the Rhythm Room. Reed says the music scene has changed a lot, but her longtime fans keep her going.
“As long as I can live, breath and open my mouth and sing a song, I will. As long as people want to hear me, I will hopefully always be able to give them what they want,” Reed says.
Francine Reed, ASU Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480.596.2660, asukerr.com, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 9, $28-$39, $10 for ASU students, faculty and staff.