Carole D. Fredericks
Carole Denise Fredericks (June 5, 1952 Springfield, MA – June 7, 2001 Dakar Senegal) was an American singer most famous for her recordings in France. The youngest sister of GRAMMY Award-winning blues musician, Taj Mahal, Carole achieved fame and popularity in Europe, Africa, France, and the francophone world. For more than two decades Paris, France was her adopted home and Dakar, Senegal her favorite vacation spot.
Carole was five years old when she discovered her big, rich voice. By the time she graduated from high school in 1972, she was determined to be “the best blues singer in the world” and to work with the best musicians. She began with her older brother, Henry S. Fredericks aka Taj Mahal. Carole asked Taj to pay for an airline ticket to San Francisco. Once there, Taj put his sister to work singing backup on 3 albums - Mo' Roots (1974), Music Fuh Ya (Music Para Tu) (1977) and Evolution (The Most Recent) (1978). Seven years in San Francisco transformed Fredericks into a confident, professional singer.
She formed a trio – piano, bass, and drums - to accompany her weekend performances at La Belle Helene, a French bistro. After every performance, the owners and patrons said, “Carole, our country would love you. Why don’t you move to Paris?” Their suggestions hit home. Carole bought a one-way ticket and in January of 1979 she moved to Paris, France. She was 27 years old and could not speak a word of French. Three weeks later she was signed to CARLA Music to record her first solo album, Black Orchid, and working steadily as a session singer.
Although Carole Fredericks left her mother country, she never left her roots. Steeped in the fertile music traditions of her parents and tucked into her suitcases was the sheet music of her youth – Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cook, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, John Lennon, and the Beatles. Carole emerged as a powerful singer who wove the passionate threads of blues, gospel, and R&B into a uniquely French tapestry. European stars like Duran Duran, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Johnny Hallyday, Gilbert Bécaud, Mylène Farmer, Patricia Kaas, Zachary Richard, and others hired her for concerts performances and session work.
Her reputation as a gifted singer willing to lend her musical talent in support of another artist and equally adept at singing in English and French brought her name to the attention of pop music composer, Jean-Jacques Goldman. In 1990, Goldman asked Carole to join him and guitarist Michael Jones on stage to form the phenomenal trio, Fredericks Goldman Jones. For ten years, 1990 to 2000, FGJ performed in front of sold-out audiences throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Japan. Carole’s signature vocal style helped to catapult the group’s five albums to the top of the charts: Fredericks Goldman Jones (1990 / Diamond), Sur Scène (1992 / Platinum), Rouge (1993 / Diamond), Du New Morning Au Zenith (1994 / Platinum) and The Best of Fredericks Goldman Jones (2000).
In 1995, Goldman wrote and produced the album, D'eux for Céline Dion. Carole was asked to contribute background vocals on D’eux, the all-time best selling French-language album ever, and two more Celine Dion albums – Falling IntoYou and S'il suffisait d'aimer. Carole released two popular solo albums, Springfield (1996), a blues and gospel album in English and Couleurs et parfums (1999), a tour de force of cultural mixes – French, English, and Wolof the national language of Senegal.
She had done the impossible—struck out on her own and achieved international fame and success. In 2001 at age 49, Carole experienced a massive heart attack and died following a benefit concert at Club Med World in Dakar. On June 18 she was laid to rest in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.
Carole Denise Fredericks left behind a body of work that is reaching new audiences today. Her albums are available online in the United States and France. Carole’s music videos and songs are used in innovative French lessons for American students. In 2011 Legacy Recordings France released Best Of Carole Fredericks, and in 2012 the city of Paris installed a commemorative plaque at 91bis rue du Mont Cenis, Carole’s home for more than ten years.
Music runs deep in the Fredericks-Williams-Mahal family. Carole Fredericks was raised by parents who encouraged education, world travel, and artistic self-expression. Musical performance was the first career choice for many of her siblings. Oldest brother, Taj Mahal, is an international treasure and legendary blues musician; youngest brother, Ozzie Williams, is lead vocalist for a New England based R&B Soul band; her sister, Connie Fredericks-Malone, is a New York jazz vocalist, and international indie-pop recording artist, Deva Mahal, is her niece.