Detroit songbird Kathy Kosins’ versatility spans multiple decades and genres
We sample five essential tracks from chanteuse Kathy Kosins that cross the lines between techno, jazz and soul.
Born in Highland Park, Michigan, Kathy Kosins worked in her family’s clothing store as a child.
Her father, Harry Kosins, dressed many of the biggest stars from Motown and beyond, including Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Lou Rawls, Dinah Washington and more.
When Harry took Kathy on one of his business trips to New York, she saw the Broadway production of “Hair,” and from that moment on was determined to become a performer.
Listen to five essential tracks by Kathy Kosins.
1. “You Shook Me All Night Long” – Slingshot feat. Kathy Kosins
Kathy Kosins began working with various rock bands in the mid-1970s when she met David and Don Was as they were producing their first record for the band Was (Not Was). They were impressed with her singing abilities and hired her as a backup vocalist, both in the studio and on tour. They also contracted Kosins for other projects, including a 1982 remake of the hit AC/DC tune, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” produced by Don Was. He would employ Kosins as the lead vocalist. Using an interpolation of Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France,” Kosins’ vocals were seamlessly worked into the track.
Released at the dawn of the electro and early techno music era, the track would go on to become a major club hit. It was featured on Detroit’s iconic dance show “The Scene” with host Nat Morris, played in regular rotation by the legendary Detroit broadcast personality The Electrifying Mojo, and featured in numerous clubs throughout the country and internationally. The notoriety from the release would help make Kosins a much sought-after session vocalist as she played, recorded and/or toured with the likes of Was (Not Was), Michael Henderson, the British band Floy Joy and various others.
2. “Kissing Bug” – Kathy Kosins
Around the mid-’90s, Kosins would begin redirecting her creativity towards a more traditional jazz approach, spurred by creative partnerships with songwriters Jeff Franzel, April Lang, Marcy Drexler and later Kevin Mahogany. She would release jazz-inspired albums like “All in a Dream’s Work,” “Mood Swings,” “Vintage” and “The Space In Between,” that showcased her jazz chops.
The album “To the Ladies of Cool,” featuring the track “Kissing Bug,” is a modern exploration of the West Coast School of Cool that focused on the music of Anita O’Day, June Christy, Chris Connor and Julie London. The critically-acclaimed record found Kosins applying her vocals and vamping over jazz and big band arrangements. It was celebrated for her ability to interpret jazz, swing and big band standards and distill them with a sense of purity and integrity to those genres. Kosins’ voice soars with ebullient phrasing and a sultry and melodic timber that beautifully adorns each cut.
3. “Could You Be Me” – Kathy Kosins & Paul Randolph
Kosins would pivot and return to her R&B soul roots with her “Uncovered Soul” album, which found acclaimed producer Kamau Kenyatta helming the production duties. We’ll sample the deep polyrhythms of the track “Could You Be Me,” which also features vocal work from renowned bassist/crooner Paul Randolph.
The track, as well as the album, exuded a jazzy soulfulness and reinforced the notion that Kosins is one of the most versatile songwriters and vocalists of this generation, her musical artistry touching all genres, ranging from rock to electro and dance, to jazz, soul and R&B. Her artistry also radiates superior storytelling techniques with beautifully sung tracks punctuated by high level production.
4. “Can We Pretend ” – Kathy Kosins
Kosins’ versatility is on full display in “Can We Pretend” as she remakes a classic Bill Withers track into a deep house anthem with production from Brian Power.
5. “FROM A 2 B” – Kathy Kosins
Kosins latest release is a soulful single called “FROM A 2 B.”
In recent years, Kosins has also expanded her artistry into painting as a modern abstract artist, producing visual interpretations of audio recordings by jazz greats that have been featured in art gallery exhibitions and privately held collections around the country, most notably the Monk Institute in Los Angeles, Baruch College, the Oregon Council for the Arts and various other art enclaves and institutions.
Kosins is also a music educator, having served as an artist in residence at nearly 200 colleges and universities sharing her love and knowledge of music to future generations. Additionally, she’s an award-winning American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) songwriter who has received numerous accolades for her releases and live performances over the years.
When you think of Kathy Kosins, you think of versatility, adaptability and constant musical evolution, traits that continue to serve her well as she represents this region as one of its most significant artisans and music ambassadors.
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