Baker's Dozen...

[From New York Post]


SEVEN-time Grammy-winner Anita Baker stopped performing seven years ago so she could raise her two sons.

For some singers, that kind of break would be career suicide. For Baker, 44, it was an awakening.

"Being with my kids and husband put the world in perspective," Baker told The Post from the suburban Detroit home she shares with her husband, Walter Bridgeforth, and sons.

Her fans haven't forgotten about her - her four-night run next week at Westbury Music Fair is nearly sold out.

"I am a little nervous," she admitted, "but I'm excited, too. My voice is fine, and I had a checkup at my throat doctor last week and he told me, 'The pipes look great.' "

She attributes that to not smoking and never abusing her voice. Easier said than done for the mom of boys ages 8 and 9. She occasionally has to shout, "but it's mostly to cheer them on when they're playing at a basketball, soccer or football game."

Baker is rich and talented, and she explains her return to the limelight not as a need for green or even glory, but rather because "the muse moved me."

Post: What do you mean, the muse moved you?

Baker: I've never been one to force it. Look back at my career. I've always stepped in and out of the business. When the music comes to me, I can't stop it - and when it's not there, I can't force it.

Post: Performers force it all the time.

Baker: I learned early on that I have to be commanded by the music. Not the other way around. It's wrong when I try to force it. It doesn't work for me, it doesn't sound good and it isn't true when it's finished.

Post: Is that something performers like Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Whitney Houston don't know?

Baker: I have nothing but admiration and respect for those women.

Post: What do you admire about them?

Baker: They're able to live their lives in public. They walk through a storm every day, and then stand up in front of an audience and perform. They are 21st-century warrior princesses. I'm a chicken.

Post: Chicken?

Baker: When it gets rough for me, I just go home. These women are made of steel, especially Whitney.

Post: Why don't they go home when it gets that rough?

Baker: It's something called the music industry. Whatever Whitney touches turns to gold, and people are enriched by her - physically, spiritually and financially. When you have that effect on people, it's hard to get all those hands off your body and walk away.

Post: You've walked away from the industry a couple of times, but you have a reputation as an artist who's tough and gets her way. Is that still you?

Baker: Having children has mellowed me. That's good because it's easier to deal with everything that comes along now.

Post: How so?

Baker: I'm now in a place where everything is in perspective. I know what's important and what's not. When you have your priorities - like home and family - the rest falls in line and the other stuff doesn't seem all that serious.

Post: How does that apply to this comeback tour?

Baker: With perspective, I can say let's see how these holiday gigs go. In the old days, I would have completely thrown myself into it and suddenly I would have been booked for 11 of the 12 months. With this Westbury series, I'm just sticking my toe back into the water to see how it feels. That's the kind perspective I've learned from being a mother.

Post: Why come back now?

Baker: The timing was right, the people were right, the circumstance was right and I'm ready.

Post: Everything's all right? No problems?

Baker: Well, there's my hair. What am I going to do with my hair? I got mommy hair. I got to find a happy medium between mommy hair and (Aretha-like) queen hair.

Post: If you go back to music full time, that'll be a major change for your family. Are your husband and kids OK with that?

Baker: Walter is very supportive because he knows that singing is a very big part of who I am.

Post: Are you prepared for the good and bad times of show business?

Baker: No, not at all. I know I'll never be prepared for everything that can happen, but like I said before, I have my priorities and my own agenda. If that changes, I can always go home.




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