Exclusive: Why Anita Baker Is Leaving The Spotlight For Good
Happy Birthday Anita Baker, and welcome to the age of contentment. Today is the iconic singer’s 59th birthday and it comes as she finds herself in an age of peace: peace with her new home, peace with her new life, and most importantly, peace with the end of her career. Kevin Frazier spoke with Anita exclusively, and she put it plain and simple, she ain’t coming back. There won’t be a farewell tour or a goodbye album, the only thing on Anita Baker’s mind these days is her flip flops and Birkenstocks. Welcome to the age of contentment.
Anita Baker has spent the last 40 years, creating moments and music for millions, but this latest moment, is a concert for one. The retirement is real, not a break, not a ploy, not a vacation, as Anita put it, she’s off the hamster wheel and content. There’s that word again, content, contentment, she has found a space, and a place that fits, and she doesn’t feel the need to leave it.
Santa Monica, California is her new home now, and her only steady gig these days is a regular appointment with a cup of coffee and the beach. “This business will kill you if you don’t pay attention,” so Anita adds that consequently, she’s paying attention to her life. Her boys live nearby, they are grown and employed. They are also close enough for frequent visits from their mom, who loves to cook, and will even roll through to do some laundry. That’s Anita Bakers Sweet Love these days, a simple life, in what she calls, the perfect place.
“Turning 59 isn’t a death sentence, it’s a transition,” Anita told Kevin and part of that transition is letting go of many of the trappings or should we say necessities of fame. Hair and make-up is optional on most days, and she will never go under the knife to try and transform or hold on to the Anita Baker that we see in her videos from the 80’s and 90’s. If you’re looking for that lady, go to YouTube, because this woman is 100 percent comfortable in her 59-year-old skin. She loves Alicia Keyes no make-up movement because it puts the focus back on the artist, the music and not the aesthetics. “I see all these people who feel they have to walk around in their underwear with a hair dresser and a photographer to be a success”. And that kind of life never has, and never will, interest Anita Baker. “Nobodies telling me I have to get on a plane to go someplace” and thats exactly what makes her content.
Music will always be a part of Anita’s life and she still sings, and writes, it’s just not for public consumption. But here’s the thing, even as she walks away from the spotlight, her songs still remain relevant. Lalah Hathaway’s remake of Anita’s classic Angel is nominated for a Grammy this year, and that is the kind of musical success that brings Anita joy these days. Lalah’s live version is nominated in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category, 34 years after it was initially released. it’s the kind of thing that makes Anita smile at “wine o’clock” as she watches the sunset in Santa Monica and goes down the checklist of her life.
“Celebrate me, but don’t put me back to work” is Anita’s mantra, and if its any consolation, she is trying to figure out a way to say goodbye. She wants to do something to thank her fans, she just hasn’t figured out what it is. But all the talk about a farewell moment makes Anita think of Michael Jackson. “Michael died trying to fulfill the will of strangers.” And at times the tug to run and make money, play shows and record had Anita frayed and pulled in all directions. “My son asked me one day, Mama why are you running around so much,” and those were the words that made her start to examine her life. She moved to Atlanta, it didn’t fit, so she moved to Santa Monica. She quit the business and she slowed her life down to a crawl. Anita doesn’t even drive, doesn’t have a drivers license. If she needs to get someplace she calls an Uber or her boys pick her up. Yes there is a man in her life and she actually wouldn’t mind getting married again, but she is in no rush.
So happy birthday Anita Baker, sip that cup of coffee and smile as you sit on the beach. You’ve earned this moment and I promise, we won’t disturb your retirement. And if we see you, we will wave, walk away and know, you’re all good. Welcome to the age of contentment Anita, it fits you well.