Birth name: Sarah Jean Perkins
Born March 15, 1947 in Columbus, Georgia
Genres: R&B • pop • disco • jazz • Philly Soul • Quiet Storm
Years active 1969- Present
Labels: Buddha • Philadelphia International Records • Motown • Omni/Atlantic • Place One • Expansion
Jean Carn (now Jean Carne) is one of the most spectacular musicians that debuted in the 20th century. With a five octave range, Jean is an artist that beautifully tied jazz, R&B/Soul, & disco together, giving us some of the best songs ever released.
I was introduced to Jean from one of her most signature records (Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,) but as I dug in her catalog, I realized that she is truly underrated compared to a lot of our legendary old school artists. We know of Jean’s solo career, but she’s been an active musician since her teens, with connections to legendary artists such as Doug Carn, Earth, Wind & Fire, Duke Ellington, Phyllis Hyman, Michael Jackson and countless others.
This appreciation post will pay homage to Jean and her legacy.
Albums Released: N/A
When Jean was 13, she appeared on a local television program and performed Misty, accompanied by Erroll Garner. After graduating from high school, she briefly went to college on a music scholarship before marrying Doug Carn.
Albums Released: Jean Carn (1976) • Happy to Be with You (1978) • When I Find You Love (1979)
The married couple collaborated with the legendary band Earth, Wind & Fire on their first two albums, Earth, Wind & Fire (1970) & The Need of Love (1971), with Jean being on the background vocals. Doug Carn recorded several albums on the Black Jazz Records label that has since been perceived as cult classics, and features Jean in the jazz fusion influenced albums Infant Eyes, Spirit of the New Land, Revelation and Adam’s Apple. Jean was also a performing member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra before his death. Now THAT IS ICONIC!
Jean Carn scored her first hit song with Valentine Love, a duet with the late Michael Henderson that was featured on Norman Connors’ Saturday Night Special album. At the time, Connors was transitioning from jazz fusion to R&B Love ballads and Valentine Love is a true testament to that. Jean & Michael make the song so magical with their remarkable vocals. The song was a top ten hit on the R&B charts. Also, Jean was a lead singer on other songs from Norman’s album such as Dindi & Skin Diver.
This success eventually began Jean’s solo career with her signing to Philadelphia International Records, a label ran by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff in 1976. That same year, her self titled debut album was released, peaking at number forty-six on the Billboard R&B albums and twenty-six on the Billboard Jazz charts respectively. The album spawned the singles Free Love, If You Wanna Go Back & You Got a Problem, which peaked in the top twenty on the Billboard Dance Charts.
Jean’s follow up 1978 album When I Find You Love spawned the hit single Don’t Let It Go to Your Head. Penned by Gamble and Huff, I love this song because it was one of my late grandmother’s favorite songs. It further motivated me to get into Jean’s discography.
1979’s When I Find You Love had success with the singles My Love Don’t Come Easy (peaked at number 43 on the R&B charts) & Was That All It Was. The latter was a huge disco hit in UK clubs and also featured on the 2009 film Precious.
Albums Released: Sweet and Wonderful (1981) • Trust Me (1982) • Closer Than Close (1986) • You’re a Part of Me (1988)
Jean’s collaboration with Al Johnson (titled I’m Back for More,) gave the singer another top 40 hit on the R&B charts and is a CLASSIC record!
Jean’s fourth studio album Sweet and Wonderful is one of my favorite albums. Released under PIR’s subsidiary label TSOP, Sweet and Wonderful had success with Jean’s cover of The Spinner’s classic Love Don’t Love Nobody. The album cuts make the album be a really nice vibe! I love Mystic Stranger & We Got Some Catchin’ Up to Do just to name a few!
Carn later moved to Motown Records in 1982, releasing the album Trust Me. Her cover of the classic If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was released as a single and featured the Temptations, peaking at forty-nine on the R&B charts.
By 1986, Jean signed to Omni Records and released her sixth studio album Closer Than Close. Produced by Grover Washington Jr, the title track shot to the number one spot, giving Jean her first number one R&B record to date. The song Flame of Love also peaked at number twenty-one on the R&B charts.
Jean’s 1988 album You’re a Part of Me was released on Atlantic and had a hit single with her cover of Aretha Franklin’s Ain’t No Way, peaking at number twenty-three.
Albums Released: Carn Sings McCoy (1995) • Love Lessons (1996)
After the 80s, Jean has done most of her work performing live, mostly for her dedicated following in the UK. She released two independent releases in the mid 90s, and the Love Lessons album was a nice vibe with her cover of The Emotions’ So I Can Love You.
Albums Released: N/A
Jean collaborated with Jeff Majors on the gospel record Somebody Bigger in 2002!!
Albums Released: Flashback (2013) Give It Up (2015)
Jean dropped two independent LP’s in the early to mid 2010s, and they were gems! Flashback was a compilation album with songs that the singer re-recorded of her classics or covers from other artists. Give It Up was an album of good material as well!
Albums Released: Jean Carne JID012 (2022)
Jean Carne collaborated with Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest fame) to write and recorded the 12th volume in the duo’s Jazz Is Dead series. It is truly a masterpiece y’all! my mind was blown at how great Jean sounds in her 70s.
Jean Carn is truly one of the greatest voices that I’ve heard ever. Jean recently had an Unsung episode about her career and legacy, and I am glad that people are giving my girl her flowers while she’s still with us!
Jean’s music has also been sampled and covered by so many amazing artists that appreciate her discography and her contributions to music.
I hope this appreciation post gives you motivation to give Jean her flowers more and more today! One thing about music, is how timeless it is. & Jean Carn is exactly that: timeless. -MW.