Before becoming a prominent figure in women’s music in the 1990s, San Francisco native Linda Tillery began her singing career in the 1960s with the gender-integrated psychedelic/soul band the Loading Zone, which was modeled somewhat after Sly and the Family Stone. After two albums with that band, Tillery released her solo debut, Sweet Linda Divine, on CBS in 1970 to enthusiastic reviews and high praise. She spent most of the ’70s singing and playing drums on over 40 albums, including efforts by Mary Watkins and Teresa Trull. Having become a staff musician and producer at Olivia Records, Tillery released her second solo album, a self-titled effort, on the label in 1978, garnering a Bay Area Music Award for Best Independently Produced Album; Tillery has twice gone on to win Bay Area Jazz Awards for Outstanding Female Vocalist.
In subsequent years, she has also branched out into areas like radio, film, theater, and television commercials, worked for the National Endowment for the Arts, and appeared with artists ranging from Santana to Kenny Loggins and Huey Lewis to the Turtle Island String Quartet, Bobby McFerrin, and Holly Near.
In 1992, Tillery decided to form an outlet for her desire to perform the traditional spiritual music of African-American slaves and their descendants. Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir is a Grammy © nominated, percussion driven, vocal ensemble whose mission is to preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African American roots music.
Their music is rooted in the deep south and strongly connected to their West African and Caribbean origins. This mission is pursued through academic research, review of historical recordings, documents and video footage and most importantly – live performance. Performing together since 1992, the Cultural Heritage Choir creates dynamic rhythms and sparkling energy on stage. Their vocals are lush and vibrant, their lyrics are poignant and uplifting. Through stick, song, dance and story, the CHC transports the audience to a place in time when the roots of American popular music, were just being sewn by the “involuntary immigrants” from Africa’s western regions.
The Cultural Heritage Choir today includes Tillery and fellow Bay Area vocalists Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell, sometime solo artist Melanie DeMore, and Emma Jean Foster-Fiege. The group has released the albums Good Time a Good Time (1995) and Front Porch Music (1997).
Linda has been a member of Local 1000 AFM for 16 years.