2015-02-19 / Front Page

Former Vanity 6 singer inducted into RI Music Hall of Fame

By Ken Shane

Brenda Bennett was recently inducted into the Rhode Island Hall of Fame. Left, from her music video for “Say Love.” Brenda Bennett was recently inducted into the Rhode Island Hall of Fame. Left, from her music video for “Say Love.” Jamestown resident Brenda Bennett has been elected to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. The veteran musician, whose career included membership in the group Vanity 6, a Prince-created female vocal trio, will be part of an induction class that includes crooner Nelson Eddy, rock band The Schemers, and Newport Jazz Festival impresario George Wein.

This year will mark the hall’s fourth induction class.

Although she hit her stride in the 1980s, Bennett has continued to record music into the 21st century, releasing her most recent album, “A Capella,” in 2011. The album was well received. An initial order of 1,000 copies sold out quickly, forcing Bennett to order more. To promote her disc, she created four videos and posted them to YouTube. To date, the videos have cumulatively been viewed 75,000 times.

Two years ago Bennett was contacted by a New York songwriter named Charlie Mason, who was looking to collaborate on some new music. She listened to Mason’s music, and felt that it was no longer her style. She decided not to pursue the project.

Mason was persistent, however, and a few months later he contacted Bennett again. She was more amenable this time around. The pair produced three songs together, two of which have become dance hits in the New York City club scene. A video of one of the songs, “Guiltier,” is on YouTube. She also intends to upload videos of the other two songs.

Shoulder replacement surgery sidelined Bennett for a long period of time, making it impossible to play the guitar. The first surgery was not done properly, and more work was done in October. However, she did use the time to write lyrics, and now that she can play again, she is looking ahead to a new album.

Bennett will return to live performance with a set at the induction ceremony at Pawtucket’s Met Cafe in May. Her five-piece band for the night will include members of Young Neal & the Vipers. It will be Bennett’s first performance since her surgeries.

Bennett has been aware of the Hall of Fame since her old bandmate Ken Lyons was inducted. A few years ago she donated her personal copy of the “Purple Rain” script to the hall; she appeared in the film while working with Prince. Then three weeks ago, she got a call telling her that she had been unanimously elected to the 2015 class.

“Wow, thank you,” was her first reaction.

“My second question was, does this mean my career is over?” she quipped.

At one point there was a lull in Bennett’s career. She had given up music to raise her son, Dylan Walsh. Bennett didn’t think she could pursue a successful music career and raise a son at the same time, so she sacrificed music. Although Bennett didn’t encourage Walsh to get involved in music, the creativity gene didn’t fall far from the tree. Walsh took up alto sax, which he played in the Jamestown schools and at North Kingstown High. He’s won several awards for singing and his saxophone play, and is also an award-winning visual artist.

Bennett said she was surprised when her son, who declared his devotion to art as early as the fifth grade, decided to attend the University of Rhode Island instead of an art school. Walsh studied communications and theater at URI, but after two years, another interest came to the fore. Walsh, making all of his own arrangements, decided to attend Full Sail University in Florida, a school that specializes in the training of recording engineers, videographers and video game designers.

Walsh studied video game design and worked hard to finish four years of classwork in two years; he graduated with honors in September. There were 250 students in Walsh’s program when he started, but only 19 completed the course. Today he remains in Florida where he serves as a mentor to the school’s students. While he is looking for a full-time job in the field, he is working as a freelance designer.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see him very often,” Bennett said.

Past inductees to the Rhode Island Hall of Fame include 1960’s pop group The Cowsills, rockers John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Roomful of Blues, and classic soul singer Freddie Scott.

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