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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Angela Bofill, R&B hitmaker with a silky voice, dies at 70




By Alex Williams


Angela Bofill, a New York-bred singer whose sultry alto propelled a string of R&B hits in the late 1970s and early ’80s before strokes derailed her career in the 2000s, died Thursday in Vallejo, California. She was 70.


Her death, at the home of her daughter, Shauna Bofill Vincent, was announced in a social media post by her manager, Rich Engel. He did not specify a cause.


With a silky blend of Latin, jazz, adult-contemporary and soul, Bofill is best remembered for jazzy love songs including “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” and funk-inflected pop numbers like “Something About You.” Armed with a 3 1/2-octave range, her voice was “as cool as sherbet, creamy, delicately colored, mildly flavored,” as Ariel Swartley wrote in Rolling Stone magazine in 1979.


Starting in 1978, Bofill logged six albums in the Top 40 of the Billboard R&B charts, with five of them crossing over to the Top 100 of the pop charts. She also scored seven Top 40 R&B singles, including “Angel of the Night,” (1979) and “Too Tough” (1983).


Angela Tomasa Bofill was born May 2, 1954, in New York City to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father and grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, in Manhattan and in the west Bronx. She started writing songs as a child.


By her teens, she was showing off her vocal chops in a duo with her sister Sandra and a group called the Puerto Rican Supremes, and as a member of the prestigious All-City Chorus, a group composed of top high school singers in the city’s five boroughs.


After graduating from Hunter College High School in Manhattan in 1972, she created a buzz on the city’s club circuit, singing in the band of future Latin Grammy winner Richie Marrero.


She studied at the Hartford Conservatory in Connecticut and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 1976. Bofill worked with the Dance Theater of Harlem as a singer, writer and arranger before signing to GRP Records and releasing her critically acclaimed debut album, “Angie,” in 1978.


The album’s signature single, “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter,” a song previously recorded by Martha Reeves, Roberta Flack and others, rose to No. 23 on what was then known as Billboard’s soul chart.


In a profile in The Daily News after the album’s release, columnist Pete Hamill singled out one track, “Under the Moon and Over the Sky” — one of four songs on the album that Bofill wrote or co-wrote — as “a city dream: lyrical and defiant, with the congas rolling through the middle, and the sounds of Santeria add a thread of the unearthly.”


“You dream this kind of music on subways,” he added.


At the time, Bofill was still living in the west Bronx, where the urban decay spreading through the borough was all too apparent to her.


“It’s so sad,” she told Hamill. “Where I used to live, the same building that was flourishing with people is now the pits. I used to go to a candy store on the corner and hang out, and that’s gone. It looks like the ancient ruins of Rome.”


“Maybe I can be part of the solution,” she added. “Even the poorest family has a radio. Even the poorest family can have music.”


Hailed as a rare Latin singer to cross over to the R&B charts, Bofill continued her ascent. Her follow-up album, “Angel of the Night” (1979), was an even bigger critical and commercial success, fueled by the singles “What I Wouldn’t Do (For the Love of You)” and “I Try,” which she performed on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” along with the title track.


Clive Davis, the Arista Records founder, lured her to his label in 1981.


By the mid-1980s, Bofill was living with her husband, country music performer Rick Vincent, in the Napa Valley of California and raising her baby daughter. (The couple divorced in 1994; complete information about survivors was not immediately available).


In a 1985 interview with Ben Fong-Torres, a music writer for The San Francisco Chronicle, Bofill said motherhood had not only grounded her emotionally — “I’m more assertive; I know what I want more” — but also affected her musical abilities. “I gained three notes on my upper register,” she said. “If I’d had a boy, I’d have become a bass, who knows.”


She released her last studio album, “Love in Slow Motion,” in 1996. Her music career ended when she had strokes in 2006 and 2007 that left her partly paralyzed and speech-impaired.


Still, Bofill rarely expressed regret and tried to be lighthearted in talking about her misfortunes in interviews. She recounted to The Washington Post in 2011 how she had wearied of the rigors of the road before her first stroke.


“I asked God, ‘Give me break,’” she recalled in disjointed syntax. “Tell the truth, I need a break. I’m going, going. No break long time. Over 26 years, no break. I prayed one day, ‘God, I need a break.’ Bam! That’s when stroke hit.”


She added, “Next time, God, maybe another kind break.”

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