Watley was an iconic presence in music in the 1970s and 1980s with the group Shalamar (”The Second Time Around,” “Dead Giveaway,” “A Night to Remember”) and as a solo artist, generating huge hits like “Looking for a New Love,” “Don’t You Want Me,” “Some Kind of Lover,” “Friends” and “Real Love.” She has continued to record music over the decades and has explored genres of electronic, house, chill, ambient and dub.
“Three years ago, I did a folk collaboration,” she said. “I love singing but as a writer, I like to experiment with different styles of music. I never get stuck in the past. I love that I have classics but I embrace new music too.”
She spends time working with the Grammy youth programs and promoting the rights of artists for equitable pay on streaming services.
Watley doesn’t have any direct Georgia ties. The Chicago native has long lived in Los Angeles. But she said she visits often and has a big fan base here. She also recently received an honorary doctorate from Trinity International University’s school of business in Duluth. (Trinity founder Jacqueline Mohair was on hand at the Georgia State Capitol event as well.)
She is friends with Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins of TLC. She said T-Boz once said that she modeled her deeper singing voice after Watley’s.
And while she said she enjoyed the attention Georgia bestowed upon her, her kids are her real prizes, noting they are both successful in their professions and are the first college graduates in the Watley family. She hopes to eventually finish her own college degree at some point, even if it’s merely a symbolic gesture.
IF YOU GO
Summer Kickoff Night Under the Stars with Average White Band and Jody Watley
7:30 p.m. June 3. $40-$80. Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, 5239 Floyd Road SW, Mableton. mablehouse.org.