Sometimes I wonder if it’s due to some youthful times of better living through chemistry, but there are musicians that simply slip from my radar.
I’m not speaking of random acts in whom I had, at most, marginal interest, but rather those who were, for sometimes brief periods, favorites. Then, out of nowhere, they return to your orbit.
Recently, I needed a song with the word “hope” in the title and there was Toni Childs with House Of Hope. Then, days ago, another one of her songs, Don’t Walk Away made an appearance here.
That song was on her debut, Union, which closed with a song called Where’s The Ocean? Union wasn’t a major commercial success and I don’t remember ever hearing the songs on radio or seeing any videos, but it did receive glowing reviews.
Union also received attention as Childs was grouped in with several other female artists attracting attention during the summer of 1988 (including Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, Sinead O’Connor and Shawn Colvin).
Union did get a lot of play in a record store where I was working at the time. Actually, the love shown for the album was from one clerk, Peggy Sue.
Although Childs was unlike most of the music I was listening to at the time, Union soon became a favorite of mine during that summer. It was a potent mixture of rock, folk, and world music and Childs possessed a powerful, distinctive voice, husky and soulful.
David Ricketts’ involvement with the album also prompted me to give the record a concerted effort as I’d worn out my copy of David + David’s Welcome To The Boomtown a year earlier.
I kept track of Childs through her next two albums, 1991’s House Of Hope and 1994’s The Woman’s Boat and, then, there was nothing more.
Half a dozen years later, I became intrigued with sorting out if Childs was still making music. As I was doing some writing for a magazine called Rockrgrl, I thought it might be a good piece to pitch. But the little bit of research I did do led nowhere.
I read that she had stepped out of the limelight due to getting sick, but there was little to confirm or shed more light on the subject.
She had also had some involvement with a charity called Dream A Dolphin. I believe that the organization offered terminally ill children the chance to swim and interact with dolphins (I could be wrong).
Prompted by the reappearance of Childs in my world of late, I did a bit more research and it does appear that she did fall ill after The Woman’s Boat, but she is now living in Hawaii, is no longer sick (having healed herself through meditation), and released a new album last fall.
I once interviewed David Baerwald who, with David Ricketts, was the other David in David + David. At one point, Baerwald recounted how there had been a female singer with whom Ricketts had worked. For months, she wandered around the house where the Davids lived, working on a song, repeating the same line.
“Where’s the ocean?”
Baerwald apparently could no longer live with the drip drip drip of that one line and he finally directed her to go three blocks down and take a left.
I don’t think he actually named the singer as Childs, but as I was familiar with her music, I immediately connected the dots to her debut album.
Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to some of her music of late – for the first time in years – and there’s something still quite compelling about that voice.
Toni Childs – Stop Your Fussin’
Toni Childs – Many Rivers To Cross
Toni Childs – I’ve Got To Go Now