(Read all about Rita Coolidge after the video)
Rita Coolidge (born May 1, 1945) is an American recording artist and songwriter. During the 1970s and 1980s, she charted hits on Billboard magazine's pop, country, adult contemporary, and jazz charts and won two Grammy Awards with fellow musician and former husband Kris Kristofferson.
Coolidge was born in Lafayette, Tennessee, the daughter of a Cherokee Baptist minister father and Scottish-Cherokee mother. Coolidge attended Nashville's Maplewood High School. She graduated from Andrew Jackson Senior High in Jacksonville, Florida. As a 1967 Florida State graduate, she is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority.
Coolidge is a graduate of Florida State University. After singing around Memphis (including a stint singing jingles), she was discovered by Delaney & Bonnie, who took her to Los Angeles where, besides her work with Delaney & Bonnie, she became a popular background singer on many other people's albums. She sang for Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills. She was featured in Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and album, singing Russell's and Bonnie Bramlett's song "Superstar." She became known as "The Delta Lady" and inspired Russell to write a song of the same name for her.
In November 1970, she met Kris Kristofferson at the Los Angeles airport when they were both catching the same flight to Tennessee. He got off in Memphis with her, rather than continue to his intended destination in Nashville. The two married in 1973 and recorded several duet albums, which sold well and earned the duo a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1974 for "From the Bottle to the Bottom", and in 1976 for "Lover Please".
Coolidge's greatest success on the pop charts came during 1977–78 with four consecutive top 25 hits, remakes of Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher", Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone", The Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do", and Marcia Hines' "You".
Coolidge also was among the first hosts on VH1, a U.S. cable network. In 2006, she recorded a standards album, And So Is Love.
In the recording of the original hit "Layla" by Eric Clapton's band Derek and the Dominos in 1970, Clapton returned to the studio where he heard the band's drummer Jim Gordon playing a piano piece he had allegedly composed himself separately. Clapton, impressed by the piece, convinced Gordon to allow it to be used as part of the song in the coda section. Though only Gordon has been officially credited with this part, the band's keyboardist Bobby Whitlock claims, "Jim took that piano melody from his ex-girlfriend, Rita Coolidge. I know because in the Delaney & Bonnie days, I lived in John Garfield's old house in the Hollywood Hills and there was a guest house with an upright piano in it. Rita and Jim were up there in the guest house and invited me to join in on writing this song with them called "Time". Her sister Priscilla wound up recording it with her husband, Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. & the M.G.'s). Jim took the melody from Rita's song and didn't give her credit for writing it. Her boyfriend ripped her off". "Time" ended up on the 1973 album Chronicles by Booker T. and Priscilla.
There will be a new Rita Coolidge album in early 2018 on Blue Elan Records.
Coolidge is the daughter of Dick and Charlotte Coolidge, a minister and schoolteacher, with sisters Linda and Priscilla, and brother Raymond. Coolidge was married to Kris Kristofferson from 1973 to 1980. They have one daughter, Casey. Coolidge previously had romantic liaisons with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash; her leaving Stills for Nash has been cited as a contributing factor behind the initial 1970 breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. (She was the "sweet little Indian girl" named "Raven" in the Grateful Dead collaboration "Cowboy Movie" on David Crosby's album If I Could Only Remember My Name). She was also involved with Leon Russell and Joe Cocker during their Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Coolidge married Tatsuya Suda on June 19, 2004, in the Cook Islands: Suda is a Japanese citizen who retired in 2010, after a tenure of over twenty-five years as a professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (UC Irvine).
Rita's sister Priscilla Coolidge was also a singer & recording artist. Priscilla married Booker T. Jones of the popular '60s R&B band Booker T & The MG's in 1969; followed by TV journalist/broadcaster/reporter Ed Bradley in 1981. She then married Michael Seibert. Seibert and Priscilla were found dead in their home in October 2014, from what police called a murder-suicide allegedly perpetrated by Michael Seibert.
Coolidge now lives in Fallbrook, California. She is currently a painter and has exhibited her work.
Her autobiography, Delta Lady: A Memoir, was published in April 2016.
In 1997, Coolidge was one of the founding members of Walela, a Native American music trio, that also included Priscilla and her daughter Laura Satterfield. The trio released studio albums in 1997 (Walela) and 2000 (Unbearable Love), a live album and DVD (Live in Concert) in 2004 and a compilation album (The Best of Walela) in 2007. Walela means hummingbird in Cherokee. Coolidge considered this group important, not only in honoring her Cherokee ancestors but also in bringing their culture to others. Also as part of her Native American heritage, she performed with Robbie Robertson, who has Mohawk ancestry, at the 2002 Winter Olympics.