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Success Story - DESTINY'S CHILD - Feb 6, 2002

When Destiny’s Child broke through in 1997, they had been rehearsing for that day for almost 8 years ...

picture With four albums under their belt, Destiny's Child have established themselves as one of the world’s biggest R&B acts. Their current line-up comprises two of the original members, Beyoncé Knowles (20) and Kelly Rowland (21), her cousin, both hailing from Houston, Texas, and Michelle Williams (20), who joined in 2000. They are managed by Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s father. Their debut single, "No, No, No", was released in November 1997, followed by their eponymous debut album in February 1998, both of which sold platinum. They have to date sold more than 15 million albums and singles worldwide.

When Destiny’s Child broke, in 1997, they had, in fact, been rehearsing for that big day for almost 8 years. Much happened during the period preceding the success of their breakthrough song, "No, No, No", although the determination with which the members and their indefatigable manager focused on their careers never faltered, and is a common trait throughout this period.

Back in 1989, two managers decided to set up a very young girl band. They held auditions in Houston, where Beyoncé’s obvious talent led her to become the focus for the new band, dubbed Girls’ Tyme. Her cousin Kelly was also chosen, as well as the remaining members, from amongst more than 50 girls attending the auditions held.

Girls’ Tyme’s first big move was competing in the televised talent contest Star Search, where they unfortunately lost to a 30-year-old rock band. Mathew, who was becoming more and more proactive in the development of the band, took the opportunity to ask the organisers for advice on his protegée’s careers. It was encouragingly explained to him that there had been a number of artists who had participated in the event, and who, even having lost, had gone on to have successful music business careers, citing Boyz II Men and Sinbad as examples. They recommended that the girls go back and reformulate their careers, to use this defeat as a new starting point.

This made Mathew think a great deal, and when they returned home to Houston, he officially took over as their manager. The band’s name was changed, initially to Destiny, later Destiny’s Child, and, after the departure of certain members, the line-up was consolidated, with LaTavia Roberson, who had, until that point, been one of the band’s backing dancers, becoming a full-time member, and LeToya Luckett being chosen from 10 girls who auditioned for Mathew, and who became the fourth DC member.

It was Mathew Knowles’s brilliant idea to organise a series of "summer camps" at his house, in which the girls took part in daily activities which ranged from vocal lessons and choreography to team building skills and workshops in which they studied a variety of successful artists, to determine exactly what it was that had made them successful – all of this guided by a live-in vocal coach, David Brewer, who had moved into the apartment over the garage, and a choreographer, who put to good use the stage that Mathew had constructed in the backyard.

This solid grounding helped them to progress, and a couple of years later they were performing as support to a number of bands who visited Houston, including Dru Hill, Immature, and SWV. They also recorded some demos, in San Francisco and at The Record Plant in Sausalito, California. During this period, Mathew built up his contacts from scratch, by sending out as many demos as he could, calling people, and going to music business conferences. This a man who came into the business with no previous experience; he had, up to that point, made a living selling medical equipment.

During 1991, Mathew contacted almost every major label, including Sony in Dallas, where the demo ended up in the hands of Teresa La Barbera-Whites, at the time a scout at the company. She listened to the tape and thought the girls, at that stage between 9 and 10 years old, were adorable. She promptly called Mathew, who set up a showcase for her at a community centre. The girls sang to tape and danced for Teresa and she loved it, and, although she didn’t have the authority to sign the girls herself, she presented the act to her superiors, who showed interest. They deliberated making an offer, however, and by the time they were ready to go ahead with the deal, Mathew had already signed, that very same week, to Elektra, in the form of a production deal with Darryl Simmons and Sylvia Rhone.

After approximately two years at Elektra, things had gone nowhere, and the group, by mutual agreement, were released from their contract. Mathew called Teresa, who had by now advanced to being an A&R at Columbia, Dallas, and she was still interested, so she set up a showcase for Columbia CEO Don Ienner. The girls travelled to New York, where they sang to tape and acapella. All those who saw them were impressed, and Columbia did not, this time around, hesitate in signing them.

Mathew and Teresa now started looking for songs and producers, a task made harder by the young age of the girls (at this stage 12 and 13 years old) for whom not all songs were appropriate. As Teresa explains, at the time nobody really signed artists who were that young, particularly not in the R&B field, and, although Beyoncé now writes and produces the majority of DC’s songs, the girls weren’t, at that stage, particularly adept at composing their own material.

This wasn’t the only difficulty they had to overcome when trying to find songs for their first album, as publishers and songwriters were a bit reluctant to give their songs to debut artists and preferred artists who were well-known. Songwriter and producer Vincent Herbert was at this time working with a production company called Three Boys From Newark, represented by (their agent) Jerry Ade. Teresa and Mathew had previously heard some of their material and liked it. Jerry and Vincent played "No, No, No" for Teresa and Mathew, who instantly thought it was perfect for DC.

At the time, Jerry was looking to place the song with a bigger act, something which never came through, and, in the end, DC got the song. During the course of preparing the album, the girls had met Wyclef Jean, who shared the same product manager at Columbia, and who was so impressed with them that he wanted to be a part of the project. That led him to remix the song, which became "No, No, No Part 2", released as their debut single (together with "Part 1", produced by Vincent Herbert). It was a huge success. A total of 22 songs had been recorded for the album over a period of two years, although only 14 of them made it onto the final version. Columbia had previously landed a slot for the girls on the Men In Black soundtrack, to which they contributed "Killing Time", their first official release.

LaTavia and LeToya left in March 2000, to be replaced by Farrah Franklin, who left 5 months later, and Michelle Williams, who now completes the band as a trio. Destiny’s Child is releasing a remix album, “This Is The Remix” (Columbia), due March 12. Here is Destiny’s Child’s official website

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Written by Luci Vázquez - Research by Stefan Sörin & Kimbel Bouwman

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