Sista Monica Parker – singer/songwriter, record producer and dynamic performer is one of the most sought after and admired women Blues, Soul and Gospel singers on the international music scene today. On December 16th, 2005 she was nominated for a W.C. Handy Blues Award in the category of “BEST SOUL BLUES FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR” by The Blues Foundation in Memphis, TN. The award ceremony will be held in May 2006. This award is the Grammy of the blues.
“I am honored to be in such good company with this nomination. All women that I admire and respect; Irma Thomas, Mavis Staples, Betty LaVette and Denise LaSalle,” says Sista Monica
Sista Monica has received rave 5 star reviews from Blue Revue Magazine, Downbeat, All Music and dozens of blues societies nationwide for her latest Mo Muscle Records CD release “Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down”. It is professed to be a radio programmer’s favorite. Sista Monica wrote 11 of the songs with her co-producer and piano/organ player Danny “B”. The disc has 13 tracks. The two additional tracks are “Funny How Time Slips Away” by Willie Nelson and “Change Gonna Come” by Same Cooke.
Sista Monica was born and raised in Gary, Ind. and at the age of 7, she began putting down her gospel roots singing and touring with her church’s gospel choir. This early exposure to gospel music stuck with her, but it wasn't until later that she turned this early love of music into her life's calling and most recently, her redeemer. At the age of 12, Monica started participating in the choir’s mini-tours between Gary, Chicago and Detroit soaking up the rich melodies of soul, rhythm & blues and gospel music. She was heavily influenced by The Rev. Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. After some college, Monica enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, making her way to the rank of Sergeant in three years. Returning to civilian life, Monica owned and operated her own engineering executive search firm then relocated to the hi-tech hotspot of Northern California’s Silicon Valley. She worked full time as a recruiting consultant for blue-chip clients including Apple, Hewlett Packard, Excite, WebEx, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo!
In1992, after seeing her former neighbor Stanley Burrell, a.k.a. M.C. Hammer, perform on the Arsenio Hall Show, she decided to turn her singing talent into something more than simply performing for friends and family. Already accustomed to hard work and discipline, Monica set out to make a living performing music inside her. Almost immediately she was sharing local stages with Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight, Taj Mahal, Luther Allison, Little Milton, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and other blues and R&B greats.
In 1995, Monica released her debut CD, Get Out Of My Way!. Originally intended as a sales tool for corporate gigs, Monica changed her vision once in the studio. Realizing the full potential of her band and weighing the costs of studio rental and production she set a new tone. She announced to the musicians “We are going around the world on this CD.” And sure enough, behind the lead single “Windy City Burner,” which climbed the public, AAA, and commercial radio charts, her international recording and touring career was launched.
In 1997 Monica released and toured behind her second and self-titled CD “SISTA MONICA”. Comparisons to Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Big Maybelle, James Brown, and Koko Taylor emerged from her compelling stage presence and powerful gospel-influenced original blues.
In addition to the reputation of the live performances, the accolades and industry recognition soon followed: 1998 W.C. Handy Award Nominee for "Best Contemporary Blues Female;" 1998 California Music Award Winner for "Most Outstanding Blues Artist;" and "Most Outstanding Blues Artist for the Year 1998" presented by the BAMMIE Awards. In 1999 and 2000, Monica was also nominated for “Best International Female Performer in the United Kingdom” sharing the category with Irma Thomas, Etta James, Koko Taylor, and Angela Walker.
In 2000, Monica released a third CD “People Love The Blues” to critical acclaim and talk of Grammy nods. Guest guitarists included Jimmy Thackery, Larry McCray and Dan Caron from the Charles Brown Band.
Tom Hyslop of Blues Revue magazine wrote “She's star material all the way…This is a near-perfect record… (her) huge voice and incredible chops give her one of the best instruments around.”
Bill Milkowski of JazzTimes magazine wrote “An explosive singer on the California blues scene, she smokes all the competition (with the possible exception of Koko Taylor) on People Love the Blues”
A year later released her first traditional gospel CD “Gimme That Old Time Religion”. This CD captured the enduring qualities of good old time, hand-clapping gospel music filled with spirit and congregational singing. For Monica it is reminiscent of songs she heard on the radio while her mother braided her hair for Sunday school. This recording draws from her inspirations from Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, Rev. James Cleveland, Lynette Hawkins, Dorothy Love Coates, and many other gospel greats.
Also in 2001, Monica released “Live in Europe”, which is filled with the huge sound and energy of the artist who was being affectionately called ‘The Blues Lioness.’ Blues Revue magazine compared the record to the late great Albert Collins & The Icebreakers – LIVE and Monica finally fulfilled the long-standing request of her fans to create a recording that captures her lively and powerful stage performances.
"I consider myself a vessel. I sing blues, but I also sing soul, R&B, funk and gospel. I rarely use a set list. I just turn around and cue the band based on how the crowd is and how I feel. I may stop in the middle of a set and break into a gospel song if I'm moved to do that," said Sista Monica in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News.
In a preamble to Monica’s current status of festival favorite and leader among the next generation of great blues women, she once came to what the Associated Press headlined a “Rockin’ Rescue” when she stood in for her idol Etta James at the San Jose Americas Festival when Ms. James was hospitalized the day of the performance. Sista Monica first calmed and ultimately enthralled 15,000 ready and rowdy fans.
On a separate occasion at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, Sista Monica was asked to stand in for an ill Koko Taylor and finished the headlining set with two encores and standing ovations. By the year 2000 ‘The Blues Lioness’ had built a reputation such that she was invited to perform for President Clinton and thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention.
Two years later Sista Monica received the “Artist of the Year Award” at the prestigious 17th Annual Monterey Bay Blues Festival. With career momentum seemingly exponential, in November of 2002, Sista Monica completed a 17-concert tour of The Netherlands and upon return discovered a lump under her right arm. It was diagnosed as a rare and severe form of cancer - Synovial Sarcoma and given 3 months to live without treatment.
Determined to sing and live out her purpose, Monica underwent more than eighteen months of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and physical therapy. The result was a complete removal of the tumor but resulted in severely damage nerves and muscles in Monica’s entire upper right side. Eventually with her determination, faith, and patience, Monica regained mobility in her microphone-holding arm and hand, restoring it back to the level of her voice and spirit.
Faced with fierce physical pain, the emotional and psychological confrontation of mortality, and a long road of recovery, Monica drew upon her inner strength, discipline, spirituality and of course the music. And, like her music, Monica Parker emerged from the struggle strong and proud.
In 2004 after intense treatments, Sista Monica returned to compile several Soul and Jazz standards remembering Ray Charles and Dinah Washington in a healing and inspirational CD “Love, Soul & Spirit vol. 1”.
Sista Monica is a soul survivor. Straight through the storm, she kept singing at conferences, festivals, and weddings, and even in the hallways of the UCSF hospital during treatments. She contends “It was surely the music and the grace of God that kept me alive!” And her new record is certainly a testament to that.
In her aptly titled new release “Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down”, Sista Monica gives a renewed meaning to blues as healing music. Surviving has given new power and freedom to her lyrics and each track evokes the blessing she feels to be able to write, sing, produce and perform music once again. "It’s a comeback album," she says. "The focus and the theme is speaking to the truth — my truth. It’s autobiographical, current and in your face, offering hope and a reflection of my remarkable recovery experience."
There’s no keeping this good woman down. Most recently, Sista Monica is the recipient of the “2005 Artist of the Year Award” for all of Santa Cruz County. The award recognizes her talents and community service including the recent Tsunami Relief Musical Benefit Concert raising thousands of dollars for Oxfam, Save the Children, and Habitat for Humanities International.
In addition to touring and performing, Monica is writing her autobiographical book “Soul, Spirit & Survival”. It’s about a young girl who became a woman Marine, a high tech recruiter, discovers her voice and becomes an international headliner. Finally, she survives cancer. She learns the truth about the healing process, transformation and the will to live.