Gerald Maxwell Rivera , known mononymously as Maxwell, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He rose to prominence following the release of his debut studio album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite , which received widespread acclaim, and spawned the singles "Ascension " and "Sumthin' Sumthin'". The album has since been cited by music critics for helping form the "neo soul" movement that rose to prominence during the late 1990s.
Maxwell then released the albums Embrya , and Now , both of which were certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America ; with the latter reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart. After taking a hiatus from music, he returned in 2009 with his fourth studio album BLACKsummers'night, which became his second album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart. BLACKsummers'night was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year for "Pretty Wings", and won Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance . His fifth studio album blackSUMMERS'night , spawned the single "Lake by the Ocean", and was released to critical acclaim.
He has won three Grammy Awards, six Soul Train Music Awards and two NAACP Image Awards. Maxwell was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 for "his innovative contributions to the music industry as a singer, songwriter, and producer".
Maxwell was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father. His mother grew up in a devout Baptist household in Haiti. Maxwell's father died in a plane crash when Maxwell was three years old. Maxwell grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York.
After receiving a low-cost Casio keyboard from a friend, the Brooklyn, New York-native began composing music at age 17. Already a fan of what he described as "jheri curl soul", which was the trademark of early 1980s R&B acts such as Patrice Rushen, S.O.S. Band and Rose Royce, Maxwell began to teach himself to play a variety of instruments. According to him, the R&B of the early 1980s contained "the perfect combination of computerized instrumentation with a live feel", and that the genre's dynamics later became lost due to the influence of hip hop on R&B. Despite facing ridicule from classmates for being shy and awkward, he progressed and continued to develop his musical abilities, and he also adopted the look of a more bohemian style outwardly in his clothing, growing long sideburns and letting his hair grow out wildly and combed in an extreme style, or sometimes putting his hair in long thin braids.
Initially influenced by early-1980s urban R&B, Maxwell progressed rapidly, and by 1991 he was performing on the New York City club scene. Maxwell was able to gain access to a 24-track recording studio and started to record songs for a demo tape, which he circulated among his friends. The demo engendered interest, and his official debut concert performance at Manhattan nightclub Nell's drew a crowd. During the next two years, Maxwell wrote and recorded over three hundred songs and played frequently at small venues throughout New York City. Maxwell's performances continued to draw interest and increase the buzz about him, and he was called "the next Prince" by a writer from Vibe magazine who attended one of his shows. After earning a considerable reputation, Maxwell signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1994. He adopted his middle name as a moniker out of respect for his family's privacy.
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