AKA Leslie Phillips
Birthplace: Glendale, CA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Musician, Actor
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Martinis and Bikinis
Born and raised in Glendale, Leslie Phillips developed an interest in Christian philosophy early in her life -- particularly in the ideas espoused by the Fundamentalist or "born-again" community. By the age of 14 she had begun composing songs as a means of exploring her beliefs; by the start of her 20s, after a period spent working as a background singer for other musicians, she had released her debut album Beyond Saturday Night (1983) on Myrrh Records, a subsidiary of the prominent "Contemporary Christian" label Word. The response to her music within Christian circles was enthusiastic, and two further albums -- Dancing with Danger (1984) and Black and White in a Grey World (1985) materialized over the next two years. 1987's The Turning, however, marked a shift in the singer's attitudes: a definite pop sensibility was now apparent in the music, and a disillusion with the narrow-mindedness of "born-again" practitioners was expressed in the lyrical content. As a result, the album (predictably) fared less strongly in the religious market, but earned greater critical attention in pop music circles. The Turning was also important to Phillip's career (and personal life) in that it paired her for the first time with producer T-Bone Burnett, who has produced all of her subsequent albums to date, and whom she married in 1989.
Following the release of The Turning, Phillips made a public separation from both her former label and her previous body of work; with the help of Burnett, she signed to Virgin Records and, adopting a nickname given to her as a child, released her next record, The Indescribable Wow (1988), as Sam Phillips. The album, which featured string arrangements by composer Van Dyke Parks, received considerable accolades from critics and immediately established her as a credible secular performer. A continuation of Wow's sound was pursued on 1991's Cruel Intentions, while Martinis and Bikinis (1994) moved into rockier and more psychedelic territiory, embellished in places by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. The most popular album thus far in Phillips' career, Martinis would both broaden her audience and bring about her first Grammy nomination.
A short break from recording was subsequently taken while Phillips made her motion picture debut in the action flick Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
-- the vocalist ironically portraying a mute (and a terrorist); a second big screen appearance (this time as a singer) would follow two years later in the Wim Wenders film The End Of Violence. Her next musical venture, Omnipop (1996), took a detour into somewhat more unconventional forms, alienating the less adventurous segment of her fan base and underachieving on the commercial front despite the presence of R.E.M. on the track Slapstick Heart. After a 1999 "best of" collection titled Zero Zero Zero, her association with Virgin was brought to an end, signalling another transition in her musical development. With 2001's Fan Dance, released on the Nonesuch label, an emphasis was placed on stripped-down arrangements, benefitting from the tasteful input of musicians such as guitarist Marc Ribot, percussionist Carla Azar, and fellow singer Gillan Welch. This course was continued, with many of the same musicians on board, for 2004's A Boot And A Shoe. 2001 also saw the singer's first scoring work, created for the television series Gilmore Girls.
Husband: T-Bone Burnett (musician/producer, m. 1989)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The End of Violence (11-May-1997)
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (19-May-1995) · Katya
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