Born August 28, 1982, in Jackson, MS; daughter of Wilbur (in sales) and Belinda (a homemaker) Rimes; married Dean Sheremet, February 23, 2002. Addresses: Record company--Curb, 330 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510.
Assessing the career of adolescent country singer LeAnn Rimes is much like squinting to count tree-rings in a sapling oak--one might say she has only stepped on the precipice of what could be called a career. Yet Rimes has demonstrated a mastery of performance as well as huge mass appeal, evidenced by her 1997 Grammy Award for Best Female Vocalist in Country Music. While some critics have written off Rimes's style as derivative of earlier country music heroes like as Patsy Cline, and have chalked up her popularity to novelty appeal, few have discounted her powerful voice. As for staying power, she continues to draw critical acclaim a decade after her major label debut at age 13.
Born on August 28, 1982, to parents Belinda and Wilbur in Jackson, Mississippi, Rimes was initiated into the performing arts at a surprisingly early age. Having no siblings, she received the lavish affection parents of only children often afford, and was enrolled in vocal and dance training by the age of two. Whether she was motivated by avid stage parents or by an indelible performing urge, Rimes was singing in pitch when she was 18 months, assuring Belinda and Wilbur to continue nurturing their precocious child's talents. Following the advice of LeAnn's vocal coach, Rimes's parents decided to plunge their daughter into the often hectic world of child talent competitions, and successfully ushered her on the stage by age five. Within a year, Rimes won her first song and dance contest, with her version of "Getting to Know You," and professed to her parents that she wanted performing to be a permanent part of her life.
Eager to realize his daughter's dreams, Wilbur Rimes "sold his truck and his dogs and everything," as LeAnn told USA Today, and left Jackson in 1988 to relocate to Garland, Texas. It was in the Lone Star State that the youthful star-to-be began making rapid inroads to success. Rimes nearly landed the lead role in a sequel to the blockbuster Broadway musical Annie. Persistent, she continued auditioning for stage roles until she was chosen to play Tiny Tim in a Dallas production of A Christmas Carol. After a triumph on the television showcase for aspiring amateurs, Star Search, and a string of appearances on Johnny High's Country Music Revue in Fort Worth, Texas, Rimes began to attract the attention of national talent scouts.
Not even a decade old, Rimes was already a virtual veteran of live performances. She regularly performed an a capella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" during the opening ceremonies of Dallas Cowboys football games, adding to her local legion of fans. In addition, Rimes and her father embarked on trips around the country to perform over a hundred stage dates per year. Nonetheless, touring and word of mouth could only generate so much attention, and the next logical step in Rimes's career path was to enter the recording studio.
The creation of Rimes's debut album, After All, was a relatively quiet affair. Recorded at an old studio in Clovis, New Mexico for the independent label Nor Va Jak, After All did not receive the promotional fanfare that accompanies major label debuts. Rimes's father, a salesman by profession, served as the record's producer, and the result was neither slick nor seamless. While the album saw an impressive sales run within Texas, Nor Va Jak could not give After All the push it needed to sweep a national audience. Yet, Rimes and her father were quickly hit by an onslaught of contract offers from major labels to record a second album.
The primary source of record industry hype over Rimes's debut, After All, was largely provoked by that album's cut "Blue," a bittersweet composition that perfectly displayed the range of Rimes's vocal stylings. The song was penned over 30 years prior to its recording, and was originally intended for country legend Patsy Cline, who died tragically before she could perform it. Cline's distinctive, haunting voice had served to influence several generations of singers, many of them outside the realm of country music. For them, Cline stood as a model not only of artistic precision and clarity, but also of resonant emotional expression. In order for the song's author Bill Mack to have given to a newcomer a piece tailored expressly for Cline's style and mastery, Rimes must have evidenced some of the elder singer's attributes. Indeed, some critics have argued that Rimes's talent is only in reproducing Cline's unique sound without offering any innovation, while others have claimed that although technically almost flawless, Rimes's singing is devoid of emotional depth that only a life of experience can provide. In fact, Rimes's father initially turned down "Blue" on the grounds that a sensual lament of love was not appropriate for a young girl's repertoire. "My dad said the song was too old for me," Rimes remembered. "I loved it, though, and I kept bugging him about it. Then I got the idea to put the yodel thing to it." Whether though her yodeled twists or through her youthful freshness, Rimes managed to make "Blue" her own, and whatever the critical verdict, she was on the eve of becoming a national sensation.
In the meantime, Rimes's personal life underwent some changes. With so much public attention imbued upon her as well as the beginnings of a plane-hopping lifestyle, Rimes quickly found herself at odds with the normal routine of a young student. By the time she entered junior high school, classmates in response to her rising fame occasionally harassed Rimes. For sake of convenience, she withdrew from school and continued her education with a tutor. While a private education only helped Rimes excel, it also effectively withdrew her from her peers at a critical age. However, Rimes saw the experience as a positive one. "I don't think I'm giving up a lot, because I'm achieving a lot right now," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I do have a different life and I've grown up in an adult world ... I don't mind giving up the prom kind of thing and all that. I really don't think I'm missing out on anything 'cause this is what I want to do."
With this kind of devotion, Rimes began work on her sophomore release, after signing with the Curb label, an outfit known for its roster of country artists. The result was the album Blue, whose title cut was a reworked version from After All, now made available to audiences around the world. The album included "Cattle Call," a duet between Rimes and country great Eddy Arnold; "I'll Get Even With You," another refurbishing from After All; and "Talk To Me," which the then-13-year-old Rimes co-wrote. However, it was still "Blue" itself that turned heads and invaded radio playlists. With no video promotion, the single "Blue" debuted at number 49 on Billboard magazine's country music charts, making Rimes the youngest singer to do so, and the single rapidly peaked in the Top 10. The album Blue fared equally well in sales, and Rimes was instantly country music's hottest property.
Whatever speculation some critics may have made, Rimes was showered with kudos from the music industry. She was nominated for both Single of the Year and the Horizon Award by the Country Music Association (CMA), making her the youngest nominee in CMA's history. More impressively, Rimes earned the Grammy Award for best female vocalist in Country and Western, beating out four other seasoned nominees as the youngest recipient ever to win that award. Slowly, the voices accusing Rimes of being a mere novelty began to subside, if not disappear.
Her third album, You Light up My Life: Inspirational Songs, an album of covers of classic songs, came out in 1997. Her fictional debut, Holiday in Your Heart, was also published that year--a short novel cowritten with Tom Carter. This was also the title and subject of the television Christmas special in which Rimes appeared. Some bad news that year occurred in October, when her parents separated; they divorced in 1999. She also earned many awards in 1997. She was named artist of the year, album artist of the year, top country artist, top country album artist, and top country singles sales artist at the Billboard Music Awards. In addition, her album, Blue, earned top country album honors at that event. She was named the number one recording artist by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Rimes set a new record in 1998 when her song, "How Do I Live," became the longest-running single in Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart's history. She released an album, Sittin' on Top of the World, that year. She recorded "Written in the Stars" with Elton John for the stage musical, Aida, and released the album, LeAnn Rimes, in 1999.
Rimes filed a lawsuit on May 2, 2000, in Dallas County District Court, alleging that her father, Wilbur C. Rimes, and her former manager, Lyle Walker, took more than $7 million from her over five years. The lawsuit claimed the two men charged unreasonable fees and manipulated LeAnn's company for their own financial gain. She was seeking unspecified damages because her attorneys didn't know how much money was gone. Her lawyer said accountants hired by LeAnn's mother to investigate the two men discovered that the pair had received more than $8 million in royalties--$5 million more than did LeAnn. In November of 2000, Rimes filed another lawsuit, this time against her label, Curb Records. She was asking to be released from the contract her parents signed on her behalf when she was 12 years old. Rimes also wanted Curb to turn over the rights to all of her past music and video work, give up publishing interests, and destroy all her recordings now being distributed. Her legal battles were resolved in part in December of 2001, when Curb Records agreed to rewrite her contract to meet Rimes's approval. In another courtroom drama--also resolved at that time--her former bodyguard, Robert Lavetta, made a deal with prosecutors, thus avoiding prison time in an extortion case by which Rimes was victimized by Lavetta.
As for the legal feud between Rimes and her father, the two made peace in time for him to attend her February 23, 2002, wedding at Perkins Chapel in Dallas, Texas. Rimes married Dean Sheremet, a dancer whom she met while hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards in May of 2001. The couple lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Rimes, in working with songwriter Diane Warren in 1997, earned crossover success with the hit song, "How Do I Live," from the film ConAir. The two entered into subsequent collaborations for "Can't Fight the Moonlight," from Coyote Ugly in 2000, and "We Can," which was the lead single from the Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde soundtrack in 2003. Likewise Rimes collaborated with others on four tracks from 2002's, Fallen Angel, including the album's title track. Rimes in fact served as executive producer on this album and was intensely involved in the entire production. In 2005 she released her eighth studio album, This Woman, to critical acclaim. Also in 2005 she joined the cast of the reality series Nashville Star on USA Network.
Rimes's greater role in the history of country music remains to be written, but a spirit of devotion and expansion cannot be said to be lacking. "I want to continue singing and writing songs," Rimes told the Great American Country website. "I'd like to act. College is also an option for me. I've always wanted to help children and I've thought about studying speech pathology." In 2003 she released a children's book, Jag, co-written with Sheremet, and the two signed with Dutton to write a sequel. Among her charitable involvements in the 2000s, she launched the Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign in 2002 with a half-time performance during the Dallas Cowboys' football game on November 28. In 2003 she headlined the inaugural Cattle Baron's Ball, a benefit for the American Cancer Society at the Michigan State Fair Grounds. In 2005 she was picked to record "Remember When," the theme song for the Disneyland fiftieth anniversary celebration.
by Shaun Frentner
LeAnn Rimes's Career
Began singing when 18 months old, won first talent contest at age six for performing "Getting To Know You;" competed on the television talent showcase Star Search, 1988; performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Dallas Cowboys football games in early 1990s; debut album, After All, on Nor Va Jak; signed with Curb Records; Curb debut, Blue, 1996; released 7 albums, 1997-2005.
LeAnn Rimes's Awards
Grammy Award for best female vocalist in Country and Western, 1997. Named artist of the year, album artist of the year, top country artist, top country album artist, top country singles sales artist, top country album for Blue, Billboard Music Awards, 1997. Named number one recording artist, Recording Industry Association of America, 1997; Billboard Award, Coyote Ugly, 2001.
- Selective Works
- After All , Nor Va Jak, 1994.
- Blue , Curb, 1996.
- You Light Up My Life , 1997.
- Sittin' on Top of the World , Curb, 1998 (re-released on Polydor, 2000).
- LeAnn Rimes , Curb, 1999.
- God Bless America , Curb, 2001.
- I Need You , Curb, 2001.
- Twisted Angel Curb, 2002.
- What a Wonderful World Curb, 2004.
- This Woman Curb, 2005.
- Billboard, July 19, 2003, p. 14; August 16, 2003, p. 5; February 5, 2005, p. 13.
- Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1996; November 6, 1996.
- People, March 11, 2002.
- PR Newswire, July 25, 2002; November 28, 2002; July 28, 2003.
- USA Today, June 11, 1996.
- Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_7/country.jsp (October 23, 2003).
- http://www.eonline.com (December 3, 2001; February 25, 2002).