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Two-time Grammy award-winner Rita Coolidge and special guest John Ford Coley will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday during the The Kent Stage's 11th Anniversary Concert, sponsored by The Western Reserve Folk Arts Association.
Coolidge has topped the charts with "Fever," "We're All Alone," "One Fine Day," "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher" and "The Way You Do The Things You Do" from the 1970s onward. Her music can be summed up in one word, eclectic.
"I think that's why I've been in the business for so long and I still have such a great time and love playing music because I do all kinds of music," Coolidge said. "I do pop and jazz and rock 'n' roll and blues and Indian music, which has been the style of other singers I've admired like Peggy Lee and Ray Charles. People who don't just stay with one style of music, but they experiment with a lot of different genres of music."
Like any songwriter, Coolidge gets her inspiration from life, but she prefers to write only about positive influences.
"I try to write things about positive influences and things that are beautiful because I just think it's so important," Coolidge said. "I don't like to write so much about broken hearts because I don't feel that."
Over the years, Coolidge has stayed true to herself in her music.
"I think the music has to be a reflection of what's going on inside the person," Coolidge said. "You can't just constantly make an effort to do positive music and to have a positive attitude and then walk away from it and have a bummer. It has to be a part of the big picture. If I'm able to maintain that, I'm very happy."
On the road, Coolidge travels with four musicians, a bassists, guitarist, keyboardist and drummer. Some of her musicians have been playing with her for more than 18 years.
"I always have my musicians with me, always," Coolidge said. "I like playing music with the people I play music with and I like to play music for people who like to hear it. I did a couple of gigs last week and people in the audience sang every single word to every single song. When the fans have a chance to come to a concert that they've waited for decades or their lives, you know how people say 'I've waited all my life to see it,' it really is a wonderful thing to see."
Coolidge said the chemistry with her musicians is most important.
"When I find people and work with people that get along together it's just so important that the chemistry is really, really good and fun and we laugh a lot," Coolidge said. "We're like a family. We really do support each other and take care of each other and those qualities are things that come with being really good friends besides solo musicians. It just has a lot of layers being in a band and traveling on the road."
Coolidge said her and the bands least favorite part of traveling is packing.
"Packing, dealing with airport security lines and canceled flights, that's the part that none of us like," Coolidge said. "One day last week, I left my home at 5 a.m. and got to my destination at two the next morning because of delays and missing flights. We go through a lot of hassle sometimes just to get to you and be able to play for an hour or two, but that's the part that makes it all worth it, being able to play music and be together."
Prior to Kent, Coolidge will play with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
"That's kind of fancy and way different from playing with my band, so by the time we get to Kent we're going to be stoked about being back together and playing music we love to play," Coolidge said. "We're really look forward to come out and seeing everyone."
Tom Simpson, co-owner of the Kent Stage, said each year he tries to bring someone well known in the music world to Kent for the anniversary show.
"For our 10th anniversary, we celebrated almost all year long," Simpson said. "But for this year, we're doing one big show. This will be the first time Rita and John will play the Kent Stage. We've wanted them to come for a while now and we were fortunate enough for everything to fall together for this weekend."
Sunday's show will also be a part of the 50 Concerts in 50 States for Epilepsy Awareness.
"There are three shows going on in Ohio to create awareness this weekend," Simpson said. "There will be people coming out from the Epilepsy Foundation in Cincinnati to set up a table and pass out information. The goal is to make people more aware of what's going on in the world of epilepsy."
Rita Coolidge and John Ford Coley will play at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Kent Stage, 175 East Main Street. Tickets range from $30 to $40.
For more information, call 330-677-5005 or visit www.thekentstage.com.