After selling more than 100 million records worldwide, achieving dozens of Platinum and Gold awards for best-selling singles and albums, tireless touring the globe appearing at the top concert venues, prestigious theatres and big stadiums, receiving honors for her tours to U.S. military installations worldwide and becoming the first popular singer to appear in a full-length concert at Carnegie Hall, you might think cabaret represented yet another new venture for Joni James.
?Actually,? says Joni, who looks and sounds much as she?s always looked and sounded but perhaps with a wisdom and expertise that only comes with time, ?cabaret is where I started. Before I even made my first record I?d appeared at countless clubs in both the U.S. and Canada, enjoyed great reviews and had a nice following. ?I?ve always been a collector of great American music by the great American composers and lyricists. I?ve always loved discovering little-known songs and presenting them to the world. I?ve always enjoyed an intimate setting for performing, being close to the audience and being able to sing with deep meaning and true feeling.?
Joni has been recording and performing for a long time. She burst upon the scene with a number one worldwide hit, ?Why Don?t You Believe Me,? seemingly out of nowhere, and followed up with 15 more top 10 hits in just her first year on M-G-M Records.
A Chicago native, she had been captivated by ballet as a child and was headed for a dance career when she filled in for a friend for a singing date at a roadhouse in nearby Indiana. Before long, she was appearing at better and better clubs all over the Midwest, and then came her hit record.
Her more than three dozen albums include a dizzying expanse of genres: Popular, jazz, folk, international (Italian, French, Irish, Hawaiian), inspirational. ?It?s amazing,? she says. ?People identify me with their country or their culture. I?m as Italian-American as they come but somehow, I?ve been told, I seem to instinctively understand all kinds of music.?
After many years at the top, Joni took time off for her husband Tony Acquaviva and their two children in a beautiful chateau in Beverly Hills. The Acquavivas became famous for their Italian family dinner dances. ?We became part of the Hollywood ?A? crowd before we even knew what the ?A? crowd was,? Joni said. ?I think because of our growing up in large, loving Italian families we lived a normal life in an exceptional circumstance.?
The musical genius Acquaviva directed Joni?s career and her orchestras on tour. She lost him after caring for him through 25 years of illness. In deep grief for several years, she never even considered coming back to show business or marrying again. But she did both.
After 10 years of friendship she married Air Force General Bernard A. Schriever, father of the U.S. military space program. They established a home in Washington, D.C. and he inspired her to return to both performing and recording. General Schriever passed on two years ago and Joni cherishes having the privilege of not one but two extraordinary men as leading figures in her life?s saga.
Slowly working through extended grief for a second time, Joni has slowly resumed performing and recording because she believes music has always been her destiny. And now she is ready to return to a first love, cabaret, and work magic hand in hand with the finest songwriters and lyricists American has known. The Queen of Hearts, the Princess of Song, the Golden Girl, she?s enjoyed many titles. ?But I?m happy just to be known,? she says, ?as the girl who doesn?t just perform her songs but who lives her songs.?