Lynn’s singing career began when she was a young girl with her church choir. However, her professional singing career started during 1976 when she obtained a job as a backing vocalist for the national touring company of the musical drama The Wiz. Eventually she would obtain the role of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, during the six month national tour.
Prior to her appearance on The Wiz, Cheryl taped an episode of the Gong Show during the early part of 1976. She scored a perfect 30 singing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”, a previous act (a singing juggler) had also scored 30 and in the audience applause tie-break the juggler was deemed the winner. After the episode was broadcast, during the autumn of 1976, record industry executives were calling to contract her.
Success and later career
After her performance on The Gong Show, Ahmed Ertegun of Atlantic Records company couldn’t come to an initial meeting with Lynn, with the result that she was contracted with Columbia Records company. Lynn released her first and best-known song, “Got to Be Real,” which was composed by keyboardist David Paich (of the band Toto), David Foster and Lynn. The song scored #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart and #1 on the Rhythm & Blues chart. The success of the single album prompted a full scale debut album. Named Cheryl Lynn, it was produced by Paich. The album sold more than a million copies and scored #5 on Billboard magazine’s R&B albums chart and #23 on Billboard’s top 200 album charts. The next single album, “Star Love”‘, also became a success.
During this time, members of the rock music group Toto were producing their debut album. During the production Lynn was asked to provided the female backing vocal for the single album, “Georgy Porgy,”. The single scored #48 on Billboard’s popular music charts. Although Toto would go on to chart more than a dozen popular music successes throughout the years, it was Lynn’s vocal for “Georgy Porgy” that aided the group in charting their only R&B (#18) and Dance (#80) on the Billboard charts.
During 1981, Ray Parker, Jr. produced “Shake It Up Tonight”, a major dance & R&B success from Lynn’s third album, In the Night. The next year, Luther Vandross was asked to produced Lynn’s fourth album, Instant Love. The 2nd single from the album, “If This World Were Mine” – a 1982 duet with Luther Vandross that cover-versioned a Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell song, has become a classic. For her fifth album, Preppie, Lynn produced most of the tracks with the exception of the single “Encore” (#1 R&B ) – which was written and produced by the Minneapolis funk music duo, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. It became Lynn’s second #1 single . During 1989, Lynn released the top 10 single, “Every Time I Try To Say Goodbye”, from her eighth album, Whatever It Takes. Cheryl Lynn’s hit “Gots to be real” is also the official song of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.
Lynn began the 1990s without a record contract. She did mostly session work for Richard Marx albums, Rush Street and Paid Vacation as well as Luther Vandross’ Your Secret Love album. But during 1995, after a six year hiatus from recording her own material, Lynn teamed with producer/songwriter Teddy Riley, (formerly of the New Jack Swing music group Guy), to record her Ninth album, Good Time. It was released in Japan, the United Kingdom and later in the United States as an imported CD and featured the nightclub favorite single album “Guarantee For My Heart”. During 1996, Sony Records/Legacy released Got to Be Real – The Best Of Cheryl Lynn, which included Lynn’s most successful recordings from her years with Columbia Records. This was followed soon by another compilation CD named, The Real Thing, which featured other recordings from Lynn’s first six albums. Two years later she performed on HBO’s Sinbad’s Summer Soul Jam 4 (1998), hosted by comedian Sinbad.
2000 to present.
During the new millennium Lynn toured Japan and did an occasional gig in the U.S., performing at charity events in her hometown of Los Angeles. During 2000 she worked with hip-hop musician J Supreme on his single “Your Love (Encore)”, which was an update of her #1 1984 song “Encore.” She performed on ABC’s The Disco Ball…A 30-Year Celebration, which was broadcast during January 2003. During 2004 she recorded the song “Sweet Kind of Life,” which was also written and produced by Jam & Lewis, for the animated film and soundtrack to Shark Tale.
On September 19, 2005, Lynn’s song “Got to Be Real” was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. On May 23, 2006 Collectables Record Label re-released her 1981 album In The Night and 1982’s Instant Love, in twin CD package form. It was the first time ever that either album was released as a CD in the U.S.
Lynn is considered an influence on some of today’s R&B female singers, including Mary J. Blige, who, along with Will Smith, covered Lynn’s song (“Got to Be Real”), also for the soundtrack of the animated movie Shark Tale. Japanese popular music singer Kumi Koda cover-versioned the song for her July 2010 single album “Gossip Candy” as well.
On 11 April 2010, “Got to Be Real” charted for the first time in the UK, peaking at number 70.