With a gorgeous voice and five-octave range, exotic beauty and an intoxicating stage presence, Angela Bofill took the music world by storm. A native New Yorker who grew up in Harlem and the Bronx, she was a trained musician and sophisticated singer who invested ballads like “This Time I’ll be Sweeter” and her ode to heartbreak, “I Try” with palpable emotion. She could belt out hot dance numbers like “Too Tough,” and gospel-inflected inspirational hymns like “I’m on your Side” with equal aplomb. But after a run of hits in the 1980s, she faded rapidly from view, as record labels trained their sights on a younger generation of video vixens.
Bofill soldiered on for two decades, only to be literally silenced by two devastating strokes. Yet she refused to give up her dream and is gradually returning to the stage, while sharing her inspirational life story with hard earned wit and wisdom, on the latest episode of “Unsung”. In anticipation of the documentary, Bofill said, “I am a little bit nervous, and excited at the same time.”
In January 2006, Angela Bofill suffered a massive stroke that left her partially paralyzed and impaired her speech. Like millions of Americans, Bofill was without health coverage at the time. Currently, the vocalist is at home in California recovering. She is able to lift her leg slightly, and with the help of a leg brace is able to take a few steps. She is beginning to have some feeling in her shoulder but still has no mobility in her arm.
The singer continued to share about the life she now leads as a stroke survivor.
“After the stroke, I can not talk a long time, and also I’m wheelchair bound. But now walking around, cane still, and when I get to a wheelchair, that’s good. Also, I'm talking a lot — my daughter says too much.”
With that, Bofill let out a hardy laugh, revealing a solid sense of humor. “I have to laugh; crying not fun, you know? Not fun. But am able and glad to be able to tell my story. Maybe that will help a lot of people and others.”
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S., and Bofill credits Philadelphian Davida Godett — a three-time stroke survivor — with helping her recover. During the interview, Bofill’s speech is slightly impaired, but she pushes through the words. She explains that she is far better now than even a year ago and is determined to sing again.
Bofill recalled her times performing at (the now shuttered) Bijou Cafe and Zanzibar Blue, and lamented that nowadays she can only sing “Happy Birthday.” The singer then beamed while describing happy sing-a-long moments with her one-year-old grandson.
The award-winning recording artist (American Music Award nominee, Bammy Award and Blackbook Award recipient, to name a few) continued to reminisce about her earlier career. Bofill wowed audiences across the globe and her stellar sold-out performances are only equaled by the love and enthusiasm bestowed upon her by her many fans and colleagues, including Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, Danny Glover, Prince, Santana, the late great Ray Charles and her godfather, Tito Puente.
Bofill says that while singing may be a struggle for her, she still feels the power and exciting in the music. “A chill ... I feel the chill, and that means a good thing, you know,” said Bofill, as she reflects. “That spirit, it helps me to heal. Every day.”
Angela Bofill premieres on TV One’s series “Unsung” on Monday, July 2 at 9 p.m. The episode repeats at midnight.