This man is on so many records that you (probably) own, yet I’m guessing that most of you have never heard of him, or if you have, you know little about him. Fonzi Thornton is the premier male backing vocalist of the past thirty years, working with greats such as Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, the boss Bruce Springsteen, and even Michael Jackson.
Hailing from New York City, Thornton’s first major break came when he was asked by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to sing on their Chic concept, along with Luther Vandross. It was during his work with Rodgers and Edwards that he recorded some solo songs, including this one, ‘I’ll Change My Game’.
Indeed, it’s a classic CHIC Organisation production: Rodger’s delightful guitar with Edwards’ bass setting the groove. The song features lush string arrangements, and piano intro and pounding drums. Thornton’s vocal is strong, and it’s a wonder why this song – along with ‘I’ll Work For A Livin’’ were not big hits when they follow in the same CHIC formula used to great success by Diana Ross and Sister Sledge. The songs only recently became available digitally in 2010 with the release of the compilation album Savior Faire put out by Rodgers himself.
Thornton did go on to release an album entitled Pumpin’ – which was a little heavy on the eighties synthesisers. Yet, Thornton is still in demand as an arranger and backing vocalist today: he tours frequently with Aretha Franklin, is a regular fixture on the PBS White House musical specials, and has performed on David Letterman with Al Green this year already. It’s a shame this song didn’t become a bigger track for Thornton, but his other work has established him as an icon and a great soul talent.