Saturday, December 11, 2021

"Thanks for My Child" by Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley

Song#:  3698
Date:  10/29/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  32
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Brooklyn-born Cheryl Riley had music instilled in her from an early age with both of her parents members of successful gospel groups. She had her sights set on a music career, but her parents pushed her to get an education and Riley would graduate from Clara Barton High School with a nursing degree. While working as a nurse for handicapped children, Riley chose to also pursue a music career and ended up fronting a local band called Stargaze. In 1982, Stargaze recorded and released the indie single "You Can't Have It," which Riley co-wrote. While the song got some local attention, it didn't do much to further the band's career and so for the next few years Riley continued with Stargaze while picking up other music work along the way. Another Brooklyn-based group, Full Force, had started to make waves and were familiar with Riley. They had written a song they thought was perfect for Riley and offered it to her. Feeling a sense of loyalty to her band, Riley turned the offer down. Full Force then got the song recorded with a new singer named Lisa Lisa and "I Wonder If I Take You Home" became a gold-selling hit. Riley thought she had completely messed up and missed her opportunity. However, after Stargaze broke up, Full Force lured Riley into their fold and offered her a deal to work with them. This time she didn't hesitate and signed on. Full Force got her signed to Columbia and work began on a debut album titled Me Myself and I. Full Force would write and produce all the tracks including this first single. The ballad was an unusual choice for a debut/lead single, but it ended up being the right choice with the song hitting #1 at R&B. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it was able to make the Top 40. The hit sent the album to #9 R&B/#128 Pop. It would end up being Riley's only R&B Top 10 and her only Pop chart entry. A second single would get to #18 at R&B. Although Riley would record one more album for Columbia and one for Reprise, neither replicated the success of her debut and after issues with both labels and family responsibilities mounting, Riley stepped away from her solo career and began working as a supporting singer for other artists like Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliot.

ReduxReview:  This song about a single mother raising her child after the father took off really struck a chord with many folks. What was beautiful about it was that the song celebrated the mom's love of her child and being thankful for the blessing. It only mentions in passing the father's abandonment. The tune could have easily been about the father leaving and the hardships that can follow when being single and raising a child, but instead Full Force focused on the simple joy of being a parent and loving your child regardless of circumstances. It basically said - so what dad left - it's you and me kid and I'm so happy we are here together! It was a lovely sentiment and it was expertly delivered by Riley. She has an amazing and powerful voice and it could have easily overrun this sweet tale, but she kept things in check and gave a lovely, emotional performance. Riley should have been a much bigger star, but label and music biz issues hampered her progress. Regardless, she will always be remembered for this ode to parenthood.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So where did the "Pepsii" moniker come from? It seems that after Riley signed on with Full Force, they said she needed a new name since she had become a part of their family. At the time there just happened to be a can of Pepsi cola sitting on the console of the recording studio. Noting the can of cola and thinking about Riley's bubbly personality, Full Force member Bowlegged Lou tossed out the name of the cola as a possibility, but adding an extra "i" on the end. It seemed to suit everyone and Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley was born.  2) Following her recording career and her work with other artists, Riley got an opportunity to do stage work and was featured in several productions. It was then that a young playwright by the name of Tyler Perry spotted Riley and brought her on to star in one of his stage productions. The pairing worked out well and Riley would go on to star in nine of Perry's stage shows. When Perry's works made the transition to film, Riley would get the opportunity to make appearances in a few of them.


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