Cecilia Veronica Peniston was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1969 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona at the age of nine. She attended Trevor Browne High School in Phoenix and later took to entering beauty pageants where she was crowned Miss Black Arizona in 1989. CeCe’s music career began in 1990 when she signed to A&M Records and got her initial exposure doing featured vocals on Phoenix female rapper Overweight Pooch’s 1991 single “I Like It”.The label was so impressed with Peniston’s vocals, that they wanted her to release her own solo single “Finally“ which dropped in the fall of 1991.
Among the list of those who have personally requested Peniston at private engagements are Aretha Franklin at her private birthday celebration in Detroit, Michigan, Pope John Paul II in Rome at The Vatican, and President Bill Clinton at both of his inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Following the abolition of apartheid, Peniston was the first female entertainer to visit and perform in South Africa.
Discovered by famed deejay/remixer Manny Lehman, Peniston released her debut album, Finally, in 1992. The album, released on A&M Records, sold over three million copies worldwide. Her first single, “Finally”, achieved #1 chart status on three Billboard charts and also hit No. 2 in the UK. In the U.S. her album went No. 70 on the Billboard 200 and No. 10 in the UK. “Finally” (the single) was re-released in Europe in 1997 as a remix, reaching No. 26 on the UK singles chart. “Finally” was also used in the cult Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as well as the television show The L Word (Season 2, Episode 5) and over 30 compilations of hit dance music.
“We Got A Love Thang” (co-written by Chantay Savage) was Peniston’s second single from the album, and reached #20 on the U.S. charts. It reached #1 on Billboard’s dance chart, as did her third single, “Keep On Walkin’”, co-written by recording artist Kym Sims and produced by Steve Hurley, that reached #15 in the U.S. charts. Both singles were also Top 10 hits in the UK, with “We Got A Love Thang” reaching #6 on the UK Singles Chart. She also released the singles “Inside That I Cried”, which peaked at #10 on the Billboard R&B chart, and “Crazy Love”, which hit #31. She won the Billboard Awards for Best Dance Artist and Best New Artist of 1992 and at the end of 1993 Finally (the album) was certifed Gold or Platinum in the UK, U.S., Germany, Spain, Korea, Australia, South Africa and Italy.
In the summer of 2008, the song was remixed by Kam Denny & Paul Zala under the title “Finally 2008″ for the Bimbo Rock record label. The remix gained underground house music popularity and spent several days at No. 1 as the most downloaded track on Beatport.
Thought ‘Ya Knew
Peniston’s long awaited follow-up “Thought ‘Ya Knew” arrived January 25, 1994. The set spawned three #1 dance/club play hits with “I’m In the Mood”, “I’m Not Over You”, and “Hit By Love”. She was named Billboard Magazine’s #1 Dance/Club Play artist of 1994. Though the album contained several club-rocking up-tempo numbers like the ones that made her debut a hit, Peniston was intent on not being pigeonholed into the dance genre. For this reason, ballads like “Maybe It‘s The Way”, “If You Love Me, I Will Love You”, and the Brian McKnight-produced “Forever In My Heart” were included on the album. However, the album largely fell victim to record company mismarketing and did not become the major hit in the US that it could have been. Overseas however, the set did well, spawning an additional single “Keep Givin’ Me Your Love” which was included on the US soundtrack of the movie “Ready To Wear” (Pret-A-Porter).
Between releases, Peniston made a classy jazz cameo on “Don’t Forget The Love” from Jeff Lorber’s West Side Stories album and recorded the gospel album “Good News In Hard Times” as a member of “The Sisters of Glory“. The Sisters of Glory included Albertina Walker, Thelma Houston, Phoebe Snow, Lois Walden, and Peniston. The album featured Peniston’s solo performances of “How I Got Over” and “Precious Memories”. Good News was so well received that the group was invited to perform at 1995’s Woodstock Music Festival as well as Pope John Paul II’s Christmas at the Vatican concert.
I’m Movin’ On
Her third album, “I’m Movin’ On“, pointedly aimed for the R&B audience. Released in September 9, 1996, the set featured a noticeably slimmed-down Peniston adorning the cover. A similarly sleek sound marked its lead single, “Movin’ On”, which was produced by Dave Hall (the hit maker behind Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover” who’s earlier work includes Madonna’s “Bedtime Stories” CD). “Movin’ On” cracked the Top 40 on the R&B charts and its music video and remixes both featured rapper Suga T.
Despite insistence from Peniston’s management to release “Somebody Else’s Guy” as a followup single, A&M chose “Before I Lay (You Drive Me Crazy)” as the second single from the album. The midtempo R&B song produced by and performed with JoJo Hailey of K-Ci and JoJo only peaked at #52 on Billboard’s R&B charts. As with the previous release, while the album’s progress stalled out in the US, a David Morales remix of “Somebody Else’s Guy” became a surprise hit in the UK the following year. Two remixes of the song, originally popularized by Jocelyn Brown, spawned the imported Best Of CeCe Peniston album in 1998.
Career to date
Following the release of “I’m Movin’ On“, Peniston took to the stage as Glinda the Good Witch in an all-star cast of “The Wiz“. In addition to this success, Peniston also toured with the stage plays “Treat Her Like A Lady” and “When A Woman Is Fed Up“. Peniston released her next single in early 2001. “Lifetime To Love”, penned by dance diva Kristine W was a massive club hit reaching #2 on Billboard’s dance chart. The single was to be offered for free download via Napster, but timing prevented the deal’s follow through.
Peniston’s career quieted somewhat until 2005 when she made several guest appearances on record, film, and television. Among them, Peniston was featured on “Deeper Love”, the first single from trumpeter David Longoria’s 2005. It peaked at #14 on the Billboard Dance charts. In June 2005, Peniston appeared on NBC’s Hit Me Baby One More Time singing Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” and her own “Finally”. In the final quarter of the year, she starred as Pamela Matthews in the Maverick Entertainment independent film “Don’t Touch If You Ain’t Prayed“, as well as taking a small role in another independent film, “Pastor Jones“.
In 2007, Peniston featured on one track on the Full Flava album, Music Is Our Way Of Life. Peniston’s track was a cover of the Brand New Heavies song “You Are The Universe”, co-written by Siedah Garrett. In June of 2007 Peniston released in the UK “Shame Shame Shame” a song written by Matt and Warren Meyers and Kelly Muellers better known as The Soul Shakers. By the end of the year “Shame Shame Shame would achieve several No.#1 statuses within specialized UK magazine charts (including No.#1 Music Week Pop Tip Chart, No.#1 Music Week Club Chart, and No.#1 DJ Mag Hype Chart).
In July of 2009 Peniston performed on “The Wendy Williams Show” as requested by Wendy herself for her Birthday Show, Peniston being one of Williams’ “favorite singers of all time” requested Peniston to sing “Finally”. Peniston stated that she just completed a new album and worked with the likes of Montell Jordan and Berris Bolton. In November of 2009 “Inside Edition” featured Peniston in a segment entitled “Pop Star Makeover”, this story was also featured in the March 8,2010 issue of “US Weekly”.
Peniston has continued to tour world wide, recently performing in Dubai and Turkey. Peniston attends many Red Carpet events, recently including The 3rd Annual BET Honors Awards and The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. In February of 2011 Peniston signed a recording contract with West Swagg Music Group/ Universal/ Bungalo. Word of Peniston’s return has created such a buzz that major hit-making producers and song writers have shown serious interest in being a part of the project. 2011 promises to be a huge year for Peniston with releasing her first studio album in 15 years. West Swagg Music Group plans to release the first single in early spring, with the album following shortly after.