One of 15 children, King was born in Spanish Town, in St. Catherine's Parish, not far from Kingston. She grew up singing hymns in the St. Phillipo Baptist Church and at the same time was drawn to the music of Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan. However, her devoutly relig-ious family disapproved of pop music. "In Jamaica we don't sing gospel like they sing it in the U.S.," she says. "It was just plain. So when I got the chance to sing a solo in church, I wanted to do it like Aretha, and it was like, 'No, you can't do that here. You have to sing it straight.'"
She was just 13 when she got a job singing weekends at Mingles, one of the premier clubs in Kingston. When her parents objected, Diana ran away from home. "I didn't even know where I was going," she says. "I took a bus, and I ended up in Ocho Rios. And I saw somebody I knew there. He was in a band at a hotel, and he said, 'You know, they've been looking for a female singer .' And that night I went there and sang, and they just loved it. And that's how I got started on the north coast. I was lucky, because a lot of things could happen to a person my age, not knowing where I'm going to sleep. But they didn't know I was so young, because I looked mature.
"I stayed there for a year and a half, and then I got this other job with a one-man band, and every night was a different hotelOcho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril. I sang R&B, pop, house, everything. But, because they were for tourists, some of the hotels wouldn't let you do reg-gae. So I left the hotels and started singing with the City Heat band, touring Jamaica." She quit that band a couple years later when producer Handel Tucker suggested that she record some original material. However, her single, "Change Of Heart," failed to take off, so she accepted an offer to tour Europe and the U.S. with Shabba Ranks. "I would sing the songs he recorded with female singers, so I d idn't get to sing by myself," she says. "But the whole experience was a lot of fun."
King had previously recorded some demo tracks, which by chance came to the atten-tion of Columbia Record's Maxine Stowe. "I left Shabba, not knowing what I was going to do," says King, "and out of the blue, Maxine called me. She said, 'We're interested in doing something with you.' That's how I ended up doing 'Stir It Up.' And two days later she called me and she said, 'Guess what? We accepted it for this movie.' So that's how it got on Cool Runnings. Again I was lucky, and so I ended up doing the album. Everything went so quickly."
After the release of her original version of "Stir It Up" on the Cool Runnings soundtrack, Diana King hit the road as part of the Stir It Up/Cool Runnings tour, appearing onstage with Carla Marshal, Worl-A-Girl, and Jimmy Cliff. Her stunning stage presence and soul-shaking vocals were a highlight at the NCAA Half-time Reggae performance, broadcast on ABC television. She was recently a featured performer at the 11th Annual Princess Grace Foundation Award Dinner, held at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
TOUGHER THAN LOVE was recorded and/or mixed at Sony Studios, the Quad Studios, and Battery Studios, and the Loft in New York. ("Ain't Nobody" was recorded and mixed at Tuff Gong and Mainstreet in Jamaica.) The resulting grooves obliterate distinctions between reggae and R&B, harking back to the bluesy rock-steady sound of the '60s while honing the cutting edge of today's hip-hop-oriented soul. What's more, the album showcases one of the most gifted female vocalists to emerge from Jamaica in memory. Diana King has the potential to penetrate inter-national barriers with a voice that cuts straight to the heart, crooning, rapping and belting her passionate message in the universal language of love.