A gold record. That was the one goal a young female group from Houston hoped to achieve after signing with Columbia Records in 1997.
Not only did Destiny’s Child realize its golden dream, but during the past decade, Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams made history as one of the world’s top-selling female acts.
That history includes platinum plaudits and international acclaim -— selling 50 million records worldwide, according to Sony BMG — as well as a host of Grammy Awards and other industry accolades.
“Ever since we were little, we were so on fire for our dreams,” Rowland says. “We never let anyone blow our flames out.”
And those flames are still burning, although now they smolder under the burgeoning solo endeavors of the group’s members.
Signing off as a trio last year in the wake of their successful “Destiny Fulfilled” farewell album and tour, the three ladies are busily pursuing their individual careers in music, theater, TV and film.
This year will bring new solo albums from Rowland and Williams, plus Beyoncé’s anticipated co-starring roles in the feature films “The Pink Panther” and “Dreamgirls.”
In announcing its retirement, Destiny’s Child did what few acts in any genre, of either gender, have been able to accomplish: bowing out while still on top. The group’s current Sony Urban Music/Columbia album, the hit compilation “#1’s,” debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
“Destiny Fulfilled,” the group’s final studio album issued in late 2004, received a nomination for best contemporary R&B album for the upcoming 48th annual Grammy Awards. Two of the album’s tracks, “Cater 2 U” and “Soldier,” are also up for honors, scoring best R&B song and best rap/sung collaboration nods, respectively.
Ask those who have worked with the group for the reasons behind its phenomenal success, and the following factors are invariably ticked off: talent, passion and determination.
Robert Waller, who co-wrote “Cater 2 U” and penned songs (including “Me, Myself and I”) for Beyoncé’s solo album “Dangerously in Love,” credits the group’s strong work ethic and focus.
“They are always trying to be better in addition to the initial talent they have and the strong people behind them,” he says. “It wasn’t a game, about trying to be cute or stepping on each other’s toes. They were all committed to a common goal: success.”
Don Ienner, CEO of the Sony Music Label Group, says, “We’ve gained three independent and savvy solo artists who are among the hardest-working kids in show business.
“They can sing, so their destiny wasn’t manufactured by some Svengali or done by committee to capture this or that market. Each stride they made was a creative stride that took them from [their] teens to where they are now.”
Original group members Beyoncé and her friend LaTavia Roberson were only 9 when Destiny’s Child was initially established in 1990. With Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, as manager, the fledgling act sang and rapped.
Beyoncé’s cousin Kelendria “Kelly” Rowland signed on in 1992, after which the trio appeared on “Star Search.” The threesome morphed into a quartet a year later with the addition of LeToya Luckett.
The group underwent several name changes — Girls Time, the Dolls and Cliché -— before sticking with Destiny’s Child (a phrase that appears in the book of Isaiah in the Bible). But one thing didn’t change: the youngsters’ enthusiasm for this musical venture.
“The key thing is this was always their passion,” Knowles says. “This wasn’t a parent or manager putting together a group to see about getting a record deal. This was young girls saying, ‘This is what we want.'”
Stoking that passion, Knowles booked them for everything from luncheons to fashion shows to church gigs. And practice became a way of life. In sessions he tagged as “boot camp,” Knowles helped the preteens develop their choreography and vocal skills. Also on the agenda: stamina building and media training.
“It was fun, but I wouldn’t call it ‘boot camp,’ though,” Beyoncé says during a rehearsal break on the “Dreamgirls” set. “That sounds a little crazy for kids. But all we wanted to do was sing and have somebody watch us. We’d go to my mother’s hair salon and perform at times when I know they [the customers] didn’t feel like watching us. But we would make them.”
“We were weird kids, performing and practicing all the time,” Rowland adds. “We had childhoods, because we did get the chance to play outside and visit theme parks. But when all of our friends were in cheer squads, we were in rehearsal and loving it.”
All the practicing and performing paid off. Graduating from the Houston club scene, the group began opening for such acts as SWV, Dru Hill and Immature. The quartet had also caught the ear of Atlanta producer/songwriter Darryl Simmons of Silent Partner Productions, which eventually led to a record/production deal through Elektra Records. When that liaison ended after two years and no record, Knowles re-approached an earlier suitor, Columbia Records. The label signed Destiny’s Child in 1997.
Still in their mid-teens, the girls made their first recorded appearance on the 1997 “Men in Black” soundtrack with the song “Killing Time.” A year later, the group’s self-titled debut album arrived, featuring such guest producers as Wyclef Jean and Jermaine Dupri. Those early dreams of a gold record came true when the Jean-produced lead single “No, No, No” ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.