Robert Owens

Though electronica has always been a producer's medium (and the few vocalists keeping their head above water are usually woman), Robert Owens became one of the figures most associated with the late-'80s golden era of Chicago house. Born in Ohio in 1961, he grew up singing in church, but was working as a DJ when he met pioneering Chicago producer Larry Heard in 1985. The pair formed Fingers Inc. with Ron Wilson, and released a few excellent singles ("You're Mine," "It's Over") and the 1988 full-length Another Side. The group dissolved soon after, though, as Heard's burgeoning solo production career (as Mr. Fingers) took over. Owens had already released tracks on his own -- "Bring Down the Walls" and "I'm Strong" for Alleviated, with production from Heard -- and he signed a solo contract with 4th & Broadway. His 1990 LP Rhythms in Me was a solid effort, though it soon disappeared within the quickly disintegrating Chicago house scene. (One of his best-known features of the late '80s, the epic house moment "Tears," appeared under the names of Frankie Knuckles and producer Satoshi Tomiie.)