When Chi Coltrane's first single, "Thunder and Lightning" made the US top 20 in 1972, it seemed like the auspicious start of a long and distinguished career.
The timing was right, and the performer appeared to have everything going for her - she was a prodigious pianist, a skilled composer, a fine vocalist, and distinctly photogenic. Furthermore, her style - a sort of ultra-sophisticated take on Carole King and Elton John - was perfect for the times. But, for various reasons (an aversion to self-promotion, in particular), she never consolidated her initial success, and settled instead for a small, but loyal cult following, both in North America and Europe. Chi (pronounced "shy") Coltrane (b.Nov 16, 1948 Racine, Wisconsin) was one of seven children born to a Canadian mother, and a German violinist father. She studied a number of instruments as a child, and gave her first piano recital at 12. In 1970, she formed Chicago Coltrane, playing blues, funk and gospel in local clubs and bars.
She was signed to Columbia in 1972, on the strength of a six-song demo tape, and her first album, the entirely self-written Chi Coltrane
appeared that year. In November 1972, her first single "Thunder and Lightning" reached number 17. Chi Coltrane
was well-received critically, and spent three months in the lower reaches of the top 200.
In 1973 Coltrane attended the Salter School of Music in Los Angeles, and made another album (Let It Ride
), which was greeted with similar acclaim to her first, but which failed to find an audience. Coltrane sought solace and inspiration in religion (she was allegedly fiercely committed to bible study, and Jesus, but disinclined to follow organised religion), and put her recording career on hold for a few years. Following the release of Road To Tomorrow
in 1977, Coltrane moved to Europe and signed with Teldec, releasing three albums during the 80s, each with more of a new-wave, Euro-rock flavour than her early records. Since the last of these (1986's The Message
), her profile has been extremely low. Apart from some soundtrack work in Germany, and a collaboration with Tangerine Dream in 1991, there has been little activity from her, although material from her first two albums appeared on CD during the 90s.