b. Sarah Jean Perkins, 15 March 1947, Columbus, Georgia, USA. Carn was raised in Atlanta, where her parents encouraged her at the age of four to sing in the church choir and to take piano lessons. Indeed, to this day, she is an accomplished performer on piano, clarinet and bassoon. She first revealed her formidable musical talents as a teenager on a morning radio talk show, Today In Georgia, when she sang ‘Misty’ to the accompaniment of Errol Garner’s piano. After winning a music scholarship to Morris Brown College, she learned to play almost every instrument in the orchestra. Her recording career began in 1971 with her then husband Doug Carn, and together they made three albums for Black Jazz Records that brought widespread recognition, built upon by touring engagements across the USA. At this stage Carn was often praised for being one of the first African American women to define her own voice and image, rather than being moulded by the industry. Afterwards, she performed with Duke Ellington, the last vocalist to do so before his death. She then teamed up with Norman Connors for four acclaimed albums, contributed ‘Reach For It’ to George Duke’s Gold album and sang on the first two albums by Earth, Wind And Fire.
The three albums Carn recorded for Gamble And Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label between 1977 and 1979 are probably her best, and introduced the singer to pop and R&B audiences for the first time. Her hits during this period included ‘Free Love’, ‘Don’t Let It Go To Your Head’ and ‘My Love Don’t Come Easy’. She moved to Motown Records for 1983’s Trust Me, which provided her first major singles success with ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ and a duet with Bobby Militello on ‘Let’s Stay Together’. Carn later found time to contribute to records by Kenny Gamble (‘Love Is Beautiful When It’s Right’) and Stanley Turrentine (‘Night Breeze’). Adding an ‘e’ to her last name, she signed a new recording contract with the Atlantic Records imprint Omni and enjoyed immediate success with 1986’s chart-topping R&B hit, ‘Closer Than Close’. Further hits followed in the late 80s, including ‘Flame Of Love’, ‘Everything Must Change’ and ‘Ain’t No Way’. Carne carried on recording into the 90s, completing a touching tribute album to the late songwriter Van McCoy. She continues to tour for six months every year, spending the rest of her time at home in Atlanta with her three children.