Ava Cherry (aka Black Barbarella) was raised in Chicago. The singer/model grew up loving Motown, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight, but a four-year stint with rock star David Bowie would forever change her musical direction. From 1974 to 1978, as part of a backing trio comprising Robin Clark and Luther Vandross, she performed onstage and in the studio with Bowie, appearing on some his most-acclaimed albums. Lovers as well, Cherry and Bowie remained friends throughout the years. The experience spoiled Cherry; she traveled all over the world, sang before crowds of 50,000 people, and mingled with superstars like John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, and others.
Bowie, Cherry returned home to Chicago where a friend introduced her to Curtis Mayfield. Curtom/RSO Records released her first album, Spend the Night, in a snug disco/soul bag and didn't use any of the hard rock songs she'd written. The Curtom album didn't do as well as anticipated and Cherry returned to Bowie's camp.
Streetcar Named Desire followed in 1983 on Capitol Records, but it went unnoticed. When Vandross started blowing up, she joined him in 1986 and was heard on the Any Love album onward. In 1987, her second Capitol LP, Picture Me, dropped with little celebrity or sales. However, along with Lisa Fischer and Kevin Owens, Cherry contributed to making Luther Vandross a top draw in urban music. The group didn't just sing behind Vandross; they executed some classy stepping and dance routines that always wowed the patrons. In 1997, J-Bird made her Spend the Night album available on CD.