Depending on your geographical location, it is quite possible that Aja Kim’s name could be causing a few eyebrows to be raised inquisitively, particularly when I tell you that this story is yet another link in the chain of music that is connected to Bruce Springsteen.
So, there I was, busy doing some research for a BFBS radio broadcast that was focussing on the 30th Anniversary of the release of “Born To Run” last autumn, when I found myself on Clarence Clemons’ Website.
That’s when I noticed Aja Kim.
I don’t know how I missed this one but back in 1997, Clarence released a CD called Get It On together with Aja Kim. Maybe the fact that it was only released in Japan has a bearing on how come I hadn’t heard it but yeah, when I explored the sound samples… it rocked!
Figuring this was something I ought to know more about I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and ask Aja if she could help to enlighten me further about this release. Not only was she kind enough to tell me a little about herself but also how she came to be part of this project with the Big Man himself.
Here’s what she told me:
Aja: I was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina at the Womack Army Hospital. I’m the fourth of five daughters raised by my South Korean mother. My parents separated when I was 4 years old and my mother, seeking to begin a new life, moved the family to Ohio. At the age of 12, following the unexpected death of my father, my family moved to his home town, the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. I came of age in Philly and moved to L.A. when I graduated from high school. I attended L.A. City College and studied music there. After college, I began working as a singer and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been very fortunate in my life, I’ve worked with some of L.A.’s top musicians as a singer, as well as a songwriter. You can read about it on my website.
When did your music career actually begin?
Aja: I’ve sung all my life but began singing professionally at age 24.
What inspired you to choose music as a career?
Aja: There was just nothing else that excited my passion like music. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
How did you meet Clarence Clemons?
Aja: Clarence and the producer of Get It On, Michael Kaneko, were looking for a singer/songwriter with a vocal style reminiscent of Tina Turner. I got in touch with them and sent them a promotional package. After auditioning about 600 singers internationally (I sang the song Proud Mary at the audition and was the first singer they saw in the audition process) they ultimately decided that I was the singer they wanted for the CD. Clarence was a very gracious and kind mentor throughout it all and we are still friends to this day.
Whose idea was it to record an album?
Aja: Get It On producer Michael Kaneko was the man with the vision of pairing Clarence with an Asian – American female vocalist.
Why was the album only released in Japan?
Aja: It was released through the Japanese label, Dream Train Records. The label no longer exists and that’s why the CD never made it beyond the shores of Japan. The master recordings are now owned by Michael Kaneko and who knows? Maybe it will be re-released one day! I know Clarence was very proud of it, as was I and 3 of my songs made it on the CD (my solo songs). However, we did perform together in concert in the U.S.A. as Clarence Clemons and Aja.
Are you likely to record with Clarence again?
Aja: Who knows what the future will hold? He hasn’t been doing any projects that involve a female singer lately, but we did have great chemistry. He’s also been very busy since Bruce reunited the E Street Band. He has worked with my husband, Lynn Woolever, since then on some American television projects he’s been involved in (ABC’s My Wife and Kids starring Damon Wayans). Lynn was the bassist on Get It On and was Clarence’s musical director when we went on tour.
What are you currently doing music-wise?
Aja: Right now, I am lead vocalist for the world’s only female tribute to Iron Maiden, The Iron Maidens. We just released a brand new full length tribute CD that is receiving rave reviews from fans around the world. I’ve also since released a solo CD and am currently writing new material for my 2nd solo CD.
The Iron Maidens??
OK, so here’s what my cyber-investigations have revealed about the Iron Maidens:
They were formed in 2001 and have become one of southern California’s most popular tribute acts presenting a stage show that is a lively mix of excellent musicianship combined with theatrical scenes including appearances by Maiden mascot “Eddie”, the grimreaper, the devil and more.
The line up is: Aja “Bruce Chickinson” Kim on vocals, Linda “Nikki McBURRain” McDonald on drums, Elizabeth “Adrienne Smith” Schall and Sara “MiniMurray” Marsh on guitars, and Wanda “Steph Harris” Ortiz on bass.
All of the Maidens are experienced professionals whose varied musical backgrounds include orchestral and musical theatre to blues and rock. Accordingly, they have received many awards for their talent including “Best Tribute Band” and “Best In Category” (guitar, bass, drums, vocals) at various events such as the LA Music Awards and the All Access Magazine Award Show.
The band is hugely successful and they cover Iron Maiden’s material from all eras of their career encompassing the biggest hits as well as fan favourites.
Want to know more??
Then I suggest you click on any of the following links where you will see and hear these hugely talented ladies for yourself – Aja Kim’s MySpace page has a sound clip of Rain one of the songs she recorded with Clarence.
In a word – enjoy!
Clarence Clemons – 11 January 1942 in Norfolk, Virginia; † 18 June 2011 in Palm Beach, Florida.
Sadly, since writing this piece about Aja Kim and Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man” is no longer with us. But thanks to the wonderful legacy of music he left us with, his memory will live forever more.